Strive for social intranet participation

Of the many critical success factors for measuring intranet 2.0 performance, securing a realistic level of employee participation should rank at the top of the list.

With 32% of respondents to Prescient’s new Intranet 2.0 Study citing lack of a business case, and 31% identifying lack of executive support as the main barriers to implementing intranet 2.0, getting started on these initiatives clearly requires building a credible business rationale for executives. But, as noted in The social intranet is growing: what are you doing about it?, developing the right baseline metrics for this case can be problematic. The data may not exist yet, or results may be difficult to quantify.

Nonetheless, knowing how to measure success, while difficult, is a necessity, and targeting employee participation is an excellent place to start because it recognizes that the social intranet will only be as good as the quantity and quality of participation from employees. That’s not to say that success requires 100 percent of employees contributing content, but a vibrant 2.0 intranet will require a high percentage of employees to be contributing, responding and engaging with the content.

A desire to contribute

Achieving participation targets starts with recognizing that employees will contribute, especially if they experience a return on participation and have been trained to drive business results.

It’s clear from Prescient’s report that, when given the opportunity, employees will participate in and contribute to intranet 2.0. When asked, “If you have the tools, how often do employees contribute content in their own words (or by their own hand) to a blog, podcast or other Intranet 2.0 tool?”, respondents reported that:

  • Employees are far more engaged than their executive managers and contribute two to three times more frequently than executives

  • Only 34% of employees have never contributed content or have done so infrequently (less than once per month)

  • Put another way, 91% of organizations that have Intranet 2.0 tools have had employees contribute content to the tools (at the very least, infrequently)

  • 30% of organizations have employees that contribute content on a daily basis (or multiple times per day)

  • 54% of organizations with Intranet 2.0 tools have employees that contribute content on a weekly basis or more frequently

Deliver return on participation

When setting out to achieve an appropriate level of employee participation, start by asking yourself how you will deliver return on participation. While still a fairly new concept, return on participation is becoming essential in the social media realm, in which participants must perceive the benefit to their engagement.

This simple concept is easy to assess: do you actively listen, and do you visibly take action based on what you hear? It is most elegantly stated by Dell’s slogan: “You talked. We Listened.” The company demonstrates strong return on participation through EmployeeStorm, which allows Dell’s 80,000 employees to post and discuss ideas on topics ranging from product upgrades and innovation to critiques of company policies, facilities improvements and benefits.

Writing on her Social Workplace blog, Elizabeth Lupfer reports that

  • Dell has implemented nearly 200 of the 10,000 or so ideas that have been posted on IdeaStorm.
  • When customers suggested that Dell develop a product with a backlit keyboard that would make night computing easier, the company responded by making backlighting an option on some Latitude notebooks.
  • A discussion on the EmployeeStorm site led Dell to release a laptop with design and features specially tailored to fans of the online game World of Warcraft.
  • Clearly, Dell enjoyed measurable business returns from the ideas generated through EmployeeStorm. But without employees seeing an obvious return on participation—as evidenced by the ideas that were acted upon—the tool would not have received the contributions required to make it a valuable source of new ideas.

Train to drive business results

What does a successful social intranet tool, in which employees actively participate look like? How about Intelpedia, Intel’s team based wiki collaboration site launched in November of 2005 that now contains over 15,000 articles from Intel employees defining, collaborating and documenting their part of the Intel workplace.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review’s blog, Bryan Rhoads, Senior Digital Strategist at Intel observes that employees must be trained in how to use social media to drive business results. “It is the training and policies combined that provide a framework for employees to increase their participation in social media,” state the blog’s authors.

To support employee participation, Intel has created the Social Media Center of Excellence, a cross functional body of experts in Legal, Marketing, PR, and Web Communications, who create guidelines, processes, strategies, and skill-building courses for how Intel employees can use such social media tools as blogs, wikis, Twitter, Foursquare, and social networks.

Intel has also developed the Digital IQ training program on how to use these social media tools, creating a series of over 60 online courses, organized as an online university granting Intel employees a certification in Digital IQ. The Digital IQ courses cover such areas as:

  • Tweet Like You Mean It: The Right Way To Tweet Your Brand
  • The Importance of Brand Identity in Social Media
  • WOM (Word Of Mouth) The Anatomy of Buzz
  • Social Media Measurement
  • Viral Marketing
  • Mobile Marketing: Wide Reach of a Small Screen
  • China's Social Media Landscape

Experience from early adopters is demonstrating that employees will actively, and responsibly, participate in the social intranet. And their participation will deliver measurable business value, provided they perceive return on their participation and receive training support.

Register for the related webinar: 10 Steps to a Social Intranet

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