New insight from a new hire informs intranet navigation

A few weeks ago, Guy van Leemput wrote a very informative post on intranet design, proposing that we should consider new starters to an organisation and make use of their experiences. Serendipity struck yesterday when a new hire started with the team.

All employees carry with them the baggage of prior knowledge of the organisation and a host of good, bad and ugly user experiences with the intranet. All best practice dictates that we involve our employees in the design process but the inevitable outcome of this is that we reinforce design and navigation prejudices and perpetuate mistakes. (A great example of this was recently presented a Mastering Intranet Management course I attended with some intranet pages on company cars were discussed. The topic was covered under HR as it was perceived as an employee benefit and whilst most employees instinctively recognised this, most new hires struggled to see why it wasn’t listed under transport. The intranet manager now adds it to both).

Long-standing organisation memory can be unhelpful when designing an intuitive intranet and whilst new hires will also bring their own prejudices, they also bring new insight to your intranet if you let them.

A new hire started in our team yesterday and so it was a great opportunity to consider their gentle induction to the company. The communcation, collaboration, community and transactional needs for their first 100 days in the company (and a good few before!) provide valuable insight for intranet information architecture and navigation. (All ‘needs’ are highlighted). Consider this journey an expanded new hire persona

Prior to Day 1

Our new hire is still just a candidate but wishes to find out more about the role, the company and the industry in which they operate in readiness for an interview. They’ll probably look to the job description and the internet for specific news to help them. It’s probable that they’ll look to speak to current and former employees for insights.

Once an offer has been made, there will be negotiations around pay, pensions and other benefits. Depending on the role, there might be discussions about hours of work, locations, travel policies, expenses and other standards of performance.

Once an offer has been accepted, the employee will be set up in the ERP system and an embryonic employee profile will be created.

Day 1

“Welcome to the company!” It’s safe to assume that they’ve found the office and parked their car in the staff car park. They meet their new boss and the team and now they’ve much to learn about their job and their objectives. They’ll need to know where they fit in the organisational hierarchy. They’ll soon have a desk, a phone and a PC.

Day 7

Our new hire is getting their head around the organisation and the layout of the building and is starting to build some important networks. They’re already sharing knowledge from their previous roles and learning from their colleagues and being introduced to collaborative teamsites as part of their work. If they’ve a team to manage, they’ve no doubt started to familarise themselves with those HR details. They’ll also be keen to understand the company policies on travel, procurement, ethics, company law and a host of other topics.

Day 150+

After a successful first half year, the new hire is now assessing performance versus objectives for themselves and their team and keeping an eye on the internal jobs market for their team.

Derived Navigation from Needs

In completing this quick exercise, a natural grouping of these highlighted elements soon emerged that did not require a prior knowledge of the organisation based around three headlines which every employee, regardless of the organisation, would always share:

Needs as a direct consequence of being an employee

Every employee will have certain informational and transactional needs as a direct consequence of simply being an employee. They will all be paid, all have benefits, all have objectives and all have a profile on ERP or the intranet. Most will have phone, desk, PC, car park or company car service needs too. These things will be the same for every employee in the organisation.

Needs as a direct consequence of being in this particular job

These needs are consistent across every employee that does a given role in your company. They will include the information that a person needs to do that job (dashboard style data), the line manager data and transaction tools and a range of collaboration tools to help them connect, share, learn and execute in their job. It is likely that there will be a need for external industry information and tools ie. legal, financial, sales.

Needs as a direct consequence of being in this company

Every employee will look to the intranet for content about their company such as news, executive communication, policies, standards, and facts and figures. Given the rush towards social intranets, we must also recognise that communities of interest will also exist in the organisation.

So consider this simple top level navigation for your organisation: Me, My Job, My Company. This graphic hopefully explains the grouping I’m thinking

Comments very welcome!