Your intranet is killing your company. 

Every day it saps productivity, innovation and engagement -- three key ingredients that drive higher employee performance, and in turn, revenue gains.

Step back and think about it for a minute. In order to be a high-performing employee, you need to be focused on the right tasks, have access to the right information and skills to get things done, and work as efficiently as possible to get the job done. This is especially important for knowledge workers -- your most experienced and expensive employees.

So, what do you do to help these knowledge workers be more effective and engaged? In my work with scores of large companies, I've found five consistent behaviors. High performers always:

  1. Understand the organization's strategy, and how they contribute to that strategy
  2. Informally learn from others in similar roles
  3. Find experts and their knowledge to improve their work
  4. Collaborate with others to create and deliver great work
  5. Share their knowledge with others.

What do these have to do with your Intranet? Unfortunately, traditional intranets don’t help encourage those key behaviors.

Let’s take a look at each in turn, and give each a simple grade.

1. Understand the organization's strategy, and how they contribute to that strategy

Grade = C

How do most organizations communicate about corporate strategy? Typically, someone in corporate communications writes an article that appears on the Intranet home page -- a place that gets great traffic (because it is the browser default home page), but no attention.

To combat that, execs are asked to cascade email messages out to their direct reports. Eventually, the plan goes, everyone in the company will read and buy into the message. You know how that works out.

Even if the message is seen, employees have no way of providing feedback, ideas or asking for clarification.

Feedback is paramount to buy-in and execution of company strategies. A key way to gain buy-in across the company is to give your most expensive and skilled employees a voice in developing it.

2. Informally learn from others in similar roles

Grade = B

In many intranet environments there are communities of practice dedicated to specific job functions. Many of these are thriving communities, both on and offline. But, consider how long it takes a newcomer to find these communities. Do their hiring managers introduce them? Do they find them weeks later through word-of-mouth? Does the intranet figure out who they are and recommend communities to join? Not likely.

3. Find experts and their knowledge to improve their work

Grade = C-

Learning Opportunities

Take a look at your intranet. Do you have quick access to what colleagues are working on -- even colleagues you don’t know well? Imagine if you could easily see what people are working on and "passively learn" from them (meaning you won’t have to interrupt them at all).

Maybe you've got a microblogging tool or an HR app that helps people ask questions, or find experts. But does it show you what people are working on? Finished projects? Does the system learn from the ongoing activities? Or is it just another way to ask questions to people that aren't paying attention?

4. Collaborate with others to create and deliver great work

Grade = D

Employees are often stuck using many disconnected, non-mobile collaboration apps. It’s difficult to keep track of decisions made or actions needed. The system of record often becomes email. Document-centric applications are a step in the right direction, but they still lack the ability to see the conversations, actions and decisions that were needed to create the document, or the discussion and refinements that happened after the document was created. That’s what I mean by collaboration.

5. Share their knowledge with others

Grade = C

Organizations with thriving knowledge management cultures do this best, and likely deserve a better grade. But most companies don’t have such a culture. There’s the age-old problem of trying to force people to share information, when the best knowledge transfer happens in the moment, in context. Often times I don’t know that the information I have is worth sharing until you ask the question.

So, how do social technologies address these problems?

A complete social intranet solution should do four things:


  1. Modernize your intranet to leverage the effects that consumer social networks deliver -- get your corporate and executive messages and information moving further and faster through the organization.
  2. Connect people across geographies, divisions, functions and every other organizational silo -- ask for the wisdom of your crowd in the same place they're getting their own work done.
  3. Evolve your collaboration tools with a social networking layer -- surface work-in-progress for others to find and leverage, and provide a contextual record of decisions made and actions taken.
  4. All of the above should be completely mobile -- it goes without saying that companies need to provide employees an interactive way to access information, collaborate and share knowledge regardless of their location.

Image courtesy of Joy Rector (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more thoughts from this month's focus on how to engage employees.