This week I read a case study on Melcrum’s Internal Comms hub about the introduction of a social intranet. Its purpose in the workplace was to encourage collaboration across a number of offices based at different locations; in this case study a real estate company from Australia, but the thinking would equally apply to offices located in different countries.
All employees are given their own user profile and the ability to update or amend intranet content through a wiki based format. They can generate content by writing blogs, starting or joining discussions or creating polls. Every comment or amendment is linked to an employee profile so the author is transparent. So far, the system has been self-regulating and alongside informal peer control also sit formal policies such as code of conduct, intranet usage and employment contracts.
Another major shift is that employees have control of their own home page. They choose how they are communicated with by setting up how they wish to receive news content. So for example employees can choose to opt in or out of news from particular departments, projects, areas or company wide information.
Is it encouraging collaboration? Does ownership equal engagement? In this case, apparently so. Employees are said to be sharing knowledge and engaging offline with people they may not have spoken to before, because they have made contact through the social intranet. Is it the future of internal communications? The company in this study had a young demographic, even so I believe it is a model that we are likely to see more of. Is it right for everyone? In a previous organisation I worked with there were a number of production staff who did not have access to a computer so it could be argued they are disadvantaged. However, it should be remembered that the intranet is only one communication channel among many.
In my current organisation the traditional type intranet exists alongside a sharepoint intranet. Staff have the facility to populate a profile page and create or contribute to discussions in groups they are a member of. The reality is that functionality is largely ignored and you have to question why. The pick and mix approach may be considered a safer option, the reality would suggest it does not seem to foster knowledge sharing or engagement in the same way. The full monty approach of letting employees have control of the intranet might seem high risk, the key difference would seem to be that it makes ‘contribution culture’ the norm.