Friday, August 22, 2014

Injecting Personality: Add It to Your Intranet to Boost Employee Engagement


Here’s an open secret of successful content strategy: Every site has a personality. Your Intranet is no exception.

Imagine yourself at a social gathering. First, you meet the life of the party. She’s engaging, personable and committed to making everyone feel special. It’s your consumer site! But wait… Who’s that bland fellow slouched in the corner, overstuffed with facts but lacking social graces? Oh... It’s your Intranet. After five minutes with him, you begin plotting your escape.

Companies invest substantially to craft compelling experiences for their customer-facing sites (and rightfully so). Intranets, which “only” serve employees, don’t always get the same love. However, fine-tuning your Intranet’s personality represents a high-value, low-cost way to foster employee engagement—even if you don’t have a blockbuster budget to overhaul its functionality and visual design.

So, What Is Personality?

A site’s personality describes the emotional characteristics it communicates to users. When it comes to personality, customer-facing sites enjoy a wider range of characteristics than Intranets. They have the freedom to be serious, whimsical, rugged, zany, sassy, folksy or street. But that doesn’t mean Intranets have to be bland.

Successful sites tell stories—including Intranets.

Granted, most Intranets contain a lot of meat-and-potatoes info, such as forms, policies, org charts, etc. But consider the content around these materials. Does it inspire? Does it motivate? Does it express what makes you company unique? Does it make a statement about your organization that would make you want to work there?

What Does Your Intranet Tell Your Workers?

Forming a consistent personality for your site provides a foundation to better connect with your employees and internally reinforce your corporate identity. After all, why should your Intranet be any less “on message” than your digital interactions with customers?

Remember, your Intranet is a primary channel for employee engagement and communication. Its personality tells employees a lot about the organization:

• What are our shared values?

• Is a visit worth my time?

• Is this a place where I want to build my career?

Start with Your “Why?”

You can’t forge a more compelling identity for your Intranet if you can’t articulate its purpose. A vision provides a clear mission statement that:

• Promotes a common understanding of the Intranet’s purpose and goals

• Provides a high-level answer to “What’s in it for me?” for both the company and employees

• Informs future strategic decisions about proposed content and functionality

Describe Your Desired Experience

Your vision articulates what the Intranet is trying to do. Your aspirational goals relate how you want Intranet visitors to feel. It’s about forming messages that will connect with your employees. For example:

Confident. Employees will view the Intranet as a trusted source to easily find current information to manage their jobs and understand their benefits.

Inspired. Unity is one of our four core company values. The Intranet should incorporate aspirational text and visuals demonstrating collaboration and diversity.

Find Your Voice

A site’s voice expresses its fundamental characteristics and point of view. This is often expressed as contrasting sets of attributes.

The Intranet will exhibit the following traits:

• Professional

• Informative

• Sincere

• Authentic

It will avoid being overly:

• Technical (Jargon)

• Impersonal

• Self-Satisfied

Set Your Tone

Tone is expressed in word choice and arrangement. It complements the voice but adjusts to fit specific audiences and types of content. Similarly, my personality stays pretty consistent. But my tone shifts depending on whether I’m talking to clients, friends or my kids. Always speak the language that each employee audience understands.

Create Guidelines for Contributors

Personality should represent an important element of your “Content Guidelines”—a living document that provides site contributors with standards to create clear, compelling content. This includes best practices and editorial rules as well as an explanation of your vision, values and the emotional content.

Documenting this information:

• Establishes and communicates common expectations

• Promotes consistency across multiple contributors and business units

• Provides a foundation for further discussion and improvements

As you put your ideas into practice, monitor how well they connect with employees and adjust your guidelines accordingly.

Putting It All Together

Thoughtfully considering the personality that you want your Intranet to project can transform the way you look at your content. It enables you to hone in on the questions that you need to answer and the story that you want to tell. If you decide to focus on professionalism and dedication, how do you express that? Conversely, if you’ve targeted corporate responsibility, what does that look like? If collaboration is your foundation, does your current Intranet support that goal?

Regardless of your emphasis, this is only one step in maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your employees. Content is communication. And creating a well-defined personality for your Intranet helps stimulate a conversation that employees won't want to walk away from.