Never before has the concept of living in “interesting times” been more applicable to our local, national, and world politics (within my lifetime anyway). There is a huge variety of opinions and standpoints on all the issues that we face, and mine may well be different to yours. This will also be the case in the businesses you work for, or the companies you assist if you’re a consultant – the employees will all have their own concerns and opinions.
This isn’t just true to wider-world topics, but also those facing the company. I worked for Waterstones during the financial crisis, and the subsequent difficulties, threat of collapse, sale, and significant change that followed. These are all tumultuous circumstances that can lead to increased stress (and all the associated knock-ons) among employees.
But, the intranet can be a little beacon of relief or distraction during these times. I’ve outlined five ways it can help, some small and some big, but all will very much depend on the situation you are attempting to support or relieve.
1. Social Features
Most intranets have some form of social features, usually comments, group spaces, or discussion boards.
- Ask people how they’re feeling
- Ask them to share memories of the company, or individual
- Pose discussion topics to take their minds off of things (I asked booksellers to share what they were reading during a difficult period at Waterstones)
- Prompt for questions, which can help develop any communications on a topic
- Encourage blog posts on the subject
These need to be used carefully of course, as there needs to be a degree of control to the social features. This doesn’t mean that people should be stifled, or stopped, but there needs to be a plan for challenging posts that are left. This will probably be in line with your usual social guidelines, but it wouldn’t hurt to put extra ones in place if you think they’ll be needed.
2. Benefits and Discounts
Highlighting the benefits and discounts that are available to everyone is a good way of taking people’s minds off things. This is both from a perspective of highlighting some of the positive parts of working for the company, plus also those things that could bring relief to people in their private lives.
Don’t forget that employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are also quite frequently part of any benefits package. An EAP can be a lifeline for people struggling with a variety of issues. So, the EAP can be a simple thing to share on the intranet that could mean a lot.
3. Celebrating Success
While you don’t want to understate the difficulties being faced, there can be a huge amount of benefit from sharing positive news. From re-publishing blog posts, or older news about award wins, or sharing new stories about events within the company – they can highlight good things during difficult times. This is a topic you could encourage through the social features too – blog posts for example, which could celebrate the great things happening in people’s day-to-day.
Knuckling down and getting on with things is an approach that some people take to get through tricky situations (quite often I’m one of them). So highlighting practical information, or project details, could arm those people with the information they need to get on with things. If there is a big project underway or a large event coming up, then this would also fall under the category of sharing good news or celebrating success, as it shows that there are good things coming down the road for them.
The intranet is likely to be one of the channels you use for internal communication. With the sorts of topics I’m inferring to here, especially those that are internal issues, then communication on the intranet is going to be incredibly important. Here are a few top tips for communicating difficult topics or during hard times:
- Don’t leave it too long to post a response to an incident or event
- If you usually allow comments, then don’t switch them off – have a plan for responding to them quickly, honestly, and as fully as possible (and pass them on to the people that need to see them)
- Acknowledge gaps in the communication and your plans for providing more information when you get it
- Follow up as quickly as possible, where needed, and let people know when that is likely to be
- Arm your line managers with any supporting information they may need to help communicate your messages, or gather feedback/questions on your behalf
We’re all likely to see more disruption in our private and work lives, both imminently and in the future, and I hope that some of these ideas will help you to bring a little peace to your intranet.