Why intranet managers should be ‘workplace anthropologists’

September 5, 2012

Reflective woman holding paper & penBy Matt Wilson – Originally posted on Ragan.com

When Quintiles was developing its award-winning intranet, iQ, the company did something that some organizations don’t even consider: Its intranet managers and developers shadowed a share of its 25,000 employees to find out how they communicate and what they need.
That was one of many reasons why iQ won the 2011 Ragan Communications Employee Communications award for best social intranet, and why it was featured in this month’s Digital Workplace Live broadcast from the Digital Workplace Group.

Paul Miller, founder and CEO of IBF, told the broadcast’s audience that just last week he visited a company where managers couldn’t say what employees wanted to communicate in their day-to-day jobs.

Ephraim Freed, community manager at IBF, said that knowledge should be a priority.

“Great intranet managers are really like workplace anthropologists,” he said.

Earlier in the program, Freed said he believes “the hype cycle” for social tools is coming to an end. Intranet managers are beginning to understand that tools have to be more than just cool, they have to serve a purpose.

The two intranet tours during Tuesday’s broadcast, one from Quintiles and another from the Henry County Health Center in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, demonstrated ways companies can use those tools to help employees do their work.

Henry County Health Center

With only a few dozen beds and about 300 employees, Henry County Health Center isn’t a big facility, and yet it has six times been named one of the top 100 most-wired hospitals.

“We want everything that is important to our associates at their fingertips,” Stacy Speidel, systems administrator at the hospital, said of its employee portal.

Among those things are some simple tools, such as a weather widget for employees whose offices are windowless (such as Speidel’s) and a cafeteria menu. An eThank You forum gives employees the opportunity to recognize their colleagues for going above and beyond their job descriptions.

One exceedingly useful tool is an online chart of every room in the hospital, with information drawn from an electronic medical records database. Employees can mark that chart with information, such as the type of isolation the patient is in, to help others know what precautions to take when entering the room and avoid infections.

Different types of employees can add particular kinds of information to the chart. For instance, members of the cleaning staff can use a dropdown list to indicate when they’ve started and finished cleaning a given room. Not only does that mean fewer interruptions, it also lets the environmental services manager keep tabs on the pace at which the hospital’s being cleaned.

Employees have access to computers at each room to access that chart and the rest of the intranet.

Elsewhere on the intranet, different employees’ logons lead them to targeted information. That compartmentalization started when election of benefits went online. Now, employees can see policy and procedures information relevant to them without having to page through tons of documents they don’t need.


Quintiles also has localized policy information. For example, policies for evacuations are relevant only to specific offices, said Laura Grover, senior digital strategy director at Quintiles.

One of the biggest hits on iQ has been the picture of the day. Each day, the editors feature an employee-submitted photo on the site’s home page.

“It’s such a simple device,” Miller said. “Why doesn’t every intranet have people uploading pictures?”

Regan Sonnabend, director of sales at HospitalPortal.net, added, “It seems like, almost across the board, when you see organizations doing that, it’s one of the things that’s mentioned when people talk about what’s really engaging.”

Grover showed a not-totally-finished version of a refresh to iQ that will make the photos even more interactive. People will be able to “like” them directly from the home page, she said.

Freed observed that iQ, which runs on the SharePoint 2010 platform, does not look like a SharePoint site.

“To deliver an integrated experience for your customers, you’re going to have to customize it,” Grover responded.

Freed added that having separate sites for social tools doesn’t work, according to DWG’s research. “Create one unified experience,” he said. “You’re not driving people to multiple, separate sites.”

For the new version of iQ, Quintiles continued to listen to what employees wanted, Grover said. Each month, she and her team looked at data to find out what was being used and what needed some work. For instance, publishers were having some difficulty deciding how to categorize their blogs posts and other content, so the company streamlined the categories.

“It begins and it ends with the user experience,” Grover said.

Categorised in: DWG24

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