4 ways to put the life back into your intranet

The Office Party season is here. You know you should go to it but you don’t really want to. Is it somewhere nobody talks to each other? Does taking part feel contrived, and frankly a little bit embarrassing?

I could be talking about the office party, but many people would say the same about their company intranet too. We now expect intranets to be lively, participatory, social experiences. So like a party, we can’t dictate how they happen, we can only facilitate a good outcome. With this in mind, here’s four party tips we can apply to put the life back into an intranet:

1. Be the second person to dance

You may already know the Leadership from a dancing guy video.

What it highlights is that people join in when they think others will too. As the video commentator puts it “being the first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader”. If your intranet social networks or forums are flagging, you may well have tried posting new questions or resources. You stand a better chance if you can also encourage a second person to come along and join in. This probably needs to be done behind the scenes – even a face to face appeal – but then the third and four participants will start waving their friends over without your intervention.

2. Move the furniture out of the way

If you want people to mingle, they need to be able to move around freely. Intranets that replicate the company structure risk putting barriers in place that inhibit people moving around. In effect, they re-create existing silos with digital ones. It’s often said that the best conversations happen at the intersection of two areas, so try creating spaces on the intranet that put aside the company structure and bring disparate groups together. This might be by posing a problem from one function for other functions to help find a solution, for example. Or getting teams to submit videos showing “this is where we work”, particularly branch or field-workers that may be less visible to office staff.

3. Pass the parcel

When I was a kid, there was only one prize in pass the parcel, right at the very end. People would lose interest pretty quickly. Pass the parcel 2.0, however, involves prizes just about every time the music stops. On an intranet, people will soon form an opinion of how regularly they need to visit for it to be rewarding. If an intranet has been neglected for a while, try-resetting expectations by having a theme with regular updates, such as an employee of the week, a daily tip or a countdown to… (but not Christmas, you’ve missed that one).

4. Keep up with the latest craze

Every Christmas there’s usually a theme that captures people’s imagination, like tasteless knitwear or furry robots.
Ayesha Graves, Intranet manager at the Federation of Small Businesses described how a chicken called Norris became a viral theme on their intranet. Norris first appeared as a ‘For sale’ item, and people took an interest in his search for a new home. The smart move by the comms team was to capitalise on this, first by blogging about it and then incorporating Norris into a Christmas online treasure-hunt. Although it sounds trivial, the side effect was that Norris was a non-threatening way to get people experimenting with the intranet, taking part in discussions and using hashtags. These skills then carry over into more business-related tasks.

To be honest I’m much better at intranets than I am at parties, but I still think there’s a lot to learn. Be grateful you didn’t get to see me dance.

Find out more from Sam at ClearBox Consulting