Internal communications tools deliver more than just better comms: when deployed successfully, they can drive true success and generate returns across your organization.


The modern workplace is changing rapidly, through both technological advances and shifting work culture.

An emphasis on efficiency and productivity has brought with it an obsession with collaboration. Companies across the globe have scrambled to add new methods for collaboration and communication to their arsenals, producing what is now evident as a ‘collaborative surplus’.

Guide

Tasked with improving your internal comms?

Discover how your intranet can play a central role in effective internal communications; whether you’re planning a new project or need to get the most out of your existing tools.

study by the Harvard Business Review highlights the degree to which companies have increased collaboration in recent years. They cite collaboration specifically between workers and their managers as having increased by 50% or more in the last two decades.

Additionally, employees now spend nearly 80% of their time on collaborative activities. That includes answering emails, making phone calls, and giving or receiving feedback.

The concern with these statistics is that employees are being left with very little time to actually work. This is backed up again in the HBR study by research showing that 20-35% of value-added contributions come from only 3-5% of employees. So while more collaboration is taking place, fewer people are turning that into productivity.

So, how do we ensure we’re collaborating effectively and productively – not just for collaborations’ sake?

Not all collaboration is created equal

Of course, these are cautionary statistics. Just because employees spend too little time working, as opposed to activities that are supposed to support work, does not mean that collaboration (even this level of collaboration) is a bad thing.

Purposeful collaboration builds productivity, while collaboration purely for its own sake and without pointing toward a greater goal is detrimental.

In fact, another study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that productivity levels rose by as much as 20-25% among workers who use online social tools to collaborate.

If companies with results this positive are increasing productivity through collaboration, achieving directly opposing results to those of the HBR study, this forces us to ask whether there are different types of collaboration – some which aid productivity and others that detract from it.

The answer to this question is that collaboration and communication are like most other practices with the potential to drive businesses forward: they need strategy to back them up.

Purposeful collaboration builds productivity, while collaboration purely for its own sake and without pointing toward a greater goal is detrimental.

At Interact, we’ve seen customers use our internal communications tools in creative ways –with great success. They have become a part of the group that used collaboration to boost productivity. It’s an honor to learn from them in how they use those internal communications tools. Thanks to them, here are 10 great examples of internal communications tools in action.

1. Automating mundane tasks

In any given office, in any given department, there are bound to be many low-level tasks that take up employee time but unfortunately cannot be avoided. They range from reserving rooms and equipment to booking absences and filling out HR forms. 

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has over 12,000 employees operating across five hospitals and the community. Operating in a highly pressurized and regulated sector and with staff doing a vast array of different roles, balancing efficiency with safe clinical care is a constant focus. Those mundane tasks are time-consuming but often critical.

The Trust intranet has proven invaluable as a support tool for workers, in a number of ways.

For example, a purpose-designed pre- and on-boarding area for junior doctors joining the Trust gives early-doors access to vital materials and information, speeding up the onboarding process and automating much of the paperwork. Digital forms have replaced paper-based versions for vital tasks including uniform ordering, interpreter booking, and patient transport booking, freeing up valuable time.

Imperial College Healthcare designed its intranet around its users’ needs: aiding collaboration and productivity.

The intranet is also designed around the needs of its users: ensuring what they need and use most is right at their fingertips through the ‘Top Tasks’ toolbar and quicklinks. Single sign-on streamlines logging in to vital apps such as the ICT helpdesk and inpatient record system, aiding productivity.

By making their processes more efficient and paying attention to the needs of their employees, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is a perfect example of purposeful collaboration.

Guide

Tasked with improving your internal comms?

Discover how your intranet can play a central role in effective internal communications; whether you’re planning a new project or need to get the most out of your existing tools.

2. Sharing internal knowledge around the water cooler

There is no question that sharing knowledge properly has demonstrable ROI for businesses.

According to a recent study, Fortune 500 companies lose around $31.5 billion per year by failing to share knowledge. Like other aspects of collaboration, though, knowledge sharing has to be purposeful to be effective and not wasteful.

