Everything about the new digital workplace is revolutionary. It takes your inefficient, boring, irrelevant intranet of the past and gives it a total makeover to fit the future and address employees’ needs.
So why are we still trying to measure intranet success in the same way as we did in days past? Intranet 2.0 is about the user, but most statistics and reports lose the personal touch. Intranet success is not only dependent on KPIs like ROI and time efficiency, which bring to mind finances and technicalities, but it is also dependent on the experience of the employee. While we have previously brought to light ways you can measure intranet KPIs, this post is going to provide an alternative way of thinking.
But just because they are qualitative or organic in nature does not make them any less valuable to your company. Actually, we believe they can be more valuable, because they get at the heart of your company- your employees. When your business runs well internally and employees are sincerely enjoying their experience in the workplace, the company growth will flourish naturally and you will experience a successful intranet adoption process.
Learn how to focus on employee intranet use and satisfaction in our brief guide to going beyond the metrics and connecting with employees.
Speaking human: learning the right questions to ask about the intranet solution
It’s true, surveys can be a part of the disconnected data results that we’ve seen in the past. But they are essentially necessary to learn employees’ opinions and gauge employee satisfaction, which plays a huge role in driving intranet adoption and taking a user-centric business approach.
So how can you blend the two worlds? The key is learning to ask the right kind of questions in your surveys that allow employees to speak their minds and give context to their responses.
To ease into it, you can make sure you are including basic, user-centric questions on your survey to help you understand the employee’s point of view.
Here are some example closed-ended questions that could be followed by an additional comments section to provide clarity and voice:
Do you find the intranet helpful to completing tasks and getting your job done?
Is the intranet content relevant to your work and is it engaging?
Is intranet content regularly updated and refreshed?
Does the intranet search engine work effectively?
Is the intranet providing a unified, consistent solution to the workplace?
While these questions are geared toward employee satisfaction, and can still be translated into measurable intranet KPI statistics, this is only the first step into really understanding and connecting to the employee experience. What will further you on the road of looking beyond intranet KPIs for intranet success is the use of open-ended questions.
We know, open-ended questions are scary. They don’t produce the clear, concise results that you can package up nicely into statistics. But, that’s the point! They humanize the technical issues of the workplace.
In a recent article, the Nielsen Norman Group reinforced this idea by stating, “The most important benefit of open-ended questions is that they allow you to find more than you anticipate: people may share motivations that you didn’t expect and mention behaviors and concerns that you knew nothing about.” While you may think things are running smoothly, learning from your employees and listening to their perspective can blow the lid on the way your business functions in a way that promotes equality and empowers employees. This will also lead to a successful intranet adoption, because your employees will be receiving what they want from their intranet solution.
So, how can you implement this method? The purpose of open-ended questions is to get at the employee experience- how are they feeling? This question should drive how you form your qualitative survey.
Here are some tips for asking the right questions:
Frame questions in a way that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” (steer clear of “did you?”, “do you?”, “was it?”)
Start questions off with “how”, “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “which”
Use “why” questions wisely because you might be asking the interviewee to come up with a reason which they don’t actually have. Try to replace “why” with, “tell me more about that” as a follow-up
Draft and test the survey to make edits before conducting it
Personalize your questions. Avoid non-applicable questions whenever possible
Collect stories, not statistics
In the end, your qualitative surveys and data are about enhancing the employee experience in order to create engaged employees.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review study on employee engagement, only 24% of organizational leaders think their employees are engaged in the workplace and the company’s vision. The driving power behind engaged employees is that they are passionate and connected to the company and its purpose. These employees will push the organization forward, inspire others around them, and be the leaders of intranet adoption.
But, for every employee to be engaged, each person needs to feel a connection to the company. This is done through actual relationship with employees, and through letting them tell their story and feel they have a valuable place in the company, which luckily, the intranet can be used for. As the workplace progresses, we need to start gauging and analyzing employee engagement through their personal stories rather than quantifying analytic statistics to measure intranet success.
Translating results: turning responses into actionable insight
As our idea of intranet success changes, that doesn’t mean business leaders are off the hook in implementing change. It’s not enough to just hear your employees out and listen to their stories.
That feedback and those stories need to address intranet use and ignite change in the digital workplace. And while it will be impossible to address and act on every employee comment, you need to come up with a strategy to let the employee know they were heard to keep trust.
