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5 tips for building trust on your intranet

As a seasoned internet user, you’ll be acutely aware of the risks of believing everything you see or read on the web. Clever phishing attempts, Nigerian 419 email scams, promises of wonderdrugs and elaborate email chains have made internet users rightly cynical about what they read. Only this week, Google were accused of ‘cooking’ the results of their search engine, something they naturally refute. Trust is vital to their success at a search-by-search level but also to their financial prowess.

If trust in content on the internet is important, it’s surely paramount on your corporate intranet. Trust and confidence has dollar value.

How do you go about building confidence in your intranet content? Here are a few ideas that you can employ which will help.

1. Accredit Content Constantly

The old cliché has it that you buy the salesperson before you buy the product that he or she is selling. In short, we have trust in people and instinctively have less trust where we do not know the person concerned. When it comes to your intranet, unaccredited content is less trustworthy so always apply these simple steps.

  • Add a photo of the content provider. It allows people to connect to the content better.
  • Always print the name of the content author and preferably their department so that employees can be clear where the content has come from. Add presence awareness so the author can be contacted directly for further questions or ideas.
  • Add first published dates, edited dates and expiry dates to the content. This will allow your employees to track the life of the content. Know that employees will have more trust and confidence in new content so make sure you have a content review program to archive or update expiring content.

Trust me, I’m your colleague!

2. Apply the Seal of Approval

One of the smarter initiatives on my own intranet, is an ajax-powered, SAP connected, SharePoint surfaced Global Reports Center, which I’m proud to say was commended in the 2010 StepTwo Intranet Innovation Awards. One important element of this feature was how you demonstrate to an employee, who is faced with a complex library of files, which they should have the greatest confidence. Our technique was the Veritas (latin, truth) seal.

This highly visible graphic was displayed against reports that we generated by the finance team and had been reviewed and approved by the company senior leadership. At a glance then, employees could see the reports in which they could have the higest trust. This was also searchable meaning employees could filter out the noise and find the informational gems.

Consider having different levels of seal to indicate the levels of trust.

3. Develop and Execute Enhanced Employee Profiles

Every business has internal experts but identifying these people and connecting with them has always been a bête noire for intranets. Enhanced employee profiles, such as those in SharePoint 2010 mysites, are great at allowing employees to identify expertise to enhance collaboration, but they’re also a critical factor in building trust on your intranet.

Enhanced profiles allow an employee to investigate the credibility of authors and to satisfy themselves of the validity and trustworthiness of the content they provide so do all you can to encourage employees to complete them.

4. Allow Employee Accreditation

An employee profile is a great way of allowing the employee to recognise their own expertise, but equally valuable is for others to formally recognise their contributions. This is particularly useful for the self-effacing expert in your midst who is not that great at blowing their own trumpet! The growing trend of intranet gamification is an excellent way to do this. Consider some of these techniques which will all help your employees have confidence in the author and trust in their output.

(Some of these original shared on IBF/Steve Bynghall post on gamification on intranets)

  • Badges or point systems based on the number of intranet contributions
  • Badges or points, awarded by others, to show the quality of contributions
  • Badges to reflect behaviour that matches company values (mine, for information: Accountable, Customer-Focused, Team-Driven — ACT). Call them ACT badges

5. Do all you can to get your leaders to lead

In order to operate effectively, companies need a broad culture of trust and your intranet is a reflection of your corporate culture. (As an aside, take a look at your intranet with that in mind — is it a push culture, a culture of open dialogue?) For your intranet to work successfully, employees need to trust that it’s ok to firstly use the tools and secondly, that it’s ok to be positively critical.

For this culture of trust to exist, leaders need to lead. They should be visible on the intranet and not just in news stories or executive blogs. They should ask questions, participate in online debate, solicit personal feedback, seek input to key initiatives. They should comment on other employee blogs.

Leaders need to give permission to be honest, to recognise contributions and defend people who ‘expose’ themselves and talk about the difficult topics. They must demonstrate that they believe the intranet is work and not work avoidance; they need to give the green light to participation requiring action as well as words.

Only through this positive reinforcement will all users of the intranet feel and act the same way.

Summary

Trust is earned over time through behavior.  Its definitely much easier to loose than it is to gain and it requires a level of openness and venerability that doesn’t sit naturally with most corporate communication.

As companies intranets become more social, building confidence in authors and content becomes increasingly important. Conversations and information will spread beyond the traditional hierarchies and employees who have never met will share and collaborate. Employees will need ways to separate the wheat from the chaff and indicators of trust will be vital.

The social media revolution 2011 video describes how 90% of people trust peer recommendations but only 14% trust advertisements. It would be interesting to see the intranet equivalent — 90% of employees trust fellow employees but only 14% trust the pushed communications from internal communication teams maybe?

Let us know how you’ve worked to build intranet trust and content trust.




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  1. Samuel Driessen

    Nice post, Jonathan. Good list. I’d like to add one more: trust can be improved with a good intranet organization. Having someone who moderates the intranet, contacts employees to update posts, corrects navigation and functionality, etc. also helps build trust.


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