What news do we publish on our intranet? How do we use it for onboarding new employees? Examples from our company show how to breathe life into your intranet.
News Published on Our Intranet
The image on the next page shows you an overview of the news on our intranet portal from the end of 2019.
Source file for the screenshot: https://seibert.biz/newsausunseremintranet)
This summary hasn’t been abridged or changed in any other way. The screenshot is original.
The first seven headlines and subheadlines from our latest news in the screenshot are as follows:
- Happy Remote Christmas (Recently by Chance in the Kitchenette...)
- Linchpin Roadmap: New Resolutions For 2020 (Do We Want Sponsored Developments?)
- BWA November 2019 – The Blog Post (Oh, How Joyful...)
- Is Time Money? (Validating the Concept: Working Hours Dictate Salary)
- State of The Month December 2019 – “Product Business is Like Climate Change, Just for The Good”
- The Laughing Goblin (I’m Setting up a Dev Environment)
- 12/2019 Update on The Psychonauts Team Support
Even more interesting and informative may be a list by type and purpose of the message, because these can be transferred to other organizations. Some of those message types include:
The personal writings of new colleagues who have to write blog posts as part of their onboarding so people can get to know them better. For many of our existing employees, these blog articles are the first form of qualitative contact with a new colleague (though a tour of the office takes place on the first day as well, in which a few hands are shaken). Newcomers bring a cake with them on their first morning, and we all drink a soda (or a beer) together to finish out the day, but these gatherings are usually limited to the team the employee starts working in. The blog posts offer additional information about their hobbies and life outside of work, as well as the function the new employee will take on. In no way do we prescribe the form and content of this. Some people put everything in a nutshell, while others go into quite a lot of detail with photos and lots of background information.
Probably the most read articles are our BE reports and the forecasts that we call “crystal balls.” The BE (for “business evaluation”) usually comes from accounting a few days after the end of each month. These are real business figures that are made available to the whole workforce simultaneously. No pre-release version is sent out to the management or the shareholders, and the versions for “normal” employees and management are the same. The BE report is an open and honest answer to the question of how our company is faring. It’s accompanied by a factual interpretation from Accounting to allow colleagues with less commercial experience to interpret the figures.
The “crystal ball” is a similar instrument, but it looks to the future instead of at the past. We call it by this name because many of its elements are still preliminary estimates. The “crystal ball” is usually published immediately after the end of the month. It’s our strategists’ answer to the question “Should we be preparing for our downfall or can we make some investments to grow our business?”
A third type of evaluation report is the “State of the Month” report from my colleague Sebastian, who takes a look at our figures in the middle of every month and provides an interpretation of them. He compares them with the previous year and previous month and calculates what the result would look like if the second half of the month were exactly the same as the first. This forecast has the greatest longevity and we regularly communicate it to everyone institutionally.
These three interesting reports are read by many and commented on a lot. The BE report represents the truth, so to speak, while the “crystal ball” gives a fairly accurate estimate and the “State of The Month” report is a “checking the water level” sort of report.
News like this ensures that we all have an overview of our business performance and that nobody has to speculate or rely on rumors. I would call this the “killer content” on our intranet. This is what UX Tsar Jakob Nielsen calls content that is particularly attractive to users and enhances your intranet (see “Recommended Reading”).
Other very common news items are announcements from our product and service teams. This type of news should be part of the standard repertoire in most organizations: we have a new product, we’ve improved something about a product, we’re offering something special, or we’ve changed the way something works. It’s in the natural interest of the teams or departments that as many people in the company as possible know there’s a change so they can pick up on it when talking to customers and external parties: this way they can either help us sell this new offering or support us if problems arise with the changes.
Think about how messages like these are communicated in your company. Are they sent via email? How many people are reached, and who is allowed to create them? At a company like ours, several teams want to do away with creating email reports like these every week. If, for example, product managers started to write info emails to the entire workforce instead, it’s inevitable that unmanageable, ineffective, informational chaos would ensue! A fully personalized platform that uses the pull principle can be a much more powerful option here, offering transparent news on relevant topics in organizations that have many thousands of employees.
A classic news format that we also use is retrospectives on specific years or half years as well as forecasts. The retrospectives often contain operating figures and actual sales figures. The forecasts mostly address more concrete plans – for example, our attendance at a major trade fair where the team will present a new version of a product or a product roadmap that’s particularly valuable and important to our marketing department. The forecasts contain strategic directions and tactics for the future development of our company along with the appropriate plans and changes. One goal here is for employees from other units who are now informed to be better able to adapt to these strategies with their teams.
At this point, it’s not uncommon for discussions to start up again, which we then take up in different places to make further amendments and adjustments. As you can see, our news is not a one-way street: the feedback from attentive readers often leads to spelling mistakes and back-to-front numbers being corrected in many of the reports that contain figures and developments, as well as ambiguities being ironed out.
