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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9 responses to “Corporate Intranets – A Global Disconnect?

  1. Pingback: Corporate Intranets – A Global Disconnect? - International HR Forum - Member Blogs - HR Blogs - HR Space from Personnel Today and Xpert HR

  2. Mariana Costa

    Very interesting Jacque! I would also love to hear from more companies and how they approach this issue.

  3. I agree with your points, Jacque, about the intranet being for all employees, not just HQ. As an intranet strategy consultant, I have seen many intranets that have an HQ focus because they are run by HQ-based teams who, unfortunately, have trouble seeing the intranet from the eyes of the employee who is in a country other than the HY country.
    However, I would add that the home page of the intranet should contain much more than news: e.g. access to team and community spaces, activity streams from discussion forums ad blogs.
    The intranet is becoming the door into people’s “digital workplace” and as such must signal that positioning by having a variety of different types of content on the home page.
    I conduct a yearly Global Intranet Strategies survey. This is the 5th year. The survey, which has been open since the end of June, will be closing September 1st. All participating organizations receive a free copy of “Global Intranet Trends for 2011”, the report that will be published in October and will contain facts, figures and analysis from the survey data. Over 300 organizations worldwide have participated so far.
    Respondents in the HR function are less common than Communication and IT. If readers of your blog are interested in participating, they should get in touch with me.
    Some first findings are published here:
    Intsructions for joining are here:

  4. Pingback: IntranetLounge

  5. Thank you Jane for your comments. I would like to participate in your survey and fnd out about global trends for 2011. You are correct — the design of intranets is usually driven by corporate IT. HR in global companies needs to become more involved to insure that all company locations are represented.

  6. Interesting blog post Jacquelyn. I also agree with your points and think it’s important to make all employees feel that their intranet is relevant to them -regardless of their location or position within a company. An intranet has so much potential to engage employees, so it surprises me every time I come across a global company with a homepage that’s next to static (other than the corporate news that is).

    Having a balanced mix of targeted content, useful work tools (such as HR tools), and the ability to communicate and collaborate should be key to all companies. At my company we focus on creating intranets that make employees feel engaged, gives them a tone of voice, and helps them be more productive. In order to do this, I believe you have to focus on providing relevant targeted content to individuals.

    With regards to making sure that your intranet content is up-to-date and fresh, there are tools which can help you. The intranet software I use, Interact Intranet, prompts you to set a review date and it also has a feedback facility and a rating tool. This means that not only will you be prompted to review your own content on a regular basis, but any employee can also report inaccurate, out-of-date or poor content to the content author in one single click. Having these type of tools can make a vast difference to the success of your intranet.

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Interact Intranet’s positions or opinions.

  7. Very interesting comments Linda. I wonder if you could let me see a demo of how that would work?? Thank you for your comment.

  8. If you really want to engage the employees in a global organisation with the company’s intranet you should provide key users in every location with editor rights by using a distributed authoring framework.

    Local users will engage with the intranet as much as it is a repository of information they need for either perform their work or interact with colleagues (locally and globally).

    Distributed authoring is not a magic bullet and it can lead to a more complex publishing and administration environment but it can address the content issues mentioned in the article and engage employees at a local and global levels.

  9. Yes I expect it will be more complex but it is worth it to have an intranet that’s representative of all employees. It is clear that IT and HR have to work together on this. HR knows what they want the end result to be and IT can make it happen. Thank you Newton.