10 differences between an intranet and digital workplace homepage

As intranet managers, from time-to-time we all do it, despite bearing the scars from the last time. We decide to re-launch our intranet homepage. A triumph of optimism over experience. We know we’ll get hate mail from users the day it launches no matter how good it actually is … but we just can’t help ourselves. And so it is now in BT. We’re full speed ahead on developing a new intranet homepage site which will be launched before Christmas.

I won’t bore you with all the gruesome detail, but when the idea was first conceived, it made me think about what needs to be different this time around from what we’ve previously offered up to BT employees. How does the homepage need to be different to support the BT Digital Workplace rather than the BT Intranet?

Knowing that no one reads blog posts anymore unless they are lists of no more than 10 items and include a big image … I offer you my illustrated-10-differences-between-an-intranet-and-digital-workplace-homepage-listicle-blog-post.

Evolution of the DW homepage

  1. My digital workplace homepage needs to be ‘useful to me’ rather than ‘good for me’ – by which I mean I get to decide much of what goes on the page rather than the company feeding me the stuff it thinks is good for me.
  2. The content on my new page needs to be dynamic, driven by my needs.
  3. We all need a bit of corporate news to feed our souls but, more importantly, we need information from our networks to feed our brains.
  4. For this site to work, the content can’t be dominated by one person – I need lots of information from lots of sources.
  5. I love reading, but I get paid to do stuff.
  6. The person charged with managing my new homepage should spend their time hunting out useful sources of information and offering them to me as feeds to which I can subscribe if I so choose.
  7. I choose … that is all!
  8. More people access the internet via smartphone than fixed line … the digital workplace will be no different.
  9. The digital workplace is an ever-changing and flexible ecosystem – my front door into it needs to be too.
  10. Sticking content in little boxes piled on top of one other so I can see them all at once creates a horrible mess and gives me a headache. Layer the content and let me choose the top content card at any given time.

Thanks for reading … now get back to work! :-)

Gamification 101 – a simple guide to gamification in the enterprise

board gamesAs Christmas comes hurtling over the horizon, many of us will be dusting off the Monopoly and Cluedo in preparation for the arrival of family and friends. It got me thinking about that oft-quoted – actually, over-quoted – thing called gamification. Cited by some as the holy-grail of employee engagement and others as a load of old twaddle (<- I sit somewhere in the middle! :-) ), what exactly is it?

So, I raided the internet and stole ideas and information from experts … er … I mean did some research … and, below is my unbiased (<- is that possible?) view of what it is and some simple tips for using it effectively and some things to avoid …

What is it?

Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications, for example, in the workplace … or, put another way, turning ‘work in to play’.

When has it been used for in business?

Gaming has been used in a variety of scenarios in a business context, for example:

  1. When rolling out a new initiative, such as new values or ethics, where you want people to actively engage with information to understand its implications for them as an exercise in shared understanding.
  2. It is used widely in ideation systems.
  3. As part of mass collaborative events to encourage participation.
  4. To help build communities by recognising contributions.
  5. As part of training or learning packages.

Top 6 tips for getting it right:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Start with clear objectives
  3. Understand the three principles which underpin successful games:
    • Autonomy (people can play when they want not when you want them to)
    • Mastery (shouldn’t be too hard and players need to see they are progressing)
    • Purpose (players need to understand why they are playing – what the point is).
  4. Scores aren’t everything – people prefer validation through prestige to simple number scores which can alienate people particularly if a small number of players get way ahead of everyone else on points.
  5. The game should be about the journey and not the end result – players need to enjoy the process of playing.
  6. Make it social – i.e. let people share their progress/successes with colleagues.

The four basic characteristics of gaming are:

  1. Simple, recognizable cues for next actions.
  2. Clear, instant feedback for actions taken.
  3. Easily identifiable markers for ranking and performance.
  4. Streamlined, accessible paths to further achievement.

It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Getting gamification right is harder than it sounds. Gaming is best used to amplify existing behaviours rather than introduce new behaviours, particularly if these feel unnatural to players. Gaming won’t make people do something they don’t want to do (i.e. it has to be a part of something that players already have an underlying, intrinsic interest in doing).

