I’m sure it’s happened to all of us. A brainstorm on how to engage employees is humming along when inevitably, someone utters the phrase that stops the conversation cold: “Our internal technology won’t support that.”
With so much social technology in the marketplace, and so many companies using that technology to engage external constituents, it’s ironic (and a bit depressing) that so little of it is being used inside corporations to enable employees to drive the success of the business.
The good news is that organizations seem to be boosting their investment in this space. Just about every company I talk to is upgrading its internal technology platform. The bad news, of course, is that these upgrades take time. So what can we do when the internal technology is lacking, but the show must go on? Here are a couple of ideas to consider.
Think outside the firewall.
Just because the content is for employees doesn’t mean it has to be behind the firewall. I talked with one employee communications leader who had gathered an impressive amount of evidence showing his employees wanted content delivered in video format on their mobile devices. The problem was that the company’s intranet didn’t support video. But as we talked about the content he wanted to deliver, it became clear that just about every story he wanted to tell was already public or could be made public. Creating a YouTube channel is not just a good work-around when an intranet doesn’t support video, as was the case here; it’s a good place to promote content, period. Rather than hiding great content behind the firewall, think about posting it on YouTube and linking to it from your intranet stories.
Embrace low tech.
It may not be glamorous, but the low tech approach might just get you the results you desire. One company I worked with was preparing for its first-ever live, global town hall. They wanted to generate conversations during and after the town hall, but their intranet didn’t have that capability. So during the town hall they arranged for employees to email a special inbox with questions and ideas that were addressed by senior leaders on the spot. After the town hall, a conversation guide helped managers and their employees talk about the content of the town hall, generate additional ideas for consideration and submit them back to the corporate team. The approach was hardly high tech, but the results were impressive: More than 1,000 ideas were submitted from the conversation sessions; and on the subsequent employee opinion survey, “I trust the senior leadership of the company” was up 10 percent.
Technology can be the excuse that stops the conversation, or it can be the catalyst for thinking creatively about how we engage our employees. If you’ve been technology challenged and found a way to overcome it, I would love to hear your story.
Jana Weatherbee is Principal at Jana Weatherbee Associates, LLC.