The idea that senior management involvement is vital to the success of a digital workplace (DWP) isn’t a new one. Back in 2016 Kara Pernice and Gerry McGovern wrote this: “More often than not, intranet teams fight an uphill battle to gain attention and resources from a senior management who has no genuine interest in or commitment the intranet / digital workplace. As a result, the design suffers, the employees suffer, the customers suffer, and the stockholders suffer.” While there are earlier examples, this is probably the most concise statement about this issue.
As a result, there are a lot of articles giving tips on getting management engagement and involvement with the DWP. But what there is less of is hard-and-fast black-and-white facts that clearly show the results of when senior managers aren’t engaged with a DWP. But, Kurt Kragh Sørensen has been kind enough to share some data with me that does show this impact.
Kurt runs IntraTeam, a Danish knowledge services company for intranets, DWPs, internal communications and enterprise search. Anyone with involvement with a DWP can complete IntraTeam’s ongoing survey, which will allow you to benchmark your company’s site against other businesses in general or against so far 13 industries. It also provides solid data about the DWP industry as a whole, allowing you to compare yourself to around 180 global businesses and their DWPs (as of August 2019). Contact Kurt@IntraTeam.dk if you want to benchmark for free.
One of the questions is “do you have senior management support for your DWP”. This analysis focuses on those people who answered in the two extreme ends of the senior management support scale:
18% said that they have 100% support from top management for their DWP (referred to as “advocated”)
8% said that they do not have support at all from senior management (referred to as “unsupported”)
It is crucial to highlight at this point that size doesn’t matter. There is very little difference between the average number of employees from the two groups of responses. There are successes and failures across different businesses sizes, and a logical assumption would be across different budget sizes too.
There is a lot of data that I could go through here but given the length I’ve posted a full write-up of all results in a separate article. Please feel free to follow the link to see all the from the report, but I’ve pulled out what I think are the most interesting facts to explore the issue of senior management support. Where I can I’ve also added “practical tips” for those who are struggling in those areas.
On average in advocated businesses 1 in 2 employees are believed to say that the DWP creates value; whereas the average number of employees saying the same in unsupported businesses is only 1 in 4
75% of advocated businesses said the management felt the DWP had a high value; this was only 10% in unsupported businesses
This is probably the most important indicator of employee engagement with the DWP, as well as being one of the most powerful arguments for getting senior managers involved. The DWP must create value of some kind for those who are using it, whether that value comes from practical tools, social features, or news about the business. Start to improve the value perception and senior management will hopefully start to take notice; get senior managers involved more and their influence should improve the perceived value.
PRACTICAL TIPS: There are two ways to improve the value of the DWP: find out what employees want and need; and align the DWP strategy with the overall business strategy.
70% of advocated businesses conduct satisfaction surveys with employees; with only 22% of unsupported businesses conducting surveys
Asking your users what they want, need, and think about existing tools is a supremely important method to building an effective DWP. User research is a well-documented activity for the launch of a new DWP, in fact there are arguments that one the largest parts of a launch budget should be spent on user research. But the ongoing testing, and resulting tinkering, is just as important.
I know though that surveys can be viewed as a waste of time (because people should be doing their day jobs instead of filling in a survey) and perceived to just give back expected results or results that either can’t or won’t be acted upon. The results will either reinforce the arguments you want to make about areas that need developing, or indeed throw up new points that you hadn’t considered before.
PRACTICAL TIPS: Microsoft Forms or Survey Monkey will give you tools to create a survey. Try to focus on certain areas that you feel would be the most valuable or need the most attention, rather than having a sprawling survey. Ask people to submit ideas too, it’s always interesting to see what people come up with.
If you can’t publish a company-wide survey, then do it on a smaller scale or under the radar. Post in forums/threads/groups to ask people to comment, ask people for feedback as part of any email exchanges you might be having, or ask if you can attend meetings (or have a question asked by the meeting host) to get ideas from the people there. I’ve done all of those things and, even though it’s a small scale, you still get evidence you need to develop the DWP or present to senior managers.
82% of advocated businesses say that the DWP supports the business strategy; 52% of unsupported businesses say that it supports the business strategy to a small extent or not at all (with another 31% unsure)
The advocated businesses focus 5 times more on supporting the business strategy and 6 times more on saving costs as a main purpose for the DWP than the unsupported organisations
Every department within the business will be working towards delivering the company’s strategy. If the DWP isn’t doing the same thing then need to question what its purpose is, as other people are likely to be doing the same. Saving costs, and therefore the Return on Investment (ROI) of the DWP, will always be an appealing element for senior management. Whatever you can do to reduce costs and increase ROI the more likely you are to get their involvement, and potentially additional funding.
