Social intranets are a fantastic way of finding out what’s on your employees’ minds. What problems keep them awake at night? What will they think of a new initiative that management is planning? What are they observing and experiencing with customers and how could that insight be captured?
Using your intranet to check the pulse of your workforce helps to:
- Get a heads-up on any issues in your organization that need addressing
- Plan ways to improve employee engagement
- Give you access to insights, opinions and ideas that can be essential for decision making
Additionally, it can be a source of engagement in itself when employees know that their opinions and feedback are valued by management.
Why use a social intranet to check the pulse of the workforce?
Most organizations use formal methods like an annual survey to ask employees their opinions about particular topics or to measure levels of engagement. This approach has its strengths, such as being able to measure trends yearly and benchmark survey data against other organizations.
Social intranets can complement these more formal approaches by providing a channel where feedback can be sought informally, gathered more quickly and in a far more targeted way, either from particular groups or on different topics. It’s also a very cost effective way to discover employee sentiment.
On any social intranet there are a number of ways to find out what’s on the mind of your workforce. Here are a few ideas:
1. Use a poll
Polls are a quick and easy way to get a feel for what employees think about particular subjects. This can be anything from an initial response, to a management idea, to changes on the staff meal menu! Polls work for both weightier issues and lighter, more fun topics.
Most polling software should take only minutes to set up a facility where employees can vote on a preference over five or six choices. Place this in a prominent place to get a good response, ideally on the intranet homepage.
Polls are what they are. They are not scientific – there is no sampling or segmentation of your workforce for example – so the results are not in-depth or guaranteed to be accurate, but if you want a quick headline view of what your workforce thinks, then polls are ideal.
2. Establish a CEO or senior leader blog
A CEO or management blog is an ideal way to get very specific feedback or input on an idea or initiative. It’s a very personal and engaging way to ask for the thoughts of your employees and get immediate reaction via comments to the blog. A CEO can also engage in dialog or ask more specific questions.
Inevitably some employees will feel nervous about conversing in a high profile medium with very senior management. Your CEO might feel nervous too! Once the practice of adding comments is commonplace, and once there are a high number of replies to a post then more employees will get comfortable with the idea.
Using a senior management blog also shows your leadership’s commitment to being open and transparent.
3. See what’s trending (and what isn’t)
Social intranets are highly dynamic and vibrant channels with multiple conversations, discussion threads and reactions to content happening at the same time. Being able to get an overview of the types of conversations that are taking place, the most visited content, which communities people are joining and which stories engage users the most is a good way to identify trends and employee sentiment.
Your intranet metrics package should be able to tell which are the most visited stories on your intranet, while other intranet features such as likes and comments will show you which stories are producing the most reactions. Other features like tag clouds can also help to identify trending topics. Sometimes there can be a very strong (either positive or negative) reaction to a news story, as reflected in the number and tone of comments about it.
4. Use communities and discussion forums
- Ask for feedback from a particular group; for example management can post a question or discussion in an existing community site
- Join in an existing community discussion
You can also set up specific communities for ‘employee listening’, either where employees post when they want to discuss something on their minds, or as focus groups where employees give their reaction to different management initiatives.
Your social intranet is a two-way channel
Whether you use one or even all of these options to listen to your employees, it will help to evolve your social intranet into a two-way channel where employees know their feedback is valued, and management gets value from the insights provided. This is a win-win situation for everybody, delivering engagement and value.