Corporate Intranets – A Global Disconnect?

Jacquelyn Vilet – TriNet

Editor’s NoteWe are pleased to welcome Jacque Vilet as a regular contributor to the International HR Forum. Jacque is a Global HR/Benefits Consultant for TriNet, providing global Human Resources services to SME’s with international operations.  She has over 20 years experience in International Human Resources with both local nationals and expatriates, and has been an expat twice during her career. Jacque holds the Certified Compensation Professional (CCP)  from WorldatWork, the GPHR Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) from the Society of Human Resources Management and  Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) from Human Capital Insitute.

Every company operating on a global basis is interested in having all their employees worldwide identify  with the company  Many companies use an “Intranet” web site for this purpose.  But oftentimes, the design can be flawed, and even lead to disconnects with global employees.  Do you think the design of your intranet makes employees worldwide truly identify with your company?

Let me set the stage:  The intranet affects all employees in all countries, not just the headquarters location.  Close your eyes and try to put yourself in your employees’ shoes.   Next, go to your company’s intranet and see it through their eyes.

If your company is like most, the first screen gives news about the company, usually heavily skewed to the headquarters country.   In addition to corporate news, there is probably information that applies only to the headquarters country, such as:

  • Upcoming events such as parties, sports activities, etc.
  • Discounts for local restaurants or health clubs
  • Recent promotions of headquarters country employees
  • Upcoming public holidays
  • Upcoming “all employee” meetings

Clicking another tab might take you to the Benefits screen where all headquarters country benefits are prominently displayed.   Imagine how much sense these benefits make to your employees in Thailand.   Many times the title on the benefits screen doesn’t even label them as “Headquarters Country Benefits”.   Clicking on another tab, you find Human Resources policies — again, specific to the headquarters country.  In fact, no matter where you look on your company’s intranet, about 95% of what you see is headquarters country information.

Do you think the design of your intranet makes employees worldwide truly identify with your company?  If it is does not, some employees could potentially identify more with what is happening with local companies and eventually resign.

In all of my international travels representing headquarters Human Resources, surprisingly, this has been one of the issues employees have talked to me about most often.   It is irritating to them, and does nothing to make them feel like a part of the company.

The intranet is, after all, meant to share company information with all employees in all countries.  What is supposed to be a positive turns into a negative.   Instead of feeling included as part of the team, they feel excluded.

What can Human Resources people do to correct this situation?  You might want to get a global team together and brainstorm some alternatives.   Here are some best practices to consider:

  • The main screen should be reserved for company news that affects all employees worldwide.
  • Each country or region could have its own screen where local information and events are posted.
  • Technology exists to deploy certain information based on employee credentials (login information), and in multiple languages.
  • Make sure you have a process in place to keep content updated and fresh.  Nobody likes to visit a web page with stale information!

No matter what solution the team members come up with, at the very least they will feel included in helping to solve a company-wide issue and respected for being able to provide input into the recommendation.

I will share one example of a leading French-headquartered technology company.  When an employee logs on to his/her computer in Argentina, for example, the first screen shows information that is specific to Argentina.  There is a screen for each country as well as a screen strictly about corporate news that applies to all employees worldwide.   In this way, employees in each country have news specific to their country as well as corporate news.   They also have tangible evidence that the company believes all employees worldwide are important.   As a result, employees are likely to identify more closely and feel more connected to the company.

How does your company design its intranet?   Is it designed like the company described above?  Or is it heavily skewed towards the headquarters country information?   Please share your company practice with us.   We all learn from each other’s examples.

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