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Work Social – The possibilities are endless

There was a time when the corporate intranet was nothing more than an electronic drawer. Somewhere to store all the stuff that’s important but not urgent. A convenient holding place for communications and policies that are neither intended to inspire, involve or invite further participation.

Well things have changed.  Corporate intranets have a new draw and have been fast becoming platforms for collaboration, innovation and productivity. Following the wave of social tools such as Yammer, National Field and Chatter brands are waking up to the realisation that the way to an employee’s heart and mind is through a richer, more connected and powerful place of work. Intranets are now sources of shared enterprise, ideas and support. They’re becoming the backbone of corporate innovation like we’ve never seen before.  So how can brands use this emerging environment to improve productivity, encourage creativity, increase commitment and substantiate their purpose and positioning? Here’s a few thoughts we’ve been discussing on the back of recent project experience and insight analysis. 1. Embrace enterprise mobility: Make technology a force for better productivity Whether it’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work or the addition of social tools and software, look for ways that your technology platform and service can fit in with the everyday preferences of your staff. Think about how it connects with the factory floor, sales teams and hard to reach, remote staff. As people (not employees!) we use and consume content on the move everyday, so make the work environment no different. Successful intranets are pivotal to future employee engagement strategies. They are essential tools in forging a closer connection between staff and facilitating the creation and delivery of the right ideas, the right communication at the right time. Your intranet should be a hive of ideas and contribution on ways to eliminate inefficiency and create a more responsive and agile business focused on growth.  2. Design from the inside out: Involve users not only IT Think carefully about how you involve and build real user needs and demands into the design process. Whether you are looking to speed up the delivery of real time, accurate marketing data to sales staff, looking to use the Intranet as an exchange of talent and expertise across the business, your users are a vital source of intelligence and planning. Great brands are owned and run by teams of people. Stop seeing intranets as a file exchange and start seeing them as a living, breathing, work environments that promote essential cohesion amongst brand teams and encourage the generation of real creative capital for your business.  3. Scenario plan to reinforce the role of your brand  Immediate and open exchanges between workers anywhere in the world are giving companies the unique opportunity to test scenarios. Take brand training to a new level by pitching initiatives to teams and testing how they respond. By learning from ‘mock’ situations such as customer service complaints, stakeholder and media scrutiny or business development pitches you can inspire and prepare teams for on-brand behaviours and response. Design in the context of everyday situations, these activities can prove to be highly stimulating and valuable forums for brand immersion.   4. Make social stand for more than instant messaging ‘It’s not all work, work, work’ so the infamous Nat West ad told us in the 90’s. And it couldn’t be closer to the truth today. Increasingly, companies are finding smart and fresh new ways to connect the personal interests and motivations of staff into the work environment. The pay off being a more committed employee, new stimulus for inspiration and further affirmation of a company’s wider social purpose and responsibility. Often allowing employees to pursue personal goals and interests can provide a rich and far-reaching platform for product or service innovation. Just ask Google about their 80:20 principal. Just ask 3M about their 15% personal invention programme. If your brand positioning points people towards a more inventive, value added and prosperous place, your intranet should be the very embodiment of that vision.  5. Celebrate and inspire colleagues with showcase on brand communications The North Star ‘brand image library’ is surely on the wane. Technology permits us the pleasure of designing far more interactive, rich and intelligent showcases of marketing and brand communications. As work patterns become more remote, the need for an accessible and inspiring brand centre increases in importance. Showcasing content across multiple channels, promoting behaviours, success stories, tone of voice and brand experience initiatives are all vital in ensuring that a brand’s consistency, curation and creativity is upheld whatever the material, channel or market.  It keeps the brand tangible in people’s minds and should be open for all staff in the business to access and browse. Staff can also be the jury that test and validate new creative work through online forums and groups?  6. Our one watch-out: Don’t believe that the role of face to face is fading Despite the advent of new technologies and what seems like limitless opportunity to connect people across platforms, you still can’t beat a face-to-face exchange. Migrating from legacy systems to more collaborative, personalised and open source systems can bring about profound cultural change. This requires project leaders to communicate at close quarters with staff on the positive difference it will make to everyday roles. However seductive the shift looks and feels to those in the know, often a new platform requires staff to re-socialise practices and processes and that must be facilitated with due care and consideration.    There’s no doubt that as technology evolves and the costs of implementation come down, the functionality and tools we’ve outlined will become the benchmark for business as usual, inside companies the world over. But the bright, networked and agile leaders of today are already there. Through innovative, bold and smart application they have created cultures that depend on such tools to challenge, connect and encourage employees. The result? Sharper, more responsive decision-making. More committed, empowered employees who sign up to the purpose and vision of ‘their’ business.  These companies are closer to partnership, membership style cultures rather than the traditional, controlled corporate culture. They use technology and social tools to defer and delegate in ways that inspire and ignite creativity and collaboration. They have defined the principles of today’s power brands. Take a lunch hour to study the SHIFT case study emerging out of CEMEX. It’s becoming the must read text for transforming a business from the inside-out.  So work social works. Big time. It works in ways we are only just beginning to understand. Ways we are only just beginning to see in terms of recruitment returns, productivity gains, brand building and innovation.  And we’ve only just started on the journey.