Using internal communications tools like social networks is a good way of accomplishing this as they allow employees to organically form communities around different purposes and share knowledge

Fortune 500 companies lose around $31.5 billion per year by failing to share knowledge.

AMC Networks, the global company behind brands including AMC and BBC America, set out to achieve this on their intranet, The Source. The clue is in the name: it is now the source of all internal knowledge and information, providing a global hub to connect employees worldwide.

AMC Networks intranet homepage.
AMC Networks created ‘The Source’ as the central, go-to source for all organizational knowledge.

Combining a user-led design and strategic approach to populating their content areas means staff now have easy access to the people and things they need to get work done.

The site sees an average of 800 visits daily and 75% active users, with communities now created for everything spanning Diversity and Inclusion to ‘Inside Look’, an executive blog series to give staff visibility of what’s happening at AMC Networks.

3. Connecting with the people

A frequent problem, especially in large matrixed organizations, is transparency and connection.  

As organizations get larger, it becomes more difficult for the average worker to be in contact with senior management and executives. This means expectations and guidelines become unclear, purpose and direction aren’t fully understood, and impedes success.

For management, it keeps them from understanding the realities of how the organization works on the ground and adjusting strategy accordingly.

Humanitarian organization, International Rescue Committee, operates in over 40 countries with over 13,000 staff contributing to its mission. Giving staff visibility of what key figures and peers are doing, enabling them to hear directly from their leaders, and sharing the ‘bigger picture’ are all critical to fostering a connection to the cause.

It’s intranet, RescueNet, serves as a central and accessible platform for every employee. Tapping into the power of video, senior leaders and employees alike regularly share short videos with updates, news, and messages. CEO David Miliand shares organization updates, field and travel stories, and shout-outs to staff in vlog form, with translation into it’s three core languages to engage more workers.

Staff can also comment, share, and like; engaging as active participants in their organization. The organization has managed to bridge the gap between employees and those on a higher level in order to clarify and streamline. This truly helps employees understand the impact of their work and the mission of the organization, along with how they fit into overall company goals.

Guide

Tasked with improving your internal comms?

Discover how your intranet can play a central role in effective internal communications; whether you’re planning a new project or need to get the most out of your existing tools.

4. Internal communications tools across borders

The reality of how a lot of companies now operate has been affected significantly by globalization, with teams spread over multiple countries and time zones. Even domestically, remote work is increasingly popular and it’s now normal for businesses to allow their employees significant flexibility in working from home.

Remote working is now increasingly common. How do you keep staff connected from a distance?

Alongside this, we also have staff operating on our front lines: in stores, distribution, on the production line, out on the road or in their communities. Those operating in headquarters or the office are, for many organizations, the minority.

This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for purposeful collaboration in the form of keeping workers in different locations connected to one another. Some companies are thinking even bigger than that. What began as a need for connectivity has evolved into a space for knowledge sharing.

For global foreign exchange experts Travelex, those borders present a significant challenge. Staff are dispersed across different timezones, working on the frontlines in booths or stores, and speak multiple languages: which can cause individuals to feel cut off from the organization, and each other. It’s intranet, The Lounge, now serves to connect all individuals around the globe.

By combining business-critical functions, such as hosting important information or workflow and forms, with social features including blogs, forums, and communities, Travelex has created a virtual hub for the business.

Our intranet – The Lounge – has given our colleagues the means to broaden their relationships at work by connecting our people all around the world. Today they can discuss and relate to their co-workers in similar roles on different continents. It’s something that’s now giving rise to more sophisticated use of the platform, where our people are utilizing it to help problem-solve and innovate to fix genuine customer issues based on the experiences they share with the community.

Tricia Scott – Global Intranet Manager, Travelex

5. Good news

Many of the internal communications tools we’ve seen in action have the common element of keeping employees informed.

Keeping employees in the know allows them to perform their jobs well by keeping them abreast of current tools, practices, procedures, and regulations.

However, it’s sharing those parts of your organizational culture – the successes, news, recognition, the impact stories from your customers – that builds employee engagement and forms the foundation of a successful culture.

