“Everyone has experienced an intranet that is not being used’ – this was maybe something we feared the most the first two months.”, Ole Pedersen, BORG Automotive.
These words describe pretty well how a new intranet can feel in the beginning.
Implementing a new intranet, or relaunching the old one, can be scary for any company – especially when someone also dares to utter the words 'culture change' in the decision-making process.
Because all of a sudden, you and your colleagues find yourself asking these questions: What drives our culture already? How well should ‘our culture’ be defined? Where does the intranet fit in all of this? Also, if the intranet won’t be used heavily – is that because our infamous organizational-iceberg is going through a rough patch?
*insert mild panic*
And by the way, hi, let me introduce myself.
I’m Michelle – a previous intern at Colibo, who also collaborated with them during my master thesis. As part of my thesis, I interviewed a bunch of Colibo users at different hierarchical positions, all in the initial phases of intranet implementation.
Results showed that driving a cultural change by implementing an intranet doesn’t need to be filled with fear, even though the cocktail of broken habits and routines might seem scary at first.
So, don’t get into any doomsday preparations just yet. The users presented in this article are on to something right. I promise.
- What ‘culture change’ happens when you implement an intranet?
- Don’t make it complicated
- Use the keys you already have
What ‘culture change’ happens when you implement an intranet?
Let’s break down the concept ‘company culture’ first to make sure we’re all on the same page.
Some describe a company culture as ‘Shared believes and values of a group; Social behavior of a particular nation of people or company.’ Others describe it more simply as ‘the way we do things around here.’
When you implement an intranet, a cultural change has begun, as ‘the way we do things around here’ is twisted a bit. In this particular case, the twisted thing is how your digital workplace looks like / how your knowledge is or isn’t shared.
Actually, Mads, one of my respondents from Aarhus Municipality, explains it way better:
"It's a cultural change to send fewer emails and use the intranet more, including the feed and the communication that happens there. It’s something that demands collaboration between colleagues."
Implementing an intranet is, as such, a dynamic process that involves cooperation between colleagues. Everyone with their own habits, beliefs, and tendencies – likely formed over a longer period – that all together either speed or slow the change progress.
And your intranet vendor is doing the best to help you ‘unfreeze’ these old habits and attitudes, implement new ones and defeat the problems arising. But as some might have guessed, this isn’t enough in itself.
And why isn’t it?
Well, if a colleague refuses to update his or her personal profile on the intranet, and no one gives him/her a friendly push, no magical crystal ball at your vendor’s office will light up with disastrous images of your digital workplace dissolving into panic, pixels, and neglection of excellent resources.
Said less catastrophically: If people aren’t supporting each other and nudging each other to adopt the intranet, it will, of course, affect the pace of progress.
But on the bright side, contributing to a positive work environment and encouraging others to use the intranet doesn’t need to be complicated. And if done successfully, your intranet might even end up enhancing other parts of your organizational culture.
Don’t make it complicated
Habib is the ambassador and systems administrator at Borg Automotive UK – the production company of BORG Automotive (The department has 120 people working; 30 office staff and 90 salespeople, and the intranet is used at a high rate today).
His job is to make sure that the production system is running, which involves ensuring that people have access to the right information. Also, he's the master of managing cultural change.
When he started at Borg Automotive UK, they didn’t invest much in IT, as people didn't believe it was an essential part of their company (yet). And as a side effect, the salespeople were a bit reluctant towards IT.
Fair enough - how can we expect all to engage in highly digital things when it hasn’t been a part of the routine?
But instead of getting frustrated, Habib kept calm and met the users at their level. He figured that ‘simplicity is key’.
True, the modern intranet already has a simple and intuitive design. But since the very beginning of intranet implementation, and since entering in as the systems administrator, Habib went on a mission to make the platform even more simple to use for the less IT-habituated salespeople.
This idea was inspired by his kids.
