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How to fill the empty square?

von Anne Tessmer – 02. Mai 2013


In introducing social intranet companies often focus on technology: What platform? How to integrate activity streams? How to connect existing business software? Software providers have developed good answers to these questions.

Then, why is the new platform taking off so slowly? The most underestimated factor when it comes to social intranet: the people who are to use it. Without the people a social intranet is just an empty square. At the “Intra.NET Reloaded” last week over 150 international executives from communications, IT and HR discussed how to fill that square with life. Five answers:

Make benefits visible: Define use cases for the piloting phase. They show where the new technology needs to be adapted to company needs and where it contributes to individual results as well as to company objectives. Let early users tell their own success stories giving answers to the key question “What’s in it for me?”

Win executives as role models: Get the buy-in of the executives. It’s them who the employees look to. One way to increase awareness and commitment: Let the executives use the platform in the context of a management conference. When they start their teams will follow.

Gain trust in the freedom of speech: Make sure that criticism is dealt with constructively. Issues will be discussed anyway, whether in the cantine, in employee’s facebook groups or on the social intranet – here, at least management can participate in the dialog.

Enable usage: Provide orientation. Show possibilities and limits of use, e. g. with guidelines, trainings, instructive videos and help forums. Motivate the users to explore the square.

Mind the generational gap: Sharing experience virtually is natural to most employees in generation Y. Yet, for traditional companies it is a change in culture, reversing principles of communication: From “knowledge is power” to “the first one to share is king”. Especially older employees are afraid of losing track in an activity stream demanding constant attention and real-time answers. One approach to offer assistance is reverse mentoring: Let the trainee show the local manager how to make the most out of the new platform for his site.

The step from intranet 1.0 to 2.0 implies a major cultural change as much as a technological one. Like any change process its progress and success are based on the stakeholders’ acceptance, commitment and active contribution. To fill the empty square you need to communicate the change strategically – starting with the board of management.

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