HR Answers: How Credit Unions Can Use Intranets to Improve Employee Engagement

Businessman uses tablet to share information with employees digitally via intranet
By Yaroslav Pentsarskyy

5 minutes

Design your internal communication and resources around these four employee needs.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit businesses in March, we watched how our customer’s employees flocked to their company intranets for information. Intranet visits spiked, with up to 100% of employees checking company intranet sites daily. This trend has continued throughout the summer and into the fall with many of us working remotely.

We surveyed employees in these organizations to measure how easy it is to find the information they were looking for on their intranet. Only 44% of employees, on average, are successful; the other 56% fail.

What Happens When Employees Can’t Find Work Resources

Employees often become frustrated and take longer to get their work done when they’re unable to quickly locate resources. They’re drowning in their email, which makes it easy to become out of touch with the latest changes—they’re overwhelmed with messages from leaders and colleagues while being, for the most part, isolated. At the end of the day, many feel drained. The cycle repeats as the pandemic stretches on, resulting in the accumulation of distractions and errors.

In further talks with the executives of these organizations, I found many used an intranet designed a long while ago. Much of the content was added on a hunch, not careful planning, meaning employee needs were not always carefully represented, leading to hit-and-miss results.

The hit-and-miss results can be tolerated for some time—unless, of course, a crisis, whether organizational or more widespread, starts to show the flaws. One executive said, “Microsoft Teams [chat] is carrying us through, for the most part.” But constant messages can be a major distraction.

I’m not here to repeat the obvious. Instead, I’ll focus on how you can take some practical and proven steps today that helped others in the financial services industry to improve their intranets.

What Employees Need

Based on the latest research into employee psychology, employee needs around communication and information fall into the following four categories (in order of importance to employees):

  1. The Basics: We first care about things that affect us directly, such as the pysical safety of our work and job security.
  2. The Immediate Environment: Next, once we feel safe about the basics, we show curiosity in the environment and people around us, which also assures us of safety.
  3. The Skills and Capabilities: When we have the lay of the land, we start to benchmark our capabilities and try to improve our skills and expertise.
  4. Engagement: Finally, and only when we’re comfortable and secure in our abilities, we express interest in engaging and sharing with others (and the organization as a whole).

Out of all of the financial services organizations I’ve spoken to, this research is the least surprising to credit unions. One of the main reasons why credit unions champion member service and success is because of a genuine desire to listen to members’ needs, and carefully design services to meet those needs. In my view, it’s in the credit union DNA to listen to the needs of others, so responding to employee needs is only natural.

Key Ingredients to a Successful Intranet

Let’s review an example of what a credit union intranet should provide when tailored to employee needs.

  1. The Basics:
  • links to internal online applications and reports needed to get work done, personalized by employee role
  • essential tools (VPN, helpdesk)
  • staff directory
  • urgent alerts (e.g., outages)
  1. The Immediate Environment:
  • department news and updates
  • organization news
  • any upcoming changes, such as a new policy in effect, the upcoming rollout of new systems or retirement/replacement of old software, the availability of new employee benefits, work schedule updates, etc.
  • key new hires (including their role and impact to the organization)—employees are interested in how new hires impact their work
  1. The Skills and Capabilities:
  • personalized and general stats and metrics, such as tracking progress toward an organization-wide goal to increase membership in a key market or demographic
  • opinion polls relevant to what’s happening at the credit union
  • quizzes and surveys to help measure our capabilities
  • industry news and mentions and competition news to help employees benchmark their industry knowledge and relevance of skills
  1. Engagement:
  • employee success stories and other “people news”
  • recognitions and shout-outs to employees
  • space for employees to post or submit ideas for improvements or new projects
  • space for employees to organize and post events (e.g., volunteer opportunities, mentorship, virtual classes)

When your intranet pages, especially the home page, are designed to respond to employee needs, your employees will find them more useful and likely increase their visits—and ultimately, engagement.

What About the Costs?

Just two weeks ago, I spoke to an executive of one of the largest credit unions in Canada. She told me that she found herself nodding in agreement with most of the points above, but right now, with all of the uncertainty about the pandemic and economy, the idea of replacing the credit union’s intranet sounded a bit daunting.

Crises have always pushed us to innovate, and improving doesn’t always mean starting from scratch. Many of our customers don’t start by hiring developers. They start with a pre-built intranet template, and we help them tailor it to their needs. They often begin with redesigning a part of the intranet, such as the HR site. Then, this redesigned intranet page or section is piloted on a smaller scale before going company-wide.

In our intranet usage analysis, we consistently measure that improving intranet design using the principles above can increase adoption by 70% and reduce your in-house or consulting support spending by 2.5 FTEs, on average. With this outcome, executives can reallocate those resources to projects that provide members with better value and service, ultimately making your credit union a more competitive and innovative organization.

Special thanks for review and comments to Heather Harmse of $18 billion Vancity Credit Union, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is a digital workplace advisor at Origami Intranet, Vancouver, British Columbia, where he helps businesses keep their staff connected and thriving. He has also been awarded as Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for 8 years in a row and has authored and published 4 intranet books. Yaroslav is also a frequent presenter at industry conferences and events, such as the Microsoft SharePoint Conference and Microsoft Ignite.

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