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10 ways to extend the reach of your intranet

One of the positive innovations in this years Digital Workplace Survey are the inclusion of some company demographic questions, designed to allow some detailed research of how digital communication and collaboration tools are used in a range of organisations. Like many companies, not all of my employees are desk-based knowledge workers. Indeed, many are not supplied company laptops or mobile phones and as such have irregular access to intranet based information and services.

Given that your internal communication team, your HR team and a suite of other functions rely on employees having consistent, regular access to the intranet, it’s time to think beyond the laptop and explore new ways to reach deskless workers with your content and functions. You must find ways to bring the intranet to them — to fit it into their day-to-day routines — rather than expect them to break out to get to an office to read your global news. Extending the reach of the intranet, beyond the laptop, will help maximise its effectiveness.

1. Mobile

Developing and implementing a mobile intranet strategy is vital to extend the reach. Not only will this assist with the deskless workers in your organisation, knowledge workers will also value this new channel. Remember to make this mobile intranet accessible from personal mobiles as well as company supplied equipment, as many of those employees without laptops will also be without a cellphone.

Mobile is a great way to engage your employee base with social tools since many will already be familiar with the concepts in their personal life. When considering social intranet features, look for a supplier that provides a mobile interface.

2. Home Access

Providing your employees access to the intranet from home will undoubtedly extend the reach of your content and functionality but be smart and consider these points:

Employees will be at home but not necessarily working from home so surfacing job related information may not be so useful. Consider designing a specific ‘Access from home’ page that provides direct access quickly to key topics such as payslips, important news alerts or vacation booking If they’re accessing from home in their own time, you must make sure that your intranet is quick and very focused.

Be sure to speak to works councils and unions about this feature. You may think that you’re being helpful in providing home access, but others may interpret it as a way of extending work hours.

3. Digital Signage

Digital Signage networks are an ideal way of extending the reach of intranet communications. When correctly positioned in staff canteens or on production lines, they’re a great way of getting key intranet messaging to employees who do not have traditional intranet access. Some important pointers here

Do

  1. Apply the same style headlines to both your intranet and your digital signage. It’s important to give a consistent user experience
  2. Re-write intranet content into 50 word precis. Constantly review your content to ensure that it can be read at speed and from a distance
  3. Integrate RSS  to allow a one-click publishing process across your intranet and digital signage
  4. Consider showing your intranet social activity feeds. It provides instantly dynamic content (which is vital for signage) and is a great way to introduce employees to each other.

Don’t

  1. Display the intranet page on your digital signage. It’ll be unreadable

4. Email digests

Email digests are a great way to summarise recent intranet communication content for your deskless and desk-based employees. Don’t forget that the barriers that stop many employees from accessing the intranet (hardware, time, training, desire) will also stop them from accessing their email so this method should not be relied upon in isolation.

Do consider surfacing blog and other social information on your digests too — don’t limit yourself to top-down communications!

5. Kiosks / Shared PCs

Take the intranet to where the employees work using kiosks in canteens, on production lines or in staff debrief rooms. This way, your employees can access the key content and functionality without straying too far from their stations. Critically, your business must provide the time for this to happen, it must be culturally acceptable to connect in this way.

6. Access via terminals

At the recent EPEM event in Berlin, Kjartan Michaelen shared a rather inspired method of extending the reach of an intranet, by providing access through the point-of-sale touchscreen terminal. In down time at the cash register in this restaurant, employees could access the intranet directly meaning that they were not far from their work stations, always available when needed and yet had convenient intranet access. Consider similar routes for production line terminals, specialist handhelds or other workplace devices.

7. SMS

The power of SMS is in the speed of delivery, the speed of communication consumption and the widespread availability of the facility. The downside is that you need some very smart internal communicators to translate key messaging into 160 characters, whilst maintaining sense and the appropriate calls to action. When done well, this can be a very useful way of extending intranet content. Also consider using SMS as an alert to intranet material, particularly social content such as new interesting posts, or replies to threads of interest.

8. Printable summaries for noticeboards with QR codes

Paper is still king in many work environments. As much as we’d like to believe that the digital workspace is alive and kicking, in certain business functions such as production or distribution, the noticeboard and the verbal updates from managers are the primary method of communication. Don’t force it, embrace this reality: provide good print facilities on your intranet so that printouts are formatted correctly and have unnecessary visual clutter removed — important for readability and for sustainability reasons. Consider adding QR codes to all printable intranet summaries. Using an iPhone app such as QR Reader, you can provide an easy link for the reader back to the digital copy. This helps embed the notion of your intranet being the primary source, but also provides the employee with the opportunity for further information on the same subject. You can generate your own QR codes for free, using websites such as http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

9. Text-to-voice technology

For accessibility reasons, you may already be providing some voice services on your intranet but text-to-voice technology can help broaden the reach of your intranet material for all employees. If it’s commonplace in your company for employees not to have consistent access to the intranet, you could push key stories to voicemail for wider distribution.

10. Screensavers

Recently, I asked my Twitter followers what they felt about using screensavers to push intranet content and it appears that opinion seems to be polarised! Love it or hate it though, many companies employ an RSS-based screensaver to display intranet news headlines during PC idle time. I know there are many debates on the value of this technology. If the screensaver comes on, then the employee is away from their PC so they’re arguably not there to read our surfaced intranet content. Equally, others may see the screen and our primary employee may read it when they return to their desk.

Maybe we should use screensavers to encourage employees to simply switch off their monitors when away from their desk and thus preserve the monitor life and save energy into the bargain? Let us know how that debate pans out in your organisation.

Screensavers is a great way of surfacing your intranet social activity feeds. Push these rather than the news stories — it’s more engaging, more interesting!

Summary

Recently, I completed a brief tour of a number of offices and factories in Europe for my company and I was struck by the way our digital communication, collaboration and transactional tools, many of which are surfaced via our intranet, are used across the business. For desk-based employees, the intranet is a strong tool; for desk-less, we need to be more creative in how we deliver content. The intranet remains at the heart, but its reach must be extended. We must not expect our employees to make the effort to come to the intranet (the content is rarely that compelling), but we must bring the intranet to them, directly, where they are and in formats that make the greatest sense for their work environment.

I hope some of these ideas help you. Do share your comments and let us know how you extend the reach of your intranet.

We’ll be hosting an intranetizen.com Google + Hangout to discuss this post on Thursday 14th July, 13:00-13:30 BST (08:00-08:30 ET, 14:00-14:30 CET). If you’re on Google+ and we’re not yet connected, drop us a line @DigitalJonathan or post a comment here.




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