Intranet Benefits? How About a 25 Per Cent Productivity Boost and Engaged Employees?

An image of a blackboard with diagrams on it.

It would seem intuitive that the more people talk, the more information gets shared, and the more involved your employees would feel, right? A well-designed, purpose-built Intranet has clear benefits -- and can improve your bottom line by helping to foster an environment of engagement and ownership.

Of course, there are those who disagree. I know of a company that was 100 per cent resistant to an Intranet. Management's worry was that employees were going to spend all their time gossiping and chatting, instead of getting real work done. Instead, they built a virtual filing cabinet.

We all know how exciting those can be. And we know how well they're used.

They were dead wrong in their thinking. They were so worried about Intranets being a drag on productivity, that they missed the truth -- Intranets can actually improve workplace productivity. And, in many cases more importantly, they can help foster employee engagement and improve workplace satisfaction.

But don't just take my word for it.

A July 2012 report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that "by using social technologies, companies can raise the productivity of knowledge workers by 20 to 25 per cent." 

Two of the key ways this is impacted is through the better delivery of information to and from workers. The study found that 28 per cent of the average workweek for an interaction worker was taken reading and answering e-mail; a further 19 per cent of the week was dedicated to searching and gathering information.

The report continued: "But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information."

Whether it's an effective search appliance on the Intranet, a list of frequently accessed documents/information targetted to key roles, or even a message board allowing for cross-distribution of solutions and information, Intranets can make it much easier for people to find what they need. And instead of sending out mass e-mails, key notifications on the Intranet (not to mention that you can add "acknowledgement" functionality to ensure everyone has read it) can be far more successful at distributing information than just an e-mail blast.

Intranets can help employees feel more connected to the business. By offering opportunities to provide feedback on issues, share ideas, and suggest improvements, Intranet solutions can help your staff feel that they are listened to, and that their ideas are valued.

It's vitally important, when you consider that engagement statistics are woefully low. The Canada Human Resource Centre suggests that 75 per cent of employees are either not engaged (60 per cent) or actively disengaged (15 per cent). Dale Carnegie's numbers, from a study partnering with MSW research of 1,500 employees, are even more grim -- with 26 per cent self-reporting actively disengaged.

There are two parts of engagement: first, you have to give people a vehicle with which they can interact; secondly, you have to actually walk the talk -- simply soliciting feedback and never doing anything with it isn't empowering. And it will only serve to suppress good ideas in the future.

In a previous life, I was a Kaizen facilitator and I saw first-hand the incredible benefits that come from having employees involved in the continuous improvement process. It's one thing to conceptualize a process from the board room -- it's far different to see that process in play on the front lines. Often procedures and processes we have in place have unexpected consequences down the line -- something I do in my role may negatively impact someone further along in the process.

But unless we talk, we don't know.

Intranets allow you to have those conversations, suggest new ideas, and encourage employees to take ownership over their roles and responsibilities. And when people feel invested in their roles, it's amazing how much they value the work they're doing and strive to get better.

I guess it's not really amazing. Unlike the expectation from that other company that people would simply "waste time chatting," by treating people like adults, you give -- and subsequently receive -- respect. Respect for the role, the job, and the end result. And that all adds up to a positive result for the end-user, the customer.

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