On one of our intranets, we developed custom functionality to enable employees to rate feature articles. The client stipulated that ratings should appear itemised beside the article with each employee’s name.
However, there was the possibility that this would discourage members of the organisation from providing feedback, given news of soaring unemployment all over the world due to cutbacks.
The fear that all employees’ engagement is visible across the internal network potentially leads an employee to ask themselves “will my manager scrutinise my level of participation in my next appraisal?”
The solution was to get management on-board with social networking, and to provide an incentive to follow suit. Businesses have a clear top-down hierarchy, whereas social networking defies vertical organisation: all users and their contributions are equal. These opposing natures that make it difficult to engage employees of an organisation with social media features on intranets.
The solution in this case was to encourage the project owner to communicate to other managers that they should start the ball rolling after an article is published to break the ice.
Many companies offer a blog written by the CEO, such as the highly successful one by Jonathan Schwartz at Sun Microsystems.
Geoff wrote previously about tone on internal communications: the same is true of contributions to intranet discussion boards or wikis: tone down the formality while maintaining a business-sense and you will notice a sustained level of participation. The intranet should serve to inform about internal affairs but with a lighter feel.
Employees’ inboxes are spilling over with formalities and technicalities already, while they are expending time with a new-fangled collaborative interface – give them an incentive to do so and the flow of feedback will be maintained.