An intranet can play a powerful role in defining workplace culture. But it’s how you use it that really makes a difference.
According to a research study, which interviewed 933 CEOs and CFOs across North America, the culture within a business was deemed one of its most important aspects. The results found that:
78% believe it is within the top five value drivers
91% believe improving corporate culture will increase the firm’s value
84% believe poor culture will increase the chances of illegal or unethical behavior
When a business hits the news for all the wrong reasons, it’s safe to assume that their corporate culture is suffering. From a local restaurant to the giant fulfillment warehouses at Amazon, we have all seen examples of – and even experienced – toxicity in the workplace. Companies may spend huge budgets on branding and marketing, but if no care is taken over the people and atmosphere, the workplace culture can nosedive with quite dramatic results.
Companies are now more than ever, concerned with their culture, and a negative workplace is something you can no longer contain. With websites like Glassdoor encouraging past and present employees to publish feedback on their workplaces, social media rants which can quickly go viral, and press always happy for a tip-off, building a positive working place culture is one of the most important things you can do to help your business, and the people within it, grow and prosper.
What is company culture?
As the organizational consultants, Terry Deal and Allan Kennedy, defined it in the 1980s, company culture is simply “the way we do things around here”. Culture is the umbrella terms for the beliefs and behaviors that determine how people within an organization interact with each other. It can be influenced by things like the working environment, the people that are hired in and leadership – and will develop organically over time.
According to Edgar Schein, there are three levels of workplace culture:
Artifacts: This is the Instagram-able level of a company’s culture. The things you can see and feel – the free food, office design, and regular work socials. The employees can see it, but it’s also visible to the outside world too.
Espoused values and beliefs: These are the prescribed values of a company or their mission statement. Even if you’re not inherently in tune with this code of conduct, it’s a guideline on how to behave with each other, to clients and to the general public. Problems quickly arise when you’re not in line with these values.
Underlying assumptions: This is the core layer of culture, and are the things that are deeply embedded within the company. They should be regarded as natural reactions to a situation. Honesty, hard work, and integrity are some examples of these underlying behaviors which may be so unconscious that they’re hard to recognize.
The underlying assumptions layer is the deepest level and the hardest to adjust. It is based on perceptions, beliefs and people’s view of the world. A company with a sound set of underlying assumptions will be more than likely one with a healthy company culture.
What makes a good company culture
Before we look at how an intranet helps the culture in a workplace, we should look at what determines a positive culture.
Leaders are the walking adverts of what the company stands for. When leaders behave and make decisions in line with their corporate values, it sends a positive message out to everyone within the organization. Think about the effects a prominent member of staff behaving in a way that didn’t back up the company’s message: it will quickly create gossip, disgruntlement and a sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’ – ideal components for a toxic environment.
Co-ordination, trust, and communication
A sense of transparency is critical for positive workplace culture. Fostering a culture of open communication and trust allows a workforce to move along in the same direction with ease. These principles nurture a culture of collaboration – the perfect wheels for an organization to run on.
To harness positive culture, you need the buy-in from everyone in the workforce. This requires authenticity in the company’s message, a belief in the principles of the business and providing workers with everything they need for their job are just some of the ways you can make workers feel valued, invested in and, as a result, engaged.
Learning and innovation
Effective onboarding is extremely valuable to not only the employee but the business as a whole. When time is taken out to train and teach a new recruit, they form a connection to the company that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Similarly, giving workers a chance to learn new skills and take courses relevant to their jobs benefits everyone.
How to use your intranet to build a positive workplace culture
But if the foundations outlined above are so influenced by people, how can software like an intranet help? By itself, an intranet is a piece of software. It requires people to build it, promote it and engage with it. But once it becomes the central hub of the workplace, an intranet can act on many levels to bring about positive cultural change within a workplace:
Onboarding: The first few weeks will heavily influence a new recruit’s perception of their company and colleagues. The intranet is central to this experience, not only through training but allowing the recruit to see how people interact, communicate and behave with each other within the confines of work.
Updates: By notifying staff across the workplace, you’re delivering regular news regarding the warp and weft of the organization – important information regarding office security, staff nights out, kitchen use and so on. An informed workforce helps create an engaged workforce.
Peer-to-peer engagement: Breaking down the silos and bringing staff together allows a stronger culture to form. Posting a question about a work query in a forum can spark ideas and insights from unexpected corners of the business, resulting in the forming of relationships and new ways of working.
