A more accessible intranet? Try offering a game, or multiple channels
Romec is a complex organization, to say the least. And its staff is every bit as diverse.
The company, which began as the United Kingdom’s Royal Mail Engineering and Construction division, now offers facilities-management services, cleaning, fire and security systems, office management and more.
Its workforce is “quite dispersed,” Nigel Williams, intranet manager for Romec, told the hosts of the Digital Workplace Group’s IBF Live program this week. In fact, 82 percent of Romec’s intranet users access it remotely, he said.
Moreover, about one-third of Romec’s employee base is 50 or older, and a good number of employees are what Williams calls “technophobic,” so it was a tough hill to climb when it came to getting employees involved.
But Romec aimed to pull together its various knowledge silos. So last year the company launched its intranet along with a game that encouraged users to do searches, find various sections and enter forums to find the answers to questions. Of some 4,000 employees, more than 1,000 submitted answers to the quiz, in hopes of winning a trip to New York.
“It is amazing how something kind of simple like that can generate a reaction like that,” said Paul Miller, CEO of IBF.
The idea, Williams said, was to get people to really look around the intranet for themselves rather than just have someone tell them what to do, though there was also a training component.
In December, intranet software supplier Interact named Romec’s intranet launch the best of 2010, chiefly for its inclusion of the game.
Other topics from the May IBF Live episode included:
The power of contests. An on-the-spot poll of IBF Live listeners found that 66 percent found contests to be one of the most effective ways of getting employees to pay attention to an intranet launch. Almost as many thought educational programs were just as effective.
Dan Latendre, CEO of Igloo Software, maker of intranet community tools, said many clients had asked his company for contest-style badge systems. He said the symbolic awards are preferable to tangible prizes, as they provide a way for employees to connect.
Making the intranet helpful without making it intimidating. Williams showed several tools in Romec’s intranet that are designed to make the user’s experience easier. For example, he clicked on the “jargon buster,” which translates various terms used within the company for people outside the departments where they’re most commonly used. Users simply search for the term, and an explanation pops up.
Another section helps users who are having search problems. If an employee can’t find something via the search mechanism, he or she can send a report with the search term and a description of the expected result.
“Multiple intranets.” Greg Read, senior developer with the Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour, showed the hosts several separate ATP intranets: one for players, one for officials, and a larger one for ATP employees. The officials’ intranet included a section where officials could post scores to go on the public-facing ATP website. Players could sign up for tournaments through their portal, and the employee intranet, Centre Court, had private areas where specific teams could work.
Latendre said that approach, of “distributed intranets,” is one that many organizations are taking. “There are multiple intranets here, and they’re aimed at specific communities of interest or communities of practice,” he said.
Kelli Carlson-Jagersma, collaboration strategist at Wells Fargo, said having multiple intranets is sort of like watching TV. “There are many channels on TV,” she said. “We’re not all going to go to the same channel on TV for information.” But the most-important information will reach across channels, she said.
What’s a “knowledge jam?” It’s more of a musical jam session than a traffic jam. It’s a way to “help people discover, capture and ultimately reuse knowledge,” said Katie Pugh, author and benchmarker with IBF. All it takes is a Microsoft Word document, a template for covering topics, a person to record a conversation and two people looking to exchange ideas.
For example, Carlson-Jagersma was looking for information to help her figure out some ideas for taking Wells Fargo international after its acquisition of Wachovia. So Pugh got her together with Silvia Cambie, an expert who has advised governments on social media.
They talked for 90 minutes, in depth, about what UniCredit had done to develop an international social networking tool. Now, a document of that discussion exists as a reference.
“It’s very simplistic in terms of technology,” said Carlson-Jagersma. “It needs to start with clear vision.”