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Intranet Governance Series: Executive engagement makes or breaks your intranet (Part 8)

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Simpplr Research

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March 7, 2019

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As a part of our ongoing Intranet Governance Series, we will discuss why executives need to be embedded in the operational fabric of your intranet and internal communications strategy. Executive blessing is not enough!

In Simpplr Research’s Why Intranets Fail study, twenty-four percent of survey respondents cited a lack of executive involvement as a primary reason for intranets failing. Generally speaking, executives have been increasingly aware of the added benefits of an engaged workforce. Still, many CEOs are unfortunately not focused enough on internal alignment.

According to our survey, over 65 percent of organizations’ leadership communicates with employees about vision and strategy quarterly or less frequently. Intranet software can serve as an important tool in the employee communications mix to better align the workforce, steer culture, and reinforce company values.

Simpplr executive engagement chart

Touching base quarterly is not enough to engage and align a workforce! Executives need to beat the drum.

Executive engagement is critical to an intranet’s success

Intranets typically get leadership’s blessing, but they don’t receive true engagement. Whether we like it or not, executive engagement is critical to an intranet’s success:

Employees will follow leadership’s lead

If leadership isn’t engaged in the intranet, employees won’t be either. Executives have information that employees need to know. It may not always be presented in an interesting manner, but part of an intranet’s purpose is to help employees understand the company’s strategy, vision, and progress. Rank-and-file employees need to be constantly reminded of the bigger picture to understand how contribution matters.

So how do you convince executives, namely your CEO, to commit?

Understand the big picture and show that it matters

Intranets have always struggled to provide concrete business ROI and you shouldn’t spend too many cycles trying to calculate hard numbers. But there is no debate that connecting coworkers that typically don’t work together, aligning everyone to be on the same page, and providing a means to build community are all immensely valuable. Speak to how the program will improve culture, employee engagement, and ultimately attrition rates. Simpplr Research has shown that companies that invest in culture have dramatically lower employee turnover rates.

Come equipped with employee survey data

Survey employees to share how they want to consume leadership information. (Hint: We already know that they’ll tell you they want it to be more regular, timely, short, useful, relevant to their job, interesting, unique, clear, and inspiring.)

Make it personal

One of the most interesting findings from Simpplr Research’s study of Glassdoor data found a near lock-step correlation in company ratings of senior management and company culture. In other words, fair or not, employees gauge their leaders as a reflection of the culture. Every night millions of workers come home from work, gripe about their management at the dinner table, and lose sleep because of work stress. Executives need to be reminded that employees are looking to be led.

Tie it to strategic initiatives

To help grease the skids, show how the intranet and internal communications will help the company execute on an existing strategic priority. The good news is that they can help with nearly everything.

Here are some examples of strategic initiatives:
1. Is next year’s business plan contingent on a new product line? The intranet is going to get everyone excited and enabled.
2. Is the company going through a merger and needs to consolidate cultures? An intranet can be used to connect disparate teams and establish a cohesive culture.

Help management squash fake news

Fake news and rumors really frustrate senior leaders. Get executives engaged by presenting the intranet as a vehicle to set things straight. Unlike email or Slack channels, intranet posts can cut through all of the noise and clutter. Employees also come to expect that intranet posts are highly curated, truthful, and important.

Show that it is different this time

Go to executives with your governance committee explaining how the initiative is different from previous efforts. This time you have a clear distinction of what the intranet is and what it isn’t; collective agreement among groups on the problem we are solving; and an understanding of how it will be measured, resource requirements, and accountability for ongoing success.

Give a playbook to your executives and make it easy

Most executives aren’t communications professionals and none of us want to take on more work. Once you’ve convinced them intranet engagement is important, you can help explain how you are going to provide them a roadmap and playbook on what to do. See our recent post on leadership intranet content ideas. You should also discuss setting up a realistic ghostwriting capacity if it doesn’t already exist. In a perfect world, you get management started with a Mad Libs approach that can be largely ghostwritten and they lean in more once they feel the engagement.

Need help getting started? Click here to download our CEO playbook to intranet governance.

How to start

We understand this isn’t an easy task. If you’re a manager-level comms professional for a 10,000+ employee company, who are you to approach the CEO and ask them to pull their weight? Although the bold move could likely be a warp zone to a promotion if you’re CEO gets it, this approach and strategy typically needs to be calibrated and maneuvered through your governance committee. The same points above still apply. Just because it’s hard doesn’t make it less important. Again, your intranet will likely fail if executives aren’t deeply engaged!

This might help! Simpplr Research analyzed Glassdoor™ data and surveyed employees from thousands of companies to better understand how employee communications impacts employee engagement, company culture, and ultimately affects employee turnover. The findings show that internally marketing the company’s higher purpose, establishing a strong sense of community, and aligning on strategic priorities are all key drivers of employee engagement and retention. To learn more, you can download the research’s infographic here.

Subscribe to our Intranet Governance Series

Since intranet governance best practices are so important, we’ve decided to dig deeper into the topic, interview many of our customers and intranet practitioners, and develop a more formalized point-of-view. Read through our governance blog series and learn how to set up your governance committee successfully to avoid intranet failure:

Part 1: Poor Governance is the Top Reason Intranets Fail
Part 2: Forming your governance committee 101
Part 3: So you now have an intranet governance team. What do you do?
Part 4: Managing a federated intranet with multiple managers and content contributors
Part 5: How your governance committee aligns with intranet content management responsibilities
Part 6: Roles and responsibilities for Internal Communications
Part 7: The importance of your intranet’s goals and charter

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