Employee engagement and the rise of the social intranet

Are you the type of boss who inspires your employees? If so, you are a rarity. The Harvard Business Review recently published research on employees’ top complaints about their leaders. A thumping 91 per cent of employees said communication can drag executives down. The employees in the survey listed the following failings of bosses: not giving clear directions (57 per cent), not knowing employees’ names (36 per cent) and not recognising employee achievements (63 per cent).

The magazine noted: “The data shows that the vast majority of leaders are not engaging in crucial moments that could help employees see them as trustworthy.” It added: “This is startling, considering how much money organisations spend conducting employee surveys and reorganisations, engaging consultants and implementing change initiatives.” That last sentence is worth reading twice, as none of the solutions listed is likely to work. Implementing change initiatives? When did that help connect staff?

Using social tools to boost communications can raise productivity by 20 to 25 per cent

The traditional way of connecting staff is through the company intranet. This should be the hub of communication and a fountain of knowledge for staff. It should be. The reality is that many intranets are stale, underused and not valued by employees. “Traditional intranets tend to be dull and limiting,” says Pancentric’s product director Martin Boswell. “People are told to log on and find stuff. Employees barely use them.” So if it doesn’t engage staff and it’s wasting valuable resource time, why bother at all?

Research by the McKinsey Global Institute found that using social tools to boost communications can raise productivity by 20 to 25 per cent. In today’s digital workplace, companies such as Bluefin are replacing the traditional intranet with the social intranet and it’s easy to see why. The social intranet takes the core functionality of the traditional intranet – new starter information, contact directory, team charts and so on – and incorporates the engagement features of social networking tools. This enables staff to form groups for particular projects, communicate online, share resources, “like” and comment on articles, and crucially, contribute content themselves.

Providing employees with this kind of access automatically builds a community and, like Slack, Twitter or LinkedIn, boosts engagement because they become part of the conversation. For chief executives and senior management, a social intranet with clever reporting and metrics provides instant information on employee engagement, without the need to wait for annual survey results. You can see which projects and documents are generating buzz, who is contributing, and vitally, which teams are really engaged and which areas of the business have gone quiet. Senior management can communicate via video messaging and blogs – much more engaging than traditional methods of e-mail or newsletters that take weeks to compile and endless resources to produce.

So who’s using social intranets and what are the results? Pancentric Digital recognised the need for a new type of intranet, and spent the past six years building and developing the Hub, a social intranet and flexible portal system used by FTSE 100 member RSA, as well as Ralph Lauren, Bluefin and Direct Line Group.

Mr Boswell believes the Hub can change the way companies perform. “The Hub is a powerful way to boost engagement in a short space of time,” he says.

Bluefin’s head of marketing and public relations Amy Smith says the main thing she notices is that employees really feel like it’s “their” intranet, not just a marketing or HR tool. Empowering staff to contribute ensures content is constantly changing, retaining interest and sparking further engagement. Showcasing results and highlighting employee events, such as charity fundraisers, gives teams a boost and reinforces the community feel.

Mr Boswell maintains that a social intranet must be easily accessible and intuitive enough for all employees to use without the involvement of the IT department. It should be agile enough to allow rapid evolution. “That’s essential for the way modern workplaces function,” he says. “Employees can access secure resources and collaborate no matter where they’re located. Gone are the days when teams of key stakeholders needed to attend endless planning sessions about the intranet. In today’s low-code world, companies equipped with agile intranets empower employees to participate, enabling two-way communication that can offer real insight and build employee engagement fast.”


National insurance broker Bluefin employs 1,400 people, split across 49 offices. Bluefin operates in a heavily regulated, process-driven industry with multiple systems and portals for staff to access. They are actively making acquisitions, bringing on board teams and businesses across the UK. They need to induct new employees efficiently, share best practice, store information and drive staff to their intranet, known as BITE.

Using the Hub, Bluefin were able to rapidly reshape BITE into a social intranet with no interruption to business. They created bespoke home pages and content for newly acquired companies, enhancing the on-boarding process. Video streaming and blogging gave senior management the ability to supplement their traditional communications channels and give messaging a more personal feel, which is especially important due to the geographical spread of offices. Their Hub provides a central log-in for various systems, streamlining process and avoiding confusion over systems access.

“One of the things that works best for us is that staff feel like it’s ‘their’ intranet. It’s constantly evolving; a lot of the content is generated by the individual departments. We have a small internal communications team so the ability to provide various levels of editorial control is key,” says Amy Smith, Bluefin’s head of marketing and public relations.

To find out more about the Hub, e-mail hub@pancentric.com or call 020 7099 6370