The significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt in all corners of the world.
As the crisis unfolds, confusion and uncertainty grow. Organisations continually shift gears to minimise disruptions to businesses.
Most, if not all your employees, are likely working from home as a preventative measure to stop the spread of COVID-19.
And amidst the chaos, the employee experience often suffers.
Mckinsey defines the employee experience(ex) as “companies and their people working together to create personalised, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance.”
This is challenging when there is a heavy reliance on email to communicate with and provide information to employees becomes commonplace.
Vital pieces of information are likely to fall through the cracks or get buried in an overflowing inbox.
Remote workers are most likely to also encounter inefficient processes and inaccessible systems, as well as the lack of transparent information and communication. Soon, these employees become frustrated, disengaged and disenfranchised with your organisation.
A better way to support an evolving workforce is through the company intranet, helping to replicate the culture, values, processes and activities of a physical environment. Equipped with the tools and resources needed, employees can perform their daily tasks from any location, while staying connected to colleagues, other teams and the organisation.
Here are 7 important ways an intranet can help your business to deliver a great employee experience during a crisis.
1. A Single Source of Truth
What do I do if I contract the virus? What are the new procedures for customers and to our business? What are the organisation approved tools for working from home? How will meetings proceed moving forward? Are there new regulatory and compliance requirements for our business? What are the new tech support and troubleshooting processes? What are the new security and privacy practices? What are the organisational priorities moving forward? The barrage of incoming questions is endless.
Not only do employees need information relating to their jobs, customers, the organisation and the wider community – the answers will likely be changing at a rapid pace.
Turning your intranet into the ‘source of truth’ for all communications and information can save your employees a lot of unnecessary stress and headaches.
All Internal communications across various channels can be directed to a section or page on the intranet, if employees require more information.
Related reading: [Blog Post] Is Your Intranet Driving Internal Communications?
2. Automate Manual Processes
Managing paper-based forms - having them filled in, scanned, captured in systems, approved and processed – multiplied by tens or thousands of forms - is a tedious administrative strain. Sprinkle in a remote workforce and it can become a headache to manage in a timely manner, leaving employees, managers and administrative staff feeling frustrated. Top it off with a crisis, and new forms and updated versions of existing forms, and it becomes a nightmare to manage.
Forms and workflows can also be automated to significantly impact operational efficiency. Data from forms filled in by employees can be captured electronically, without the need for administration staff to get involved.
A smart intranet will have a point and click form creator tool with the ability to drag and drop default and custom created fields into forms; allowing staff to quickly create and publish forms without technical input. And with that, the need to print documents out no longer exists, providing the added benefit of reducing your organisation’s paper waste and lessening its environmental impact.
Adding a workflow component then allows users to design and implement complex approval processes, sending form responses onto different paths for different users to approve based on form answers, or the profile of the user who submitted the response. These intuitive workflows can skip steps, reassign the approver or terminate early.
No matter if employees need to fill in sick leave, carers leave, annual leave, professional training requests, online event registrations, incident reports or other information – online forms and workflows ensures everything is done in an efficient and timely manner, saving countless hours for all employees.
Related reading: [Blog post] The Power of Online Forms & Workflows
3. Crisis Resources for Employees
Organisations servicing the B2B sector, who have businesses who rely on their products and services to support their own workforce, need to communicate their business continuity plans and provide organisational updates to clients.
On the flipside, organisations servicing the B2C sector, need to alleviate the concerns of customers who rely on their products and services in their daily lives, particularly if there is disruption to supplies and availability.
Arm your employees with the right information and ensure it aligns with what your organisation wants to be communicated, preventing or at least reducing the risk of inaccurate information being served to customers and the public. Remember, the same customer or client may be in contact with multiple employees, and a great way to provide a great customer service among the chaos, is to provide consistent and accurate information.
And with the rise of social networking sites, it’s not just employees and teams who are in direct contact with customers that will benefit from this information.
Most employees have their own social networking profiles across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other online channels. They can be empowered to spread positive news and offer reassurances to the public.
Create a resource hub on your intranet with FAQs, prepared statements, quotes and bitesize pieces of content. This can be in the form of text, images, video or other collateral.
