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Should you use your intranet to allow employee self-expression?
Some companies are afraid of allowing employees to express their individuality. They suppress uniqueness by effecting strict dress codes and banishing outlandish hairdos, for example.
Yet other companies credit individual expression and freedom for the high level of employee engagement in their organization. One such company is Google, one of the best places to work in, according to Fortune.
Laszlo Bock, SVP of people operations at Google, says employee freedom and other perks allow Google to attract “exceptional and motivated people” who are highly productive, motivated, and innovative.
“If you give people freedom, they will amaze you,” Bock says.
Google’s experience makes perfect sense. After all, self-expression is one of the four core needs of human beings (the other three being sustainability, security, and significance).
Studies have found that meeting these needs increases job satisfaction and engagement. The Towers Perrin study found the most engaged employees had a 19 percent increase in operating income.
FedEx created a website (previously internal, now external) where employees could tell their personal stories about work. The results were so positive that Renee Horne, director of digital and social media engagement, was quoted as saying, “We realized, wow, we should just let people tell their stories.”
Now that we’ve gotten the “why” out of the way, let’s talk about the “how.”
How to Encourage Self-Expression on the Company Intranet
If you use a social intranet like Noodle, then you have many tools to foster employee self-expression. Here are some examples:
1. User Page
Let’s begin with the most obvious place for self-expression: the user profile page. At the very least, the user’s photograph should be displayed on the page.
But also encourage staff to upload their background, links to their personal blogs and/or social networking accounts, and other content that shows their interests — both inside and outside work.
Polls on the intranet homepage or section portal pages are a quick and easy way to get employees’ feedback on anything, from what beverages they prefer in the pantry, to which venue they prefer for the company outing.
3. Status Update
Noodle’s micro-blogging tool or status update application allows users to post about their work. They can also share links to interesting articles, and embed photos and streaming videos.
4. Internal Blogs
Encourage section or personal blogs within the intranet. Blogs are a great medium for self-expression, and allows staff to interact with each other through comments.
Speaking of comments, be open to comments, even those that oppose the author’s point of view. One verbal slap on a comment is enough to scare everybody away from expressing themselves.
Create a media album for staff to share photos they’ve taken, even if these aren’t related to work. Welcome family photos, if your employees are comfortable sharing them. Use themes and memes to encourage participation. For example, in June, invite staff to post pictures of their children who are graduating. Have a summer photo contest.
6. Discussion Forum
A discussion forum is the perfect venue for gathering employees’ suggestions and opinions on various topics. But don’t stop at just collecting them. Acknowledge everybody’s contribution, and act on those that make the best sense.
When staff see that management takes their opinions seriously, they’ll be more likely to express them.
The Role of Intranet Policies
This brings us to the issue of governing the intranet. How much content moderation should you impose? Or should you moderate the content at all, or rely on each user’s accountability for the intranet content they generate? Should political or religious views be allowed or banned altogether?
The answer varies for each organization, but these are questions you need to answer in your company.