Using your internal communications tools to connect staff to your mission, values, and overall purpose of your organization is more important now than ever before. With staff dispersed, working remotely or operating on the front lines, your tools serve as the virtual central hub of your organization.

Sony PlayStation demonstrates an inspiring example of this.

The Hub combines need-to-know business information with both external and internal news, and a content area dedicated to ‘People and Places’. Employees can see overviews of the different parts of the organization and what their colleagues do, read about successes and share photos, events, and updates. The Hub serves to connect every employee to their organization and each other.

Just one month after launch, an internal survey revealed:

  • 72% of staff agree The Hub keeps them informed about what’s happening in the organization, an increase of +25%
  • The number of employees who agree The Hub accurately reflects PlayStation as an organization shot up by +45%

These stats and PlayStation’s approach show how are great ways to get the staff excited and keep them enthusiastic about their work, therefore at peak performance.

Guide

Tasked with improving your internal comms?

Discover how your intranet can play a central role in effective internal communications; whether you’re planning a new project or need to get the most out of your existing tools.

6. Ensuring transparent internal communications

We saw with International Rescue Committee how they make use of internal communications tools to build transparency at their organization – allowing employees to again visibility of senior management through their intranet.

Your Housing Group (YHG) brings us another approach to the same concept by working with internal stakeholders and champions. More organizations are making use of senior stakeholder comms on their intranet as a way of connecting upper level employees with the rest of the company. This is an example of collaboration on a high level, ensuring that all workers understand the leadership’s vision for the organization.

YHG’s People Plus Director, Stephen Joyce, serves as one of the organization’s top influencers: focused on bringing engaging comms to the Group’s employee base, primarily through video.

His example empowers other senior leaders to follow suit, with the whole teaming now regularly delivering updates and engaging with staff: improving visibility and transparency.

Stephen Joyce has capitalized on the power of video to connect staff with their senior leaders.

This type of collaboration is purposeful as it serves to keep the organization working toward a set of goals they all understand. Top-down communication may not work for every purpose, but it is very effective in communicating vision and establishing uniform guidelines.

7. A penny saved is a penny earned

When executed properly, collaboration positively affects all areas of a business and delivers tangible business returns by connecting people and information.

The UK’s largest integrated property services group, Countrywide, has harnessed the potential of its intranet Our Place to great benefit. Before a revamp of the intranet, staff struggled as the group continued to grow and staff operated in siloes. Internal Communications Manager Kelly McGall reflects:

“We could only imagine a world where colleagues from Finance could celebrate alongside our Estate Agency teams… or our mortgage consultants congratulating someone from HR.”

The Internal Communications and Engagement Team overhauled their intranet with a focus on recognition and breaking employees out of their departmental siloes. Their approach saw Countrywide secure a Ragan award for employee recognition.

By improving visibility and connection to colleagues, Countrywide has drastically improved internal collaboration. The business impact is tangible:

  • 500% increase in usage of Our Place
  • Performance on cross-selling – income from complementary services – increased from 43p in the £ in 2018, to 49p in the £ in 2019 as staff worked better together
  • Income from conveyancing grew 27% YoY
  • Empowering staff to self-serve on their intranet saw a 66% reduction in HR queries
  • An internal recruitment referrals program managed on Our Place has saved the group an estimated £600,000

Internal communication tools, when executed strategically, do more than simply improve communication: the benefits can be felt throughout organizations.

Guide

Tasked with improving your internal comms?

Discover how your intranet can play a central role in effective internal communications; whether you’re planning a new project or need to get the most out of your existing tools.

8. Internal communications tools – create one version of the truth

With email and other traditional methods of passing documents back and forth in an organization, there is the danger that multiple people will all be working off different versions of a document.

Inconsistency in working materials means inconsistency in results, and the negative consequences can range from fairly miniscule to significant.

Imagine, for example, that two workers in a financial firm are working with two different sets of regulations and that because one is outdated, that worker breaks a law and costs the firm a large sum of money in fines. To combat this, companies often utilize a Document Management System or Content Management System.

