We know the number one reason people find your intranet superfluous to requirements; irrelevant information. The ‘news’ stories are often Company focussed (what ‘we’ need to tell ‘you’, the little people) rather than ‘people focussed’ (what ‘you’ need to know to get stuff done).
We know that if an intranet, or the content, ain’t useful then it ain’t used! But what about the secret, number two, insidious reason?
I get a lot of feedback. As a senior communicator, and the named Intranet Editor, everything I do is seen by hundreds or thousands of people. In a very real sense, my work is public (internally); I can’t hide my failures and I’m open to everyone’s scrutiny. I do my very best to listen, to hold back my defensiveness and to learn what it is that people really want.
Today, a suspicion I’ve harboured for years was confirmed. I received an email from someone, telling me why they didn’t read anything on our intranet. The number two reason why people don’t use your intranet or read any of your news is that they are not allowed to. Their managers, and even their Directors, forbid them to waste time learning about company matters when they could be working harder.
The email I received explained that certain managers would ‘catch’ employees reading intranet news stories (re-organisation announcements, messages from the CEO, Health and Safety bulletins et cetera) and berate them for “having too much time” on their hands if they can spend time reading the intranet. Worse, there’s a hint that managers who ‘catch’ people reading the intranet allocate more tasks to those people, as a way of keeping them busy.
As job vacancies are on the intranet, there’s also a nasty hint that some managers are trying to stop their employees from leaving their department.
“We’re too busy to care what the company is doing”
[‘We’ are not part of the company (apparently)]
As I’ve met with many an executive who can’t believe we publish 15 to 25 news stories a week (“how can they all be work related???!!!?!?!”) and ask me to cut back and refrain from publishing news that will “distract” their people from their real work, I know that the intranet is perceived as a waste of time.
Which is bloody awful. The intranet is supposed to support work, to help get tasks done, to be a quick reference guide, to be a ‘survivor’s guide to a shitty week’ and to actually deliver cost-savings and a return on investment. The intranet is not a place for idle gossip, but is a tool to get things done in an efficient and effective manner. It can be more; it could be a collaborative workspace, a business as usual application – but I digress.
Basically, anyone who serves customers or who actually makes things / fixes things / services things is actively denied access to the intranet and all the company information it contains. Me? Well, as a knowledge worker in a nice office, I get to surf around the intranet and the Internet to my heart’s content, but the actual people who need it are not, and if they do, they’re targeted and penalised, apparently.
If the leaders of our company consider the intranet a waste of their people’s time, what the heck am I doing publishing news stories about Sandra’s Charity Run Along Hadrian’s Wall? (I’m told it’s a ‘people story’).
If our hard working front line staff aren’t allowed to use the intranet, what the heck are their bosses doing publishing their Policies on it?
Do we really still live in an obfuscated world running on a need to know basis? As if anyone knows what others need. Communicators – know that your channels are actively blocked by your stakeholders; we cannot reach everyone without going through miasmic management cascades, apparently.[Wedge]
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Photo credit: s.greiber