PRACTICAL TIPS: In an ideal world you’d have a direct link with a senior person or people within the business and be kept up to do date on everything that’s going on. Where this isn’t the case you should hopefully still know what the business strategy is, or at least elements that are important to it (is it sales, sustainability, manufacturing, customer service etc).
Likewise, you need to know what employees are being asked to do so that you can make those tasks simpler and/or easier, through digitisation, reducing processing steps, or just by making systems easier to find. So even if you can’t replicate the strategy statement of “we need to build A by B, while also reducing X by Z”, you can help a lot of people who are trying to achieve those things. You may also find that as you focus on employee tasks you start building up the evidence for ROI and reducing company costs. Work out how many pieces of paper have been saved by digitising a form, or how much has been saved on printing costs by making marketing material downloadable, or just how much quicker a task is to complete.
It’s also worth noting that advocated companies have said that digitisation is on the agenda for the business for the coming year and view themselves as more digitally mature. This means that digital as a whole is part of the company strategy. You may not be there as yet, but with technology developing all the time, and the well documented gap between employee expectation and reality of technology in businesses, the DWP cannot stay off the agenda forever (so be prepared).
90% of advocated businesses said that the DWP reflects the company values; in unsupported businesses it’s 40%
Company values vary from posters being plastered all round employee work-spaces to an unwritten sense of “the way we do things here”. However, the values are presented this needs to be reflected on the DWP, not only as a point of reference but also to make users and senior managers realise that the DWP is an important tool that absolutely belongs in the business.
PRACTICAL TIPS: Any extreme of company value can be reflected on the DWP through the tone or language used, colour choices, extent of digital tools (e.g. chatbots) vs simpler ways to perform tasks, or even the name that it’s given. Work with colleagues responsible for brand where you can and where you feel it’s right to do so, but don’t forget to speak to employees like people (no matter how formal the company tone usually is, but within reason of course). As always, find out what works best for your users. They can guide on all aspects and help create a site that really works for them.
In advocated businesses 65% give management analytics and 62% have KPIs for the DWP; 80% of unsupported businesses don’t give management analytics and 80% don’t have any KPIs set
Analytics will help you see trends, what’s going well or badly, and what areas need to be developed – regardless of how successful your DWP is. These analytics will help you identify KPIs and then measure their success. Sharing with senior management will prove either where you’re making a real impact, what you intend to work on next, or indeed where you may need additional support from them.
PRACTICAL TIPS: First, make sure you’re generating analytics in a format that you’re happy with and have set your own KPIs/goals to work towards. Then start sharing them with the most senior people you can, without getting yourself into trouble. Making the reporting widely available, potentially through the DWP, would be a good approach. Even if they aren’t paying attention now, getting strong data and building up your arguments or evidence now will serve you well later down the line.
4/5 advocated businesses said that the DWP was the primary source for news and the prime communication platform for management; in unsupported companies 1/10 said the DWP was the primary source for news and it isn’t the prime communication platform for management
Working with the Internal Communications team, or indeed taking the initiative yourself, to get news flowing through the DWP is an easy way to get people using and engaging with it.
PRACTICAL TIPS: The news doesn’t need to be shared simply as articles, 80% of advocated businesses use video and find it works really well, then there are blog posts or even the social feeds to promote a particular message. If the DWP is the primary source for information about the company, plus practical tools as well, then they have no reason to go elsewhere and not to trust it.
There is quite a lot to take in here already, but I wanted to leave you with some other articles to go and have a look at. Especially if you are one of those people who work in one of the unsupported businesses, because I know how you feel and hopefully one of these will help:
- “How to use your intranet to make culture visible” from ClearBox
- “How to get senior management support for a new intranet” from Content Formula
- “How to get your Senior Management Team (SMT) using your intranet” from Interact
- “Modern Workplace in Office 365” from IntraTeam
- “Why Intranets Fail Reason #3: Executives aren’t engaged in the process” from Simpplr
- “Use the intranet to support leaders” from StepTwo
- “4 ways to gain executive support for your new intranet” by Unily
- “Why Intranets need Top-down and Bottom-up Support” from Wizdom
And not forgetting one of my previous posts: How Managers can Support the Intranet.