Plek blog

6 tips for engagement on your social intranet

Last November, I facilitated a meeting with the ambassadors of a social intranet of fourteen elementary school in Alkmaar. We discussed how things are going and plans for the coming year. One ambassador said, "We overcame resistance and now we can't live without it." Actually, I felt proud and noticed that the shift has taken place. It did not happen by itself. We worked hard and overcame the necessary bumps. Perhaps the most important lesson is that change just takes time. In this blog, I reflect on the success factors.

How were we able to make this change happen (as a project team and ambassadors)? The enthusiastic teachers were a key success factor. And the courage of the school board to invest in this, to be open to innovation and to give space for it to develop. I like to summarise the key factors for a successful implementation in the six points below. Keep these in mind when introducing a new digital platform.

6 tips for introducing social intranet

  1. Where focus goes energy flows: Demonstrate good behaviour and good examples.
  2. Listen to counterarguments, but don't make it bigger than they are.
  3. Give people room to choose if and how they use it.
  4. Name what concrete behaviour you expect at what moment.
  5. Stay close to the core process: connect to the work that needs to be done and demonstrate the new way there. Explain and offer help (also informally in the school or workplace).
  6. Persevere and repeat. Keep communicating even after a year and be patient, because change takes time.

1. Where focus goes energy flows

With the introduction of a social intranet, we asked teachers and principals to work and communicate in a different way: to become more digital. A natural reaction to change is resistance. Our starting point was to pay particular attention to those who were willing to change, and to the good examples that arose. Because what you pay attention to grows.

2. Listen

We allowed different opinions to be part of the project team. In fact, the school principal who became responsible for the project was someone with reservations. Not so digital and not so convinced of its usefulness yet. We did see this as an opportunity. If he became enthusiastic then that was our first success that we could build on. And it worked. He became a true ambassador. We showed examples of how other organizations were doing it. We translated this to the schools. We took note of existing challenges and contributed solutions within the social intranet. We gave 1-on-1 attention through button training and conversations about daily work. He also saw the enthusiasm of other members on the project team.

"The school principal who became responsible for the project had some reservations. We saw this as an opportunity, though. He ended up becoming a true ambassador."

Continuous listening helped. The initial reaction sounded something like this: "yet another new thing, I'm already so busy, this really isn't a priority, I don't need it, I don't see a need, hardly anyone around me does it, high workload, I find it scary, I can't do it, I'm already doing fine without it". Listening provided understanding, and also helped to come up with interventions.

3. Give space

In the beginning, we chose the strategy of giving enthusiasts an account. So only people who really wanted to, explored and took advantage of the opportunities.After about six months, we pinned a date when everyone got an account. This is where the real work began because how do we get the majority on board? And what to do with those who stayed behind? Read Huib Koeleman's blog From leading group to platoon, how do you involve the late-majority?

After a long time, the platform has acquired a clear internal communication function.There is a clear shift from nice-to-have to need-to-know. Nice-to-have is fortunately still there, but as one ambassador said:

"If you don't look at the intranet regularly now you'll find yourself at the team meeting seriously missing key information."

4. Make behaviour specific.

Thinking about what the change actually means in concrete behaviour also brings you closer to the solution. Think about when the behaviour should take place, who is involved, and understand the existing elephant paths that people have been taking for years. Desired behaviour with the social intranet is, for example:
- Dare to ask a question to all colleagues within the organisation on the digital platform;
- Regularly read the news items;
- Think before you send an e-mail whether it does not fit better on the intranet and place a message in a group there;
- Move from your paper agenda to a digital agenda;
- Collaborate online with a project team, invite external people in a group and collaborate with them.

5. Keep the core process front and center

I had many conversations with school principals and team leaders about how they did internal communications currently. Often the answer was: via e-mail. I could show with concrete examples how that could be made easier and more efficient on the social intranet. That way it was not a new extra thing, but a replacement of another way. Bringing the team leaders and management along helped. The social intranet has now become the internal communication tool for many school teams.

6. Keep going and repeat

Are we done now? No, it remains a process of learning together to get the best out of each other and the social intranet. It's persevering and repeating, over and over. Let the good examples inspire the rest, so that soon it will have become a standard way of working for everyone.

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