Common pitfalls when setting up gamification include:

    1. Thinking gamification is ‘pointsification’ … i.e. simply allocating points to a set of activities. This will fail very quickly.
    2. Ignoring the multi-generational workplace and different technical skill levels can alienate large numbers of employees.
    3. Intentionally designing for addictive behaviour. If a player knows when to expect a reward based on their actions, this is predictable feedback and acts as a motivator. However, gamification becomes addictive when feedback is not entirely predictable. For example, if a player receives predictable rewards most of the time, but sometimes receives an extra reward for the same action, this encourages the player to repeat this action more to receive the disproportionate reward. Casino fruit machines are a good example of this. You don’t want your game to be addictive!
    4. Gaming for gaming’s sake without a clear purpose.
    5. Ignoring cause and effect. This is not understanding potential unintended consequences. This means that just because you design a process to achieve a particular outcome, you may unintentionally design for a different outcome entirely.
    6. Creating gamification clones – ripping off existing games without understanding the underlying mechanics and principles of gaming mechanics. Gartner believes 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet their business objectives primarily due to poor design.
    7. Creating a game which encourages players to play to win. When winning becomes the key motivation, your game has failed and players will game your system to get to the top of the pile.

Gaming silos

A growing problem with gamification is that every system you buy-in these days has elements of gamification in them. Even SharePoint has some pretty lame badges as part of its community sites set-up. This is a similar problem to social silos where every system also comes with commenting, liking, rating etc. where social activity is locked in to a system and can’t be shared across an entire intranet or easily searched. In my view, it would be much more powerful in both the gamification and social spheres if they were enterprise-wide avoiding duplication left-right-and-centre!

So, there you have it!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday and a happy, wholesome and fulfilling New Year!

Tweet from Innocent drinks

Changing role of internal communications (#internalcomms)

Not sure if I ever shared this video taken after my presentation at the IntraTeam Conference in Copenhagen in February …

 

Mind the gap – the key to an effective #digitalworkplace

mind the gapIf I was in the happy position of designing a new digital workplace completely from scratch, I would develop a beautiful suite of applications which seamlessly ooze into one another and which dance daintily onto the variously sized screens used by employees in offices, on trains and while sitting comfortably on heated toilet seats … I think you get the idea!

However, in the real world, a digital workplace is a cobbled together bunch of bits and pieces, from e-mail to expenses systems, developed and purchased by a company over many years. In most cases, making wholesale changes to your bits and bobs to bring them closer together in terms of usability and user experience is out of the question.

This only really leaves one option. Being clever with the spaces between your digital workplace components. How you design a fluid user experience into these spaces will make or break your digital workplace. In fact, if you’re not clever with the way you squeeze your users through these narrow spaces, they probably won’t even know they’re in a digital workplace at all.

I think taking this approach is pragmatic, simpler, quicker and cheaper than focussing on the experience inside each application. It also feels much less daunting and more do-able.

From control to influence – the evolution of internal communciations (#internalcomms #IEC14)

John is a press officer in the media relations team at Blah Blah plc. Like John, most of his peers are ex-journalists. They all started their careers in local newspapers, writing about village fêtes, lawn mower thefts from back yards, court news and their local football team. One by one, they all got promoted and specialised in a particular field and covered a larger patch, before moving to regional media outlets and finally on to the nationals. John worked for ten years at a popular national tabloid newspaper.

The conversation around a piece of content which creates context and brings it to life becomes more important than the original content itselfJohn and his colleagues all progressed based on the quality of their end product – articles; broadcast media segments – essentially, a presentation of some kind. The quality of their end product depends upon things like: how good their sources are; how skilled they are at writing and crafting narrative; their research skills; and also their instinct for sniffing out as good story.

Then one day, John saw a job advert for a press officer at Blah Blah plc. It offered a better salary and benefits, more secure employment and a far less claustrophobic/nepotistic culture. So he applied, got the job and made the switch from journalist to spokesperson.

John soon found out that, while all his old journalistic skills are still very valuable in his new role, success is measured very differently. The output or end product of John’s labours shifted from being a presentation for a mass audience to his ability to influence a much smaller set of identifiable individuals. So the presentation subtly shifts from being an end in itself to a means to an end. That end being influence.

So, what’s all this got to do with internal comms? I believe the journey that John has undertaken above, is exactly the same journey that we as internal communicators must now make to remain effective in a social organisation – by which I mean an organisation with internal systems which support commenting and conversation and which are used widely by employees.

