Trust and Respect: The ingredients for intranet success

William Amurgis

William Amurgis

What message is your intranet sending? That you respect employees, or distrust them? According to William Amurgis, director of global communications for NetJets, successful intranets all have one thing in common: “They respect the employees they serve.” Though Amurgis notes that this respect includes providing a modern intranet design, he emphasizes the importance of interacting with employees in an authentic way and offering credible content, not presenting an intranet that is devoid of anything critical or negative.

In this Q&A, Amurgis shares tips for increasing intranet participation, and provides a preview of his World Conference session, “How to make sure that your intranet delivers results.”


IABC: What are the main reasons employees don’t interact with their company’s intranet?

William Amurgis: Here’s the main reason: Employees won’t interact if they perceive that no one is paying attention to them—or, worse yet, that the only attention they’ll get is in the form of a stern reprimand should they share something deemed inappropriate. If they see only downside, and no upside, why should they bother? You’ll still get participation in such a scenario—but only by the very brave and the very reckless.

To defuse these perceptions, you must prove that you’re paying attention by joining in the conversation, by responding to questions (respectfully, and in a timely manner), by highlighting the most responsible contributions, and by alerting your leaders to the value and insight such interaction brings.

IABC: What factors play a role in employees deciding whether to trust the content on the intranet? What are the red flags that will cause them to tune out?

WA: Trust begins with trust. If you don’t trust your employees, they won’t trust you. That doesn’t mean you should permit anarchy and mayhem; you must establish clear guidelines to steer employee behavior, and then hold accountable those who betray the guidelines (and your trust in them). Begin by trusting everyone, and deal with the outliers who misbehave. Too often, we punish everyone because we fear the outliers.

The easiest way to erode trust is by sidestepping or flaunting the truth. If employees notice that the intranet represents an alternate reality—“where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day”—it loses credibility and becomes irrelevant.

During my presentation at the World Conference, I’ll offer 12 tips for making your intranet worthy of trust.

IABC: Have social media changed the content expectations of employees? If so, how can communicators address those expectations on their intranet?

WA: Consumer technology has forever altered employee expectations. To adapt, communicators must stay abreast of consumer technology trends, and make sure the intranet evolves accordingly.

For example: In their personal lives, employees are accustomed to short bursts of information—text, images and videos—and serve as both media consumers and commentators. We would be wise to make our communications succinct, to use multimedia and to invite reactions.

No longer should we view ourselves as broadcasters. Instead, our role should be to inspire, to initiate conversations and to welcome a kaleidoscope of perspectives.

IABC: Communicators often struggle with low levels of activity on their intranet. Could you offer three tips for increasing participation?

WA: To increase participation on your intranet, I recommend that you:

  • Keep your finger on the pulse of the hot-button issues that most concern your employees, and make sure you cover those prominently.
  • Invite employees to discuss those issues of concern on the intranet, welcoming both agreement and dissent.
  • Recognize and reward those who contribute responsibly.

One way to reward your best contributors is to feature them prominently on the intranet itself, and invite their co-workers to express appreciation for them.

IABC: Do you have examples of successful intranets? Why are they successful?

WA: The most successful intranets differ in many ways since they support organizations with different missions and values, but they all share one important characteristic: They respect the employees they serve.

Respect is expressed in many ways: by offering a clean, modern design; by delivering timely, accurate and relevant information; by inviting and responding to feedback; and by offering convenient, speedy access across multiple devices.

You see, it doesn’t take a pile of money or unlimited resources to have a successful intranet. It takes a desire to understand how your employees work (by listening and observing), and the dedication to ensuring that the intranet helps them work better.