When he studied with his kids at home, he noticed that when they received an assignment with too much information structured without mercy (sure most of us have been victims of those), they looked at it, and the first thing they said was 'this is too much'.
"Cause kids … They look at things and say: How long is this going to take? What's the reward? Where for users, the reward is that they get information that's simple to understand, and they're not going to spend lots of time looking at it.", Habib said.
Too much freedom to gather information, while also being pressured from other incoming tasks and expectations can leave us fragmented.
Nearly as fragmented as when we were kids and had to choose one (!) ice cream flavor. Imagine choosing among all the 11 different flavors, getting indecisive, and just feeling the queue getting longer and longer, while people aren’t getting any more patient.
An unstructured digital workplace will awaken this feeling all over again!
"I see this when I work with users because I've been doing IT for many years. If I give them too much information, they don't want to know.", said Habib.
So, what did he do to simplify the intranet experience?
Besides creating the relevant departments on the platform, carefully selecting what information should appear there, telling the HR-people that 'we're not printing anymore!' and generally not underestimating the importance of repeating this message often, he also created a diagram for his workers on the intranet called 'Where is it on the car'?.
It shows everything Borg Automotive UK produces, from brake calipers, steering pumps, and steering racks to EGR bulbs. Habib explains that when people have an understanding of what they're building, it's easier for them.
Obviously, for Habib, simplicity equals the act of taking time to manage change in ways that align with the workers' daily operations, habits, and tendencies, so that everyone can move along in the same direction with ease.
So, when you implement an intranet, make sure to have a specific person or team responsible for change management. One that can make timely and clear decisions, simplify your intranet experience, and add some sense to why the intranet is an essential part of the digital workplace.
Use the keys you already have
Ole Pedersen is the data administrator at BORG Automotive. He's in charge of all technical product-related data and helps with ordering and distributing data, among other responsibilities.
The intranet became necessary because of organizational growth over the last 4-5 years, and it has already proven helpful in replacing their folder structure, shared drive for finding and distributing information, and a reduction in email traffic. This large amount of data is now on the intranet. Amen to that.
But this progress did not, of course, happen overnight.
In the first few months, BORG Automotive searched for a 'common thread' in using the various intranet functions by asking themselves questions such as:
- How to effectively relocate communication from email to intranet?
- How to agree on when to post as an event and when to post as a task?
- How to start using the intranet at a high rate?
"We've initiated a huge project, but it's not as simple as just telling the entire workforce that 'this is what we use'. It's a learning.", said Ole.
So, what did they do?
They laughed at each other.
In the learning process, and in the hunt for a common thread, the staff actually used humor.
When people made posts on the intranet in the beginning, some occasionally saw it after 2-3 hours first, because they couldn’t get off their email. They had some good laughs about it, because what's worse than to accidentally skip an opportunity to have cake in the canteen?
A fun side fact from Deloitte (2019): Companies that embrace fun as an intentional cultural value tend to be more successful because it’s a widespread organizational aspiration.
At BORG Automotive, it's the playful attitude that defines their deeply rooted culture and social behavior. In other words, this company was fun long before implementing an intranet!
The intranet was ‘just’ a tool to invite improved knowledge sharing into the culture so that work could be even more fun.
“The humoristic angle helps the staff to spread the message when activities get relocated. By doing it this way, we lift each other as a community.", said Ole.
We often read that the key to driving a cultural change is *insert a paragraph about outstanding collaboration and shared visions*. But how about all the unique cultural values or attributes already inside our organization?
Be like BORG Automotive – think of elements that always made things easier for your organization (fun in BORG’s case) and allow it to push the implementation process.
Consider asking yourself: ‘how were challenges successfully met in the past?’ and ‘why was it done this way?’
Now, if you’re aware of this ‘special something’ – whether it’s fun, mutual support, cake, or anything else that lifts your community and makes things easier, don’t be afraid to use it as a main key when you drive your cultural change together by implementing a new intranet.