Two-way communication: For a long time, organizations – and intranets – operated via top-down communication. Nowadays, businesses have learned that a two-way exchange is far more valuable. Discussions, suggestions, insights, opinions, and knowledge-sharing can help employees work smarter and nurture a culture of open communication.
Celebrate and recognize success: Part of what drives anyone to develop themselves is being recognized and championed for a job well done. The intranet plays a valuable part here, acting as a platform to shine the spotlight on a colleague for outstanding work. When staff feel valued, they’re more engaged in the business and inspire others to do the same.
The intranet can play a fundamental part by supporting the communication, relationship-building, and advocation needed to nurture a positive workplace culture.
With many of our clients, we’ve seen intranet become the hub of a positive work culture. Whether it’s uniting a dispersed workforce or reinvigorating an organization that lost its mojo somewhere along the way, an intranet is the touchstone of an organization where communication, sociability and knowledge-sharing take place.
How the intranet reinforces corporate culture
An intranet cannot create a culture by itself – but it can further its efforts. As these case studies show us, encouraging two-way communication as much as possible, creating an online community and building a fun, informative space are just some of the ways you can nudge people into adopting the intranet and contribute to a positive work culture.
When staff are taking the time to write and publish their thoughts, dreams, ambitions and life stories on the intranet, it’s a sign that something positive is going on. With Travelex, this is a daily occurrence with an average of eleven blogs a day being posted on to the site. These blogs range from monthly updates from executives, to colleagues in the bureaus sharing every aspect of their lives. The engagement of the intranet and the sharing of positive feedback and stories from colleagues has surprised even the management team, as Tricia Scott, global intranet manager for Travelex comments,
The Lounge community is exactly what we hope for and more, a tight-knit family where we all support each other and really strive to use the platform not only as an Internal Comms tool, but to cultivate a culture of openness, sharing and really hit our objective to support and encourage collaboration and communication.
The Lounge has done wonders for our business, bringing everyone together into one central place, breaking geographical barriers, and allowing for the free flow of communication in our organization. As a result, it has given our colleagues a voice to feel empowered, acknowledged and engaged within the business, allowing them feel just as empowered and engaged in their jobs….The Lounge offers colleagues the freedom to interact freely with anyone in the organisation, whilst having so much to visit and do on the site it helps them do their jobs effectively, feel motivated, inject some liveliness into their day, help with their training and also have an outlet to feel connected to everyone even if they are working remotely and may feel detached people across Travelex.
Online electrical goods retailer AO faced issues building a positive company culture after a high-speed expansion. With staff in depots, offices and out on the road, the management team had to find out a way of nurturing a positive workplace culture for all 2,500+ staff.
The Fridge was formed with this as one of the main focuses – an intranet to promote a fun, rewarding work culture.
The features and functionality of The Fridge were specifically created to be used in a social way. In an effort to bring together dispersed teams across AO something new is encouraged and incorporated on the Fridge every day, ranging from Tuesday’s ‘Retail news’ (A weekly update of what’s in the retail news at the minute, what competitors are up to and how AO look) to Thursday’s feature, ‘Something for the weekend’ (where people are invited to share ideas of things to do on the weekend with friends and family). As Laura Talbot, Internal Communications Manager says,
We have regular features on The Fridge every day to engage people and to promote social interactions between colleagues and teams. These include everything from fun GIFs to competitions to win tickets to Britain’s Got Talent, which we proudly sponsor.
New York Racing Association
After years of financial hardship, bad press, and a disillusioned workforce, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) had all the ingredients for a negative company culture. When InsideNYRA was created, they concentrated on instilling pride in the organization’s 150-year legacy, with a history of the association, track maps and racing glossary so all staff had an intimate knowledge of where they worked. Working to train up all staff about the sport of racing, featuring staff who demonstrated outstanding work and creating a ‘water cooler’ feature to showcase employee milestones all helped to create a NYRA community. By adopting social features into their intranet, NYRA was able to create a collaborative culture, instill a sense of pride and celebrate their proud history.
Our intranet has become the glue that brings us together – helping to familiarize people not familiar with horse racing to our world, and at the same time, creating a more unified atmosphere for the ‘race trackers’ those employees who have spent their entire careers on the track.