Related reading: [Blog post] How to Prepare Your Employees for Employee Experience Changes
4. Instant and Timely Alerts
Not all information is equally as important.
As the crisis unfolds, information will constantly be changing. Information about employees, customers, the organisation and the wider community – and employees need to stay on top of this.
The ‘alert’ feature on an intranet enables crisis communications to be shared instantly. This enables a bar to appear at the top of the homepage, to be displayed prominently, to ensure it is seen by all users.
Call-to-actions can be placed on all alerts, often links to provide employees with more information.
You can ask employees to acknowledge they have read a message, which means you can be certain they are safe and accounted for.
Administrators can also see whether these alerts have been viewed, clicked on and read.
5. Consistent and Transparent Communication
News is constantly changing.
In these times of uncertainty and chaos, employees need both clarity and direction, to alleviate their concerns and align their expectations with that of the organisations.
Your organisation should be communicating early and often, and with links to additional resources where appropriate.
Intranets offer employees a dedicated newsroom with articles that can be categorised as needed to promote discoverability to the right people.
New virus outbreak in one location? Change in product focus for a region? New processes in place for a department? News articles can be delivered to one or more groups of users to refrain from overwhelming employees with unrelated news.
Better yet, this is a great way to highlight the positive stories about your organisation, product and people and teams, to cultivate a positive culture.
News can be added directly onto the intranet or pulled from a third-party news source.
This makes it easy to showcase articles about your organisation mentioned in the media or to follow the outbreak updates from a trusted news source.
6. Ongoing Support from Leadership
An organisation is only as strong as its management team.
Their behaviour, attitudes and direction directly affect the employee experience.
If management is seen to be abandoning ship (and employees) during the crisis, it can cause damage long after the organisations goes back to business as usual. Studies show that transparency is the number one factor in employee happiness.
Transparency and communication, two key elements of a thriving digital workforce. Encourage your leadership team to reassure employees, acknowledging and where possible, providing solutions to their key concerns.
Discuss news relating to the crisis, as well as updated goals, visions, product offerings, market news, clients, workers, successes and failures via news articles, blog posts, social updates and newsletter features.
Choose a system with multi-media support for video and gif sharing to break up the text and improve engagement.
Related reading: [Blog post] The Rise of Social Feeds
7. Digitally Connecting Employees
While a large part of creating a great employee experience comes from the actions of the organisation, the other key component is the actions of the other employees.
A crisis can bring out the worst in people (panic-buying by healthy individuals preventing supplies for the most vulnerable in our society), but it can also bring out the best in people.
Chances are, you have employees who want to help those who have been greatly affected by the crisis - whether that be other employees, customers or the general public.
Create a dedicated area on your intranet where employees can easily connect with and offer assistance to one another. Have a large and geographically dispersed workforce? Create separate hubs and/or use security groups to show and hide appropriate content to different employees.
This can include anything from a 'classifieds' posting where people can offer to do grocery runs for other employees who are in quarantine, ask if fellow employees take care of their pets while they in turn, take care of a loved one, and so on.
It can also be a place to promote and assemble volunteers to assist customers or the public in a support or relief initiative, such as a fundraiser.
As information comes from different departments, having an intranet that is easy to update, and one which different departments can manage their own sections, makes it much faster to disseminate important information. Comms teams can provide updated information about what to communicate to customers. IT teams can provide information about VPNs required to access shared company drives from home. HR teams can provide updated policies around working from home. Product teams can provide information about changes to products and services. All of this in an accessible, easy to use, information and communication hub.
Most importantly, it helps you deliver a great employee experience in the face of an unfolding crisis, at a time when most employees are anxious and uncertain of the future.
Remember, these are the very same people that will help your business thrive during and well beyond COVID-19, so treat them well and give them the tools, resources and respect they need from your organisation.
Great Workplaces are Built on Great Employee Experiences
Whether your employees need to work from home, in regional offices, remote facilities or on the frontline directly with customers, we recommend you
join us for our upcoming webinar, as we explore how you can foster confidence and engagement in your workforce. You'll walk away with actionable steps to support your distributed workforce in a more meaningful and impactful way.