Managers need to focus on making things easy to do. If it's not easy, it often doesn't get done.
A couple of years ago I met a manager who had been specifically appointed by the CEO to improve employee morale. I gave him data that showed that his intranet had the lowest employee satisfaction ratings we had found so far. Tasks were really hard to complete.
He laughed and shrugged. "They're always complaining," he said. I recently talked to an employee in one of the world's largest and most prestigious organizations. "We have invested an incredible amount of money in a Knowledge Base," he stated. "But nobody can find anything in it. It's a joke among employees but senior managers seem to think it's a great success. They never use it, of course."
I recently visited the office of a large organization as a customer. I asked a particular question that my contact there didn't have the answer to. "Let me just check that up," she said. And thus began an embarrassing and frustrating journey through her organization's intranet and one application in particular. She kept apologizing and I told her not to worry, that I worked as an intranet consultant and I came across these issues all the time. I asked her if she thought senior managers cared about any of this. She raised her eyebrows. "Absolutely not," she said. "It's not on their radar at all."
I read about a recent European tour that some Chinese businessmen carried out. As they were travelling through France, one said to his interpreter. "Do they really only work two days a week in France?" He was dividing the 36 hour French working week by the number of hours he worked per day. How does Europe or America compete with China, India or Brazil? Do we have lower wages? Are we prepared to work longer hours?
The secret, of course, lies in productivity. We have to do a lot more with less time. (It is all about time at the end of the day.) In Hernando De Soto's groundbreaking book, The Mystery of Capital, he explains that there is a direct relationship between time management and prosperity. The less sophisticated, the less advanced, the less prosperous a society is, the less important time is.
Booking a meeting room, finding an expert, assembling a new team, finding the right training, buying something; on a typical intranet, each of these tasks is often a Kafkaesque experience. Why is that?
It comes down to lack of leadership from the top. It also comes down to the fact that a great many managers have nothing but contempt for their employees' time. Or to be more precise, they feel absolutely no need to make their employees' work lives any easier.
If you make it faster and easier for employees to do things you make them more productive and happier in their jobs. It hurts morale when the work environment is badly designed. An intranet can help an organization become more productive, competitive and unified.
See Part 1 of this series: Time is (Still) Money: Increasing Employee Productivity (Part 1)