Document and categorize
If you are looking for a way to translate your open-ended results into quantitative statistics, you can sort your results into categories based on your intranet KPIs, and then even further into sub-categories to organize your results and create numerical statistics based on the number of positive or negative responses for each category.
This can also help you prioritize your focus when looking to implementing change by charting out how the intranet is being used and what categories are being discussed the most by your employees, which will ensure that you focus on the changes that are most important to them and therefore assist in the intranet adoption process. The point is, you need to have a system in place for documenting and recording feedback so it doesn’t get lost.
There are also ways to combine qualitative and quantitative research. You can use an explanatory sequential design, which takes quantitative results and then performs qualitative follow-up to explain those numbers. The issue with that is the emphasis is placed on the quantitative statistics and the qualitative is secondary.
But, this approach also works the opposite way, which is called exploratory sequential design. You can translate the results of qualitative surveys and use those results to guide future quantitative surveys. In other words, let the employee stories and opinions guide the intranet KPIs and quantitative statistics.
This strategy helps expose the problem areas you may be unaware of so that you can quantitatively survey them. Think of it as the qualitative data being explored and validated by quantitative results. This approach is a great option when looking to focus on the employee experience and drive intranet adoption because it emphases the qualitative data first and simply uses the quantitative to help define and gain further insight into the employees opinions and insights.
When in doubt, act
When it comes to quantitative data, the Nielsen Norman Group has found quantitative results to be misleading, and suggests that it is “better to emphasize insights and qualitative research.” In a more recent article, they also argue that you should be focusing on the bigger design problems, where the usability of your platform fails to meet employees’ needs.
With this emphasis and stability in the qualitative insights into user behavior, it’s reasonable and wise to act solely based off of those results. It doesn’t matter how much or how many intranet users are hurting from certain elements, if it is hurting users in any way, change the element. You will start encountering issues with the intranet adoption process if there are features that are confusing to users.
Not only is this a sound choice based on qualitative data research, but it builds trust between your management and your employees. If your employees voice an opinion or a challenge for them in the workplace, and then it is addressed and fixed in a timely matter, that will prove to your employees that you are listening and you care, therefore enhancing the employee experience.
Moving forward: putting periodic checks in place for continued intranet success
Now, take this one step further. You’ve listened to your employees, and you’ve made the changes inhibiting their work. But unfortunately, this is not a one-time quick fix. The next step is to be proactive in collecting qualitative data and putting checks in place to make sure your intranet adoption sticks and continues to deliver top-quality service to intranet users.
Document feedback responses
Remember when we suggested categorizing your employee feedback to keep track and prioritize what needs to be changed? You can use this same system to make sure employee feedback is also being responded to and addressed by management, but make sure the upkeep of this data is assigned to a specific person or team. If feedback goes unanswered, chances are that employee will feel less connected and won’t want to give feedback again.
Intranet success is dependent on communicating with intranet users and keeping them informed. Keeping your employees up-to-date is a completely controllable way to make sure your intranet is providing the services your employees need to get the job done. And communicating with them openly about business happenings builds trust between the leadership and the employees, which boosts the employee experience and connection.
Creating a workplace culture that values open and honest communication leads to an environment where employees feel they can share their opinion productively and it will be received positively, no matter the content.
Periodic feedback strategies
Besides fostering open communication throughout your intranet platform, there are other systems you can set in place to get periodic feedback from your employees:
Host regular, virtual meetings via chat or video features with each department to check-in and ask for feedback.
Schedule monthly or periodic one-on-ones with employees (in-person or virtual) to make sure the individual employee is being heard.
Incorporate mixed strategies into receiving feedback to accommodate for different preferences.
Add feedback features in company emails or messages, or link back to the full story on the intranet where employees can weigh in.
While these are both good check-in strategies to gauge how your employees are feeling about your intranet solution, the key to successful intranet adoption and a complete overhaul to creating engaged employees is to change the culture of the workplace. If your entire intranet system is viewed as a judgement-free space where employees feel free to express their opinions, you are going to be receiving constant qualitative data through comments, blogs, forums, and reactions to what is posted. The key here is to have a clear, well-structured intranet management system in place. You want to make sure that data is being read, collected, and responded to so action can be taken. This will further the connection and trust your employees feel toward the company, and therefore increase overall company productivity through your team of engaged employees.