Since the emergence of the enterprise social network, the internal communication landscape has radically changed, and the classic intranet will likely be a thing of the past. Already, hundreds of organizations have made the leap. Others have held on to their existing intranet but transformed it into a social and collaborative platform. In both cases, the stakes are the same: making internal communication more fluid, creating social links within the organization, and making social technologies a vector of crosscutting interaction and cohesion in order to work more efficiently.
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The transformation of communication practices in companies
1. Stop using email for internal communication
Of course, the choice of an enterprise social network (ESN) is not always a reaction to the classic intranet. In small structures where it is not necessarily deployed, it is above all email that is targeted.
At SeeQualis, a consulting firm of about 60 consultants, internal communication was done through messaging. Problem is: half of the employees working for clients who had an email address rarely consulted SeeQualis’ email address. Today, ESN has become the unique channel for communication within the company. Employees on assignment can therefore easily access information from their smartphone.
Also read: Internal communication: the planned obsolescence of the internal newsletter
2. Open top-down information to interactions
Of course, the appeal of social networks is not only to ensure that everyone receives top-down information, but also to open it to bottom-up and lateral interactions. That’s a structure that benefits all.
The law firm LLC & Associates, which has about 100 associates, notices this when the announcement of a contract signing triggers congratulations or when welcome messages pour in upon the arrival of a new associate. These small tokens of attention are a source of team cohesion, which could not find a place on the previous static intranet.
3. Decentralize internal communication
Some large companies also opt for social networks for their internal communication. Engaged in a major strategic project, Club Med wanted communication to be faster and more spontaneous within the company and to ease lateral communication. Until then, the dissemination of news about Club Med was driven by internal communication, which ordered reports from the different regions and distributed them via a specific platform. From now on, any employee can directly and freely publish in the internal communication group of the social network, see its content recommended or commented on by his colleagues.
Of course, the employees still need to remain committed. Mutualité de la Réunion abandoned its intranet created with Google Sites in favor of the internal social network Talkspirit, in particular to be able to capture life on the field. In addition to the information distributed by the head office, there was also information provided by employees working in the group’s 30 or so branch offices. A real added value to identify and respond to customer problems, and detect weak signals.
To encourage participation, business director Didier Rivière set up an “Appreciation Office.” When employees publish intriguing messages, he thanks them with a comment. But instead of these thanks getting lost in the social network discussion thread, they’re centralized in a specific group, the Appreciation Office. “It works pretty well,” he says. “In the beginning, I posted a few acknowledgements, and when the contributors saw them, they jumped on board.” To encourage feedback, Rivière also opted for a solution still rare among companies: a team of three people was given a specific budget each month to reward the messages that appealed the most to them, and at the end of the year, the most original message receives a special prize.
Internal communication now focused on employees
1. Making life easier for employees
On certain subjects related to the life of the company, employees are eager to express themselves and exchange ideas. At Lagardère Publicité, communication about a move, for example, is done via a community on the company’s social network. On a daily basis, employees were able to share their questions and the company was able to provide them with answers, facilitating this always-difficult change.
Increasingly, internal social networks are also being used to integrate new employees. Upon their arrival on the platform, they are put in touch with the people who will accompany them so that they can easily interact as needed. In other cases, such as at LLC, newcomers can solicit all their colleagues via the social network in order to quickly obtain an answer or access a resource. This way, they get their feet on the ground more quickly. At SeeQualis, a dedicated onboarding group welcomes them even before their arrival, so that they can start participating early on in the life of the company.
2) Gathering employees around common hobbies
Finally, thanks to community spaces enterprise social networks offer, employees can spontaneously group together around hobbies or business areas of interest, share their intelligence, ideas and issues with their colleagues, beyond the organization’s structures. Here too though, employees need to get involved. While it may seem natural to come together around one’s areas of interest, it’s another thing to bring the community to life.
For a long time, this issue revolved around management, with laissez-faire partisans on one side giving employees complete freedom in creating communities, and on the other side, the partisans of ensuring the community is viable, therefore imposing formal objectives and appointing leaders. So, what’s the best method? Neither and both at the same time, one would be tempted to say, since one or the other—depending on the context and the stakeholders—can produce positive results but also lead to failures. In reality, the focus on this opposition of methods mainly reflects the level of awareness that the company has of the stakes of collaboration in terms of means. As this understanding progressed, a second period opened up, focused more on coaching.
Covéa is a good illustration of this turning point. The group of mutual insurance companies has set up a specific structure to develop collaborative uses. Community manager positions have been created, with each one managing a different portfolio of communities and assisting leaders on a daily basis. They also work with managers to raise their awareness and train them. What’s more, this structure relies on a network of ambassadors—volunteer employees of all profiles—who promote the social network in the field and help colleagues learn the ropes and how it works. This system encourages a positive dynamic, but also requires the company to recognize the time spent by these ambassadors or community leaders. It should go even further in its awareness of the efforts needed to promote cross-functional communication through the social network and reap all the benefits.
★ INSPIRING STORIES ★
1. Caisse d’Epargne d’Auvergne et du Limousin
To provide tools for exchanges among employees, the Caisse d’Epargne d’Auvergne et du Limousin (Cépal) has deployed an enterprise social network that has become the preferred location for local communication and is gradually replacing the intranet hosting business content. It also plays an important role in sharing educational resources, particularly for new employees. Each promotion has its own space where its members can meet up with each other for eight weeks to exchange ideas and access training materials. The social network thus provides them with all these interactive capabilities. Employees can comment on the information published in the corporate communications area, and depending on the chosen integration options, they can find their communities’ discussion feeds on their intranet home page. In all cases, the connection between the intranet and the social network must allow easy switching between them. This type of project also provides an opportunity to review the institutional communication section in depth so that it reflects the diversity of the organization and promotes cross-functionality.
2. Grenoble-Alpes agglomeration community
In the Grenoble-Alpes community, an intranet was in place but seldom used. The only means of communication for the 1,800 agents spread across 56 sites was a quarterly newspaper sent to their homes. Today, on the collaborative intranet, each department or service has its own page to present its own team, services and projects. This allows each person to see what others are working on, reducing the risk of duplication and encouraging interaction between departments. The beating heart of the intranet has evolved into collaborative spaces of the social network—notably within thematic communities that can bring together simple agents, service directors and elected officials.
★★ BEST PRACTICES ★★
1) Make the enterprise social network the unique channel of internal communication and actively promote its adoption and use.
2) Extra-professional communities can facilitate employees’ daily lives (like groups for trainees who organize their Friday evening outings together or those who like to go running at lunchtime).