In recent years, organisations have invested large sums on various Internal Communications technology. While digital suppliers share occasional success stories, the general consensus of poor employee adoption numbers of new digital transformations has been –

“We spent alllll this money on this Internal Communications app (platform/intranet/enterprise social network) and no one is using it.”

The reaction can mean different things to its different speakers.

For the app supplier, it often means “We are going to lose our contract.”

A business sponsor may infer “It’s time to pull the plug, and perhaps chop the IC folks who proposed this.”

And the standard IC response tends to be “We need to promote this harder.”


Questioning the employee adoption case

Harder? Or maybe, smarter?

The core of the problem facing Internal Communications technology is not that they’ve failed to achieve employee adoption. It’s that they were implemented on the basis of mass adoption cases; on the belief, expressed by enthusiastic IC folks or overzealous vendors, that “If you get it right, the mass of employees would come.”

When actual adoption figures fall below expectations, owners and stakeholders are quick to pull the plug, shelve the platform or blame the IC staff. But is anyone paying attention to who is actually using these platforms or what value they add to those using them?


Rebooting your technology investment

If 90% of your employees are not using your platform, you can probably assume that most never will unless you change and give them a good reason to. But without any knowledge of who the 10% are, where they fit in your organisation and how they use it, you have no idea of what value your platform is currently providing.


First step

The first step is to learn about your 10%, what they are doing, how and why they are collaborating.

Are they motivated by their work, random but engaged individuals? Or do they happen to include one of your informal influencers who is energising their colleagues to try a different approach? Would they be less effective if this technology they use was no longer available?

It may be worth investing in a digital communications audit before making any rash decisions with technology. User surveys, focus groups and organisational network analysis could provide some real insights about the actual impact your technology investment may have.


Second step

The second step is to look at your organisational agenda, your change agenda. Are there teams, projects or initiatives that can pursue their objectives more efficiently and effectively if connected through the technology platform? What impact will better connected teams have on morale, collaboration and productivity? Who are your informal influencers who can help achieve sustainable change?

Once you know how and who is using the platform well and how specific projects and teams can succeed by using it better, you have a realistic and well-informed business case.


Final thought – what exactly Internal Communications technology is best used for

In my view, most internal communications technology platforms are much better used as strategic tools enabling leaders and employees to get the right messages to the right people. User value and ability to enable high-value users to collaborate and work more productively is much more important than user numbers.


Silke Britain is a friend of The Reef and this month’s guest blogger.

At ClearVoice Comms, we are experts in delivering employee engagement and communication strategies that inspire your people and transform your business.