With digital comms platforms becoming ever more present and important in the workplace, you could be forgiven for asking this question.
My answer is a resounding yes.
Almost every internal comms audit I do throws up similar results when it comes to managers and their communication accountability:
‘Team Meeting with my Manager’ is always the most preferred channel when it comes to communicating the issues that are most important to them e.g. ‘planned changes and what they mean for me’
But more often than not, the data in my audit survey tells the same story:
- Typically, 30 % disagree with the statement ‘My manager keeps me informed on key business issues and how they impact me’
- 40% also say that they’re not having a team meeting at least monthly
- 30% say that their team meetings don’t include content from the organisation’s ‘cascade’ / team brief
- And 50% of managers say they don’t have the tools to enable them to engage their teams effectively
So my audit reports normally include a recommendation to run a session with managers to engage them in their communication accountability: I call it ‘Leaders as Communicators’ and have run it successfully for a number of organisations.
I tell them that they are the most important channel and driver of employees’ communication experience, engaging them in their people’s communications needs and preferences and talking to them about
- Putting face to face at the heart of their communication – this will be even more important as organisations ‘return to office’
- Connecting their team to the organisation’s strategy, priorities and performance, bringing the story to life with them
- Keeping them fully involved on issues that affect them, especially change
- Giving them a voice to share ideas and give feedback
- Leveraging the comms framework and contributing to channels including digital platforms – especially if they are a key communicator / content provider
- Encouraging their team(s) to do the same.
The session includes some thought-provoking self-assessment for the participants and some focused action planning to take back to their desk. It’s also an opportunity for leaders to put up their hand if they’d like some additional support – not everyone is a great communicator.
Equipping them to do the job well is key. Regular leaders’ events / calls are a must so that they are fully engaged and an effective team meeting support tool is key, ensuring a manageable number of discussion topics you want leaders to specifically engage their teams in.
My personal keys to a successful tool are:
- Avoiding content which doesn’t require specific leader endorsement / involvement which has been communicated direct through other channels
- Providing content that is ‘team meeting discussion-friendly’ making it easy for managers to use as part of their team meetings.
So yes, line managers definitely still have an important role to play – and supporting them to fulfil that role remains key to their success.
“Our intranet is a joke”
“Sort out the intranet: it needs a complete overhaul – start again!”
“We need a modern, interactive intranet”
These are actual quotes from our internal comms audits for clients.
Intranets are never far from the top of the list when it comes to the aspects of internal communication employees aren’t happy with.
But why are so there so many rubbish intranets out there?
They have such an important role to play in connecting and engaging employees, helping them collaborate and giving them quick and easy access to the resources they need to do their job. They have become even more important through the pandemic, providing a digital hub for widely dispersed workforces – and that importance will continue in the world of hybrid working.
So what are the common factors in these rubbish intranets?
Lack of investment
In our audits I’m often coming across outdated intranets that were built ten years ago by in-house programmers, with virtually no money spent on them since. Can you imagine that being allowed with the business’s external website? I’m often recommending delivery of a new intranet, especially when negative feedback on the existing intranet has been a major feature of the audit and replacing it would have a major positive impact on employee experience. But there is still often reluctance to make the investment.
Owned by IT
Not looking to bash IT here as I have had great working relationships with IT partners when implementing intranets and digital platforms but it’s true to say that where the intranet has historically been owned by IT and not Communications, it’s very often not fit for purpose. I’m always recommending that new intranets are owned by Comms but of course implemented in collaboration with IT.
No social tools
It’s all very well having a resource library but people expect so much more. I often talk about people wanting the same experience with their digital tools at work as they do in their personal lives. Social is a big part of that. People want to be able to like and comment on content, publish blogs, share their experience, and ask questions.
If your intranet doesn’t have an effective feed of news stories, your people are going to be drowning in the dreaded ‘all staff emails’. Of course, there is important information that needs to be pushed into inboxes, but other stories and updates can be shared via news stories. People are used to accessing these kind of stories via e.g. the BBC news site so it’s a familiar format for them.
Out of date content
Perhaps the biggest complaint when it comes to intranets – ones that have been around a long time have pages and pages of out-of-date content. A good platform has an expiry date feature for content and owners for each page to ensure content stays up to date.
People want a clear site structure under major headings which makes it easier for them to find what they need. Just like the main websites they use on a daily basis. And linked to this…..
The Search in most old intranets is nothing short of awful and regarded by users as worse than useless, again in comparison to engines like Google a really poor user experience. Modern platforms have great search.
No integration with e.g. Microsoft Teams / Slack channels
Slack and Teams have become ever-present in the last couple of years and are now in extensive use for collaboration. A good platform should be able to integrate with Teams and Slack channels.
There’s no excuse!
All these factors add up to poor user experience. But there’s really no excuse for having a poor intranet. There are a number of out of the box platform providers out there who can give you a spanking new social intranet that ticks all the boxes in terms of functionality in less than three months, and it won’t cost the earth.
Which is why here at the Internal Comms Team we are partnering with one of the leading platform providers to provide a comprehensive intranet implementation service for our clients, a ready-made solution we can deploy following our audits. Watch this space…..
If you would like help replacing your current outdated intranet or implementing one for the first time, drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
We normally get asked to help a business with their internal comms when they know from employee feedback – or just instinctively feel – that communications aren’t working well, but they’re not sure how to fix it and want an independent, expert view. Sometimes it’s because they’re embarking on a new strategy or transformation programme, and they know their internal comms aren’t fit for purpose. Whatever your reason for doing it, a new strategy driven by a review can make a real difference to your organisation, helping to drive engagement and business performance.Read more
What do you look for when recruiting internal communications talent? As an interim internal communications leader for businesses across multiple sectors, I’ve often had to build or rebuild internal comms teams. Here are the skills I look for when recruiting an internal comms professional.Read more
Digital communication platforms / enterprise social networks have come into their own in the pandemic as organisations have used them to keep people connected while they are apart.Read more
Hats off to internal comms teams everywhere who have stepped up to the plate in the last year. We all know the challenges of connecting with a workforce who are working remotely, particularly when no 3D face to face comms is possible.Read more
In our internal communications reviews survey – developed and refined over 15 years of doing these audits – we ask people to select the topics and issues most important to them in terms of being kept informed and involved, from a list of nine options.Read more
While I have come across Slack in recent years when working for businesses, it has usually been the tool of choice for IT Development teams and not a platform I’d actually used.
That changed with my recent interim leadership assignment for Comic Relief where Slack is the tool used by everyone for instant messaging and project and team collaboration. (They also have Facebook Workplace my favourite enterprise social platform which is used as the internal comms hub.)
Having used Slack for 6 months I grew to really like it. It’s simple and intuitive to use.Read more
As we deliver internal communications reviews for clients across different sectors, we get to hear from hundreds of employees of businesses across the country about what is important to them when it comes to effective communications.
The top three feedback themes have been consistent for the last few years:
“We want to connect with the leadership team on a regular basis”
This remains right at the top of peoples’ lists. They want to hear about how the business is doing, future plans etc. and what means for them, but more they also want to give feedback, share their day to day experiences with customers, and put forward ideas – in other words they want their voice to be heard and they want the leadership team to do more listening! A good IC strategy needs a consistent programme of informal and formal face to face activities plus the ability to connect easily online.Read more
By Jos Harrison
Over the last 14 years I’ve provided interim leadership of internal comms for businesses as diverse as MotoNovo Finance, ITV, Principality Building Society, and Wonga, and for me the key focus areas have remained pretty much the same – albeit with new technology playing an increasing role.