In organisations which are strongly hierarchical and where on-line, social engagement functionality is not available, employee communications is highly managed, structured and controlled. What employee comms people produce in these types of organisations is well crafted presentational material – be it a news item or a communication from the CEO or senior manager. This is akin to journalism inside.

As an organisation introduces functionality which supports connection and conversation, employee comms people need to compete with other information providers to attract attention to their content through the noise. This will never be achieved by continuing to produce corporate presentational material – however well crafted. The conversation around a piece of content, which creates context and brings it to life becomes, arguably, more important than the original content itself. Influence comes from being part of that conversation and change happens as a result of it. So the presentation subtly shifts from being an end in itself, to a means to an end. The end being influence

Being part of the conversation, explaining – sometimes defending – the company’s position to employees and trying to influence behaviours is much more akin to being a spokesperson for your organisation, inside your organisation. This means no more hiding behind a wall of content and being invisible to employees. It means stepping in to the limelight, being the most connected person in your organisation and discussing openly and honestly the messages you have been tasked with delivering and describing and exhibiting the behaviours you are trying to promote. It also means being accountable in a much more transparent way than we have ever had to be before.

Pretty scary? Certainly. Very exciting? Definitely!

The great news is that, as employee comms people, we already have a fantastic set of skills to help us flourish in this new environment. All we need to do shift our thinking. There really has never been a more exciting time to be in employee comms … and a social organisation is the perfect environment for us to flourish and grow.

Internal communications 101 #internalcomms

In the world of internal communications we seem to spend our time tumbling or lurching from one activity (aka crisis!) to another. We don’t often spend time reflecting on what we’re really contributing, or our purpose inside organisations. This is a shame. It’s also very tiring as without a clear purpose we’re not always in a position to say: “NO”

So, I decided to spend a little time thinking about the purpose and value of internal communications inside organisations to reset and recalibrate my thinking. Below are some random meanderings on the subject.

What’s the point of internal comms?

I think internal comms is an invaluable organisational asset … and here’s why. Organisations are just groups of people. Both organisations as entities and people as individuals have needs. For example, an organisation needs to produce the stuff its customers want as efficiently and cheaply as possible … and people want to feel valued, respected and heard. Internal communications blends the needs of the organisation with the needs of its people so that stuff gets produced and the people enjoy producing it. Internal communications holds the organisational space. And, when the organisational needs change to meet the demands of its customers or the markets, internal communications helps people through that change so that everyone’s needs are still being met at the end of it.

In good organisations with successful internal communications teams, every employee believes they can make a difference … and, crucially, wants to make a difference.

What does internal comms do?

A very good question. Below is a rough sketch of what I think constitutes the internal communications core process:

IC core process

In my experience, we’re not very good at the first step in this process – agreeing objectives. These need to be crystal clear and they need to be outcomes rather than outputs. As a profession, we have a bad reputation for measuring our outputs and equating the scale of these outputs with success.

What does good look like?

I think a healthy internal communications ecosystem looks something like this:

Internal comms ecosystem diagram

It should be a healthy balance of: stuff (collectively described in this diagram as ‘content’) -> getting to the right people in a timely fashion -> creating conversation -> which helps inform the next load of stuff … and so it goes on. Traditionally, we have been poor at the conversation bit of this which I think has limited the value we’ve delivered as a profession. However, with the advent of the so called social organisation, this is all changing. Once we’ve got this all ticking along nicely we can be assured that we all have a shared understanding of what is required, we feel engaged and change happens. If only it was that simple!

A bit more about value

Wow … this is really tricky! Effective internal comms is about doing some stuff (service delivery); forming relationships with stakeholders to help them solve their business problems (business partnering); and amazing the business with new and exciting thinking (leading change … aka innovating). Here’s a little diagram showing these activities which I’ve chosen to call the value triangle:

IC value triangle

A good internal comms practitioner will need to do all of these things at various times … the trick is getting the balance right. I think the right balance is illustrated by the triangular shape of the model.

Conclusion

I don’t really have one. As I said at the start, these are fairly random meanderings which have helped me think about what I should be doing and how to balance the various activities/priorities demanded of me. One day, I plan to say “NO” to something. When I do, you’ll be the first to know! :-)