My colleagues also use the attention garnered by internal messages to perform surveys. (Incidentally, I often experience a form of shock among some customers when we propose conducting a survey of all of our employees.) It’s already clear to me that our completely unregulated way of allowing answers to go unchecked could easily lead to “feedback request overkill” in a group. This probably applies to news in general, though. This is why our intranet concepts contain personalization options for sending messages and surveys to specifically designated target groups, while news that’s designed to be broadcast to everyone is generally more regulated.
The rigidity mentioned here occasionally stems from the fact that surveys are not infrequently subject to co-determination procedures and require the approval of the works council. And we’ve already spoken about working with the works council. Suffice it to say, regarding this relationship: on projects where customers have seriously attempted to set up a survey, it’s always been successful and never failed because of the works council. This is why I recommend not rejecting intranet surveys as an option (especially for top management and small target groups/niches). Knocking on the door of the works council and coordinating everything with them can definitely be worthwhile.
Another form of messaging deals with communicating special events. If we stage internal employee or external customer events, the dates for these can be seen in the events portal on our intranet:
The events portal on our intranet (source file: https://seibert.biz/intraneteventportal)
Nevertheless, the teams often publish these events on the microblog and as news articles as well when important dates are concerned. These are deliberately redundant announcements, which in turn contain the individual events:
When you click on one of the events on the overview page, you will see the single event, with more details.
Something that always serves as useful news content for us is news from the corporate development, internal organization, and strategy process. As part of our Agile Org process, we regularly deal with sustainability issues and issues that affect either all our employees, all our customers, or all our central processes – from salary increases to server support shift plans to expanding and renovating our office space. Customer issues in our Agile Org mainly concern aspects that either deliver enormous benefits for our customers or can result in complaints. As a rule, our dedicated (temp) editing teams eventually communicate how we can do this efficiently and effectively. And this leads to pretty intense discussions as well.
Work that involves significant effort, such as our ISO certification, process descriptions, and process standardizations are news items as well – even though I sometimes get the impression from this type of news that people only wake up when it actually affects them in some way. That doesn’t change the need for early communication, though. While company figures and Agile Org stories always spark lively discussions, I get the impression that an announcement about two-factor authentication for Google, for example, would initially arouse little interest. All the greater the impact, then, when the change is actually made! So, if the main intranet news you have to offer addresses standards and norms, please be aware that this won’t be the killer content you’re looking for.
On top of this, we observe the non-mandatory yet usual procedure of allowing colleagues who’ve attended conferences and costly training courses to report on their experiences and gains in knowledge in internal news articles.
Allow me to provide you with a few thoughts in this context that could inspire you when it comes to your intranet project or simply be useful as background information:
We neither have an editorial schedule for internal news nor do we have a central control function. We neither have upstream approval processes nor rules on who can publish what about which topic and when. Some posts are certainly more important than others, and in my opinion, important messages can be swept out of the reader’s sight too quickly because new posts end up at the top in chronological order.
We’ve started using news articles since we topped around 80 employees. As the size of the company and the acceptance of internal blogging increases, the amount of news published also increases – so new things quickly get lost from view. It’s a bit like the news you find on online portals or in traditional newspapers: hardly anyone reads the old news from yesterday or the day before.
Our Linchpin intranet solution currently offers a feature for pinning messages to the top for a specific period of time. I’ve already discussed what I think about this, which is that, in my opinion, it’s a very dubious alternative.
A better and more sustainable response to a high volume of news would be to establish and use personalization based on target groups and different news channels. This, for example, would allow you to bundle ideas from new employees in a separate channel, so they take up less space on the launch page and are less prominent.
Currently, we have no quality control in place and news is sometimes published with absolutely no headline at all. While this is not a bad thing, it doesn’t always ensure a standardized presentation. Not to disparage the work my colleagues have put in, but a lot of intranet teams approach their projects with a generous dollop of vanity. That said, however, this isn’t particularly pronounced at our company. The topicality and quality of the current content matter more to us. We are thinking, however, about controlling aspects related to operationalization somewhat more or at least optimizing them afterward if the authors don’t take the time to do so themselves. This is quick, easy, and pragmatic and ensures that the authors learn in a constructive manner what good quality standards are and what they still need to do to achieve them.
We continually hear from intranet teams on projects that they have no resources available for this. That’s quite okay, and it’s the same with us at the moment. While many customers are now choosing to set minimum quality standards and accept that news can get stuck in production because authors are unaware of the requirements or have no time or the desire to meet them, we take a different and (I believe) more pragmatic route: we simply allow our colleagues to publish less formal news and have learned to live with the fact that some posts may not have headlines, teaser texts, or perfect preview images. There’s no right or wrong way here. And it’s always a matter of what priorities you set yourself. For our intranet team, it’s important that we offer a lot of current news because it makes the platform a coveted source of pertinent information for our employees. Incidentally, we also have colleagues who’ve asked to have certain opinion poll posts put in their own category on our intranet microblog so that they can disable them. This level of personalization is already being actively demanded and practiced by over 180 people.
Link to this page: https://seibert.biz/intranetbookinformation