In the case of Mattress Firm, a leading specialty bedding supplier in the US, getting a central and single source of truth for its 10,000 employees across 3,500 stores in 49 states is crucial to deliver excellent, consistent service and improve productivity. ‘BEDPost’ is central to its strategy.

A SharePoint DMS failed to meet the needs of employees, becoming a dumping ground for duplicated and outdated documents. The organization decided to roll out an intranet, BEDPost, that focused on user-friendly navigation, enterprise-wide search functionality and a clearly defined information architecture that ensures all information is centrally available, current, and a single source of truth.

Mattress Firm intranet homepage design

Intranet Manager Tammy Friedeck comments, “The positive comments we received after the launch of the new BEDpost often centered on the ease and accuracy of the search function, and over 300,000 searches were performed in the first six months. The added ‘Failure to Find’ feature allows us to see what pieces of content are missing, so our team can refine the way we are presenting content to our users.”

9. Recognizing contributions

Work is stressful. This is a given. One of the key points of a drive for employee engagement is ensuring that this stress doesn’t lower team morale as this happens all too easily. With morale lowered, workers are less productive and less likely to work to their full potential. Not only that, but low morale significantly raises the probability of employee turnover. So what is to be done to mitigate the risks of low morale, even during periods of stress?

One of the simplest solutions is employee recognition. When workers know that they are valued and that their hard work has paid off for themselves and others, this can contribute significantly to keeping their spirits raised and keeping them engaged. Luckily, there are internal communications tools that easily allow workers to recognize one another’s effort. TaxAudit.com used the Rewards feature on their intranet to its fullest potential.

As Estes explains, “We’ve found that Interact Rewards is a hugely successful way to increase employee engagement. We’ve seen a ton of spontaneous altruism, with employees giving colleagues ‘WOW Points’ for volunteering for projects or going beyond the call of duty. We also did our bit, investing around $40,000 dollars in prizes to make the initiative work. We now have more than 80% daily engagement on the intranet and counting.”

10. Ensuring employee participation

How does an internal communicator or a manager ensure that their messages to employees are actually being read – and that staff are participating and engaging in response?

After all, the effort that goes into carefully crafting any internal communication is for naught if no one pays attention. This is essential to purposeful collaboration; all parties need to be on board in order to work well together.

Global fitness brand Equinox has a dispersed workforce, the majority of which won’t typically been sat at a computer but instead, out in the field or on the gym floor. Tapping into that dynamic and encouraging staff to contribute presents a unique challenge.

It’s one Equinox has risen to. It’s intranet, EQX Connect, is beautifully designed with a mobile-first ethos to ensure every individual can connect from anywhere, on any device, on the go. By centering its content strategy on the use of video, they’ve also created an accessible, digestible medium that staff can use to gain valuable updates and information in limited snippets of time.

However, it was by listening to what its staff wanted that the team were really able to take participation up to the next level. After feedback and analytics showed a gap, ‘Life at EQX’ was launched as a content area on the intranet. From employee spotlights to celebrating promotions and birthdays, introducing new hires, or sharing fun facts and stories from staff: it’s the virtual cultural hub of the organization, inspiring staff to get involved and participate.

Since its launch, Life at EQX has earned the leading number of likes over any other area of the intranet, topping over 33,000 visits in its first year with unique visitors increasing by 65%.  

Achieving purposeful collaboration with the right tools

Purposeful collaboration takes many forms, which depend on the needs of the organization. They all can have a tremendous, positive impact.

Though a lot of planning and assessment before the fact contribute to the success of collaboration efforts, having the right tools helps significantly. All the companies here understood where purposeful collaboration could contribute to their business and carefully assessed what tools they had available that would accomplish their goals.

Following their lead will help to assure successful collaboration, keeping organizations among those that see a boost in productivity.

Guide

Tasked with improving your internal comms?

Discover how your intranet can play a central role in effective internal communications; whether you’re planning a new project or need to get the most out of your existing tools.