Mike is a Principal Consultant for ThreeWill. He has a passion for solving problems, most notably through products or platforms. He has almost 20 years of experience in product development and leadership, using the latest and greatest technologies, including open source technologies.
I spent 10 years working in a marketing company with some of the most wonderful and creative people. We did many things for customers, but one of the more obvious and frequent jobs was to either build someone their first website or, most commonly, redesign their website. One of the takeaways from that work was:
Just because you have a website doesn’t mean you have an engaging website.
Knowing this, we had whole processes and teams in place to ensure that, if a website was being built, it was designed to engage with users appropriately. This meant discovering the audience and their needs and leveraging both User Experience as well as Creative Design teams to create an experience that understood the audience. These sites would adhere to certain principles, like clear calls to action, consistency in the design but also just enough “pop” to grab a user’s attention, clear and easy-to-use navigation, built for mobile, and content that speaks to the audience.
Now, these were company websites geared towards customers, dealing with digital customer engagement. So, what do we mean when we say digital employee engagement?
In our brave new hybrid work world, the idea of a digital workplace is becoming more commonplace. Put simply, your digital workplace is the online equivalent to your physical workplace – it’s where work gets done. And just as you want a particular experience within your physical workplace, you should aspire to the same in the digital realm.
Here’s a crude representation:
But what does engagement really look like and why should I care? As we know, we can have a building that people come to work in, and things may get done, but we want to aspire to more. If we think of the workplace in terms of a hierarchy of needs, then we see that there are table stakes (basic needs and wellbeing/safety) and then things we can be doing to help someone truly grow and feel a part of something bigger (community/belonging, appreciation/esteem, and self-actualization – purpose, passion, and fulfillment).
We want to be a place where people grow, thrive, bond, and find purpose, passion, and fulfillment. Ultimately, we want the highest levels of engagement with our employees. Accomplishing this ensures the best results for both them and the company, achieving new levels of innovation and untapped potential. If you don’t want that, then stop reading now. This is not the post for you.
So how can our digital workplace provide that proper experience to make this the most likely outcome?
If you’ve chosen Microsoft 365 as the basis for your digital workplace and employee experience, then you are on a journey of continual growth within the 365 ecosystem. There are many tools at your disposal that can contribute to increasing engagement. One critical component to increasing engagement along this journey is with SharePoint and an Intelligent Intranet.
Before I dive in, let’s bring back my introduction and some of those principles I mentioned that will assist in making a website more engaging. Let’s start with some of the basics: consistent and user-friendly design that is mobile-ready. Here’s the good news: SharePoint has come a long way. These are items that have been thoroughly thought through by Microsoft and just come with the product. Their Fluent UI is found consistently across all of their products can give you the peace of mind that all of your employees will be able to access the site from any device and that the experience will feel familiar to them. Additionally, modern SharePoint is packed with standard components that will help you establish a foundation for engagement and for communicating important information.
Here is the same site on mobile. It just works.
But is it Intelligent?
So, SharePoint is the medium to get us to an Intranet and it can get us to a pretty decent place at that.
But recall my original statement:
Just because you have a website doesn’t mean you have an engaging website.
Let’s reframe that in the context of an Intranet:
Just because you have an Intranet doesn’t mean you have an engaging Intranet.
That next step – ensuring that your Intranet is something that your employees both need and keep coming back to – is what turns an Intranet into an Intelligent Intranet. And that’s where we come in. We can workshop with you to figure out what makes the most sense, but we can also bring our experience of having established countless Intelligent Intranets to bear and set you up with designs, patterns, and tools to elevate your Intranet and make it truly “sticky”. Here are a few of those learnings put into practice.
Sharing is Caring
SharePoint intranets have several goals typically, but one of the primary goals is to be the soundboard for outbound communications. Leveraging News web parts can be essential to giving an intranet site the feeling of constant benefit and allow for employees to develop that deeper sense of connection to the company. While we will help you with setting up for success, it will also depend on buy-in from content creators.
Here’s another way it might be presented on a site:
Get Me to What I Need
The other primary goal of an intelligent intranet is to have authoritative content. These are resources and information that employees need to access as quickly as possible and without confusion. SharePoint provides some clean and easy-to-use components that will make this possible and our approach and templates can help with the execution.
Another important feature of SharePoint that aids in this goal is Viva Connections. The Viva Connections dashboard is a vital component of a SharePoint Intranet’s landing page. It provides mobile-centric tiles that allow for quick action by employees and, when configured properly, can be accessed immediately from the Team’s mobile app as well.
Eyes Up Here
An age-old best practice is the idea of staying “above the fold”. Your users shouldn’t have to scroll to find critical information. If it’s a focal point of the page, make sure it’s near the top or in the center of the page.
Optimize the Experience
SharePoint gives us a lot to start with. As mentioned, this provides consistency and familiarity across the 365 ecosystem. But it is also very extensible. ThreeWill has made it part of our core business to take advantage of this extensibility by leveraging open-source solutions and by building our own components that optimize the SharePoint experience and provide that additional “pop” to users – things that catch your eye or provide another layer of depth and meaning to the site.
For instance, here’s our carousel optimizer being put to use on an Intranet landing page. In this example, it’s been configured to showcase a company’s core values and provide that sense of community and belonging, while also providing a little extra sparkle.
Hopefully, you see now what digital employee engagement is, what it can be, and have gotten a glimpse of how we can get you there.
There are many other optimizations and best practices that we can bring to bear for you. Reach out to us and schedule a tour of our sample Intelligent Intranet site and let us take your digital employee engagement and intranet to the next level.