How COVID-19 reinforced the value of the org-wide Intranet

(Please note: This column is relevant for organisations with a large employee base.)

Organisations have, for a long time now, been breaking their news on internal social tools (Yammer, Flock, Jive, Jostle, Facebook Workplace), and external social media like Twitter, Facebook. However, there’s one platform that has cemented its position through COVID-19: The Intranet. 

Today, with COVID-19, and a large workforce working remotely, it has brought the need for the Intranet to the forefront with a bang. 

As employees are in different life stages, their ability to catch up on company news differs. Also, their roles differ, and some organisations have employees working in shifts so it changes the way an employee may consume internal news. This pushes the static nature of an Intranet to help employees glean information as and when they need it. 

While it’s one thing to have static content, it is equally important to have a repository of the information shared. This is the biggest plus for an Intranet. To complement the repository, some organisations have gone a step ahead and developed great chatbots/search engines to help employees find exactly what they are looking for. 

All these measures help an employee stay connected to breaking news on org announcements, policies, return to office strategies, and the roadmap through these challenging times. 

The best part of these Intranets? It allows an organisation to get timely feedback when employees are working remotely. Most companies have made their Intranet accessible on BYOD these days, and that speeds up the process of obtaining feedback.

For employees who have been with the organisation prior to working remotely due to COVID-19, they have it easier as they are familiar with everything. However, for employees who have joined through the COVID-19 period, with no real visit to the physical office, it can leave you feeling a bit disconnected. It may help to have a session to take new joiners through the company Intranet so they are familiar with what they can expect and where they may find it. 

Another reason why the Intranet is back with a bang is it helps connect the dots. When you work in really large organisations, more often than not, you have all the expertise you need sitting inside. You just need to find them. If you have articles on the various teams, and the work they do, it helps give you a deeper understanding of the various skills sets within your org. Great company intranets help showcase interesting employee skillsets and teams doing cutting edge work. 

So, while Internal Communications is the in-house newspaper for an organisation, as iterated in a previous column, a great company Intranet is its bookshelf. Many large companies have found great value in preparing their Intranets ahead of time. Here’s one such example. 

But it’s important you don’t make your Intranet a junkyard as iterated in this article in the Harvard Business Review. My two favorite takeaways from the article were these: collaboration between the IT and communications teams to build an Intranet and keep managers in the driving seat. 

To the first point on building a system, I remember one organisation I’d worked for, the Intranet was built so well by the IT team that it was easy to manage. To the second point, to keep managers in the driver’s seat, it sounds romantic, but practically, it is hard. So, the article suggested a comms person partners with a subject matter expertise (SME) and drive content. This has proven to be very effective and builds a good pipeline for engagement. 

Net-net, the Intranet still has immense value, but like any bookshelf, it needs to be dusted regularly to ensure it is clean and filled with good content so employees keep coming too.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nilofer DSouza
A former business journalist with Forbes India, Nilofer D'Souza, has, over the years, worked with leaders across IT, healthcare, and retail in the corporate sector. For over a decade, having won various awards, she's learned to deep dive into an organization's culture and drive effective communications.

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