Last week I attended a large Intranet conference in Utrecht where the topic of discussion was, indeed, the Intranet. And we're not talking about just any Intranet, but your own personal 'digital workspace' for every employee. Tailored to his or her specific needs, everything to make work as easy as possible. A digital workspace is in fact more than an Intranet; it is actually the home page from which the employee performs his or her work. All (digital) activities can be integrated into it.
You may notice that another frequently mentioned reason for having an Intranet: 'sharing information with my employees' is not mentioned. Of course, sharing company information is also important (both top-down and bottom-up), but these days it is not seen as the main reason for having an Intranet.
The conference discussed at length how to set up such an Intranet. Speaker James Robertson (Step Two) indicated that you shouldn't do this with a written survey of employees, nor with the question "what would you like to see on the Intranet? Setting up an Intranet should be done from the employee's point of view. Walk with them for a few hours. What exactly do they do and where can digitization help?
Ask questions about what they need to do their job well. That one form that is often used, where can you find it? Is that printed out in a colleague's drawer? If so, I think it would be a good idea to put this form on the Intranet. Another example that was mentioned: is HRM often called to ask for the number of vacation days? A personalized HRM section on the Intranet can help: every employee can find here the current state of his vacation days. In this last example, the number of calls to HRM decreased by 56%. These are figures that make everyone happy; obviously the HRM employee, because he (or she) can focus more on his core tasks. But also the employee himself; because he can view his vacation days at any time and thus has a better grip on this.
The Intranet should feel to employees like a warm bath or a nice soft pillow. Everything they need is at hand and available. No more searching for forms, vacations, terms of employment, schedules, etc. Everything is easy to find through a clear menu structure. If the Intranet is well put together, logical and really convenient, most employees will start using it automatically. After all, it makes their work more fun and easier!
I also noticed during the conference that the Intranet is being made more and more "social. For example, the Municipality of Rotterdam has had a new social Intranet since the end of last year. Every employee (and there are some 12,000 of them!) can create groups with colleagues (about certain areas of interest, for example), post messages, and also respond to all messages. This is quite scary at first, because after all, you can't predict what they will do and especially what they will write. But with the right introduction and guidance, the municipality now sees that this is actually going very well.
"If work was so great, we'd do it for free" said one of the speakers (Sam Marshall, Clearbox). Now of course that's not going to happen; but the fact is that happy employees are more productive, provide a better customer experience and cost less. A great aspiration to which a digital workspace or an employee-tailored Intranet can also contribute.
Well, and then you have ideas for your new Intranet or digital workspace. How do you go about it? That differs per company. It depends on budgets, decisiveness (mandate), manpower and so on. Of course you can change everything in one go, but don't forget that a lot of small steps eventually make one big step.
I certainly don't want to claim that NOM's Intranet meets all the above standards; after all, I was at this conference for a reason. Let's just say that I have plenty to do in the near future! In any case, during this congress I got a lot of new ideas for our own Intranet. And if I have inspired you even a little bit or given you a new insight with this piece, it was well worth getting up early and running to catch my train!