As an IT professional, I try not to insult an audience of HR leaders by proclaiming every action their organization should take. Instead, I prefer to facilitate a discussion concentrated on as many customer stories as possible. In some respects, every organization is different, yet every organization is the same.
I find it interesting to set high-level context and some general observations but back it up with as many anecdotal stories as possible. After all, I don’t believe there's one way to solve a problem and, ultimately, each organization has slightly different goals or objectives. Still, each story speaks for itself and sheds light on how organizations are addressing the challenges. This is generally where the most interesting discussion occurs.
The old cliché is your people are your most important asset. There are different variations of this cliché, but in general, everyone agrees organizations that have the best people far outperform their peers. Executives have recognized the importance of the people systems in order to drive sustained growth, increased profitability and happy customers. Without great employees, and a culture to build great employees, sustained business returns aren't possible. As a result, the HR organization continues to play a critical role in the organization — not only with acquiring the best people but, more importantly, developing the talent.
HR leaders recognize that central to talent development is establishing a corporate culture that engages employees, develops leaders, drives innovation and empowers employees to work collaboratively. The modern employee portal is a key component of this strategy.
Historically, the organization’s intranet has represented the employee portal. The challenge with the historic intranet is that it represents a one-way communication from the organization to the employee.
HR or corporate communications professionals generated content, worked with IT to publish the content and made information available for consumption. The problem with this approach was that publishing content was very time-consuming, intranets frequently became stale or out of date and employees weren't able to engage. The intranet never became a digital hub for the organization but instead became an afterthought or a place where “content went to die." This happened for both large and smaller organizations.
The modern employee portal/intranet isn't simply a one-way communication tool. At its best, the portal acts as a digital hub where individuals “do work." As a result, we see the modern employee portal enabling productivity and helping emphasize corporate culture through three dimensions: collaboration, engagement and innovation. Thanks to our Microsoft friends for the help in collating these ideas:
Organizations typically take one of three general approaches to the modern employee portal: a traditional, a social intranet or an app-centric approach. Although I have a personal bias toward a more social approach, I typically use the National Parks metaphor to temper my bias.
Each approach has its own beauty, and each approach can certainly be someone’s favorite. Most importantly, each approach contains mechanisms to solve the collaboration, engagement and innovation challenges. Although the more progressive approaches capitalize on the social aspects, I recognize some organizations are reluctant to go all in initially and start with a more traditional approach.
About half of the small organizations (less than 200 employees) I've worked with don't have an employee portal at all. All large enterprises have an established intranet, but only about half feel it's driving the expected business value. At Insight, we recommend an agile, user-centric approach. After some upfront planning and user experience design, content is developed and reviewed iteratively, ensuring the solution meets the overall business objectives. Further, the approach is easily enhanced to include organizational change and adoption techniques required to support enterprise social (not shown in the picture below).
Deploying an intranet/employee portal used to be a several-months initiative, which is why many smaller organizations are yet to establish one. The good news is cloud-based approaches have greatly simplified the technology steps and infrastructure requirements to get started. The cloud has basically leveled the playing field between large enterprises and small to medium businesses.
Through Microsoft Office 365, we can bring a best-in-class employee portal to our clients in a matter of weeks, without significant upfront capital infrastructure investment. Further, Office 365 provides an integrated productivity suite for the entire organization covering messaging, communications, collaboration, social aspects and Microsoft Office products.