Recently I’ve been thinking how intranets, ESNs and digital workplaces are used for social good both within the organisations they serve and also through the wider community. Essentially this is done in a variety of ways:
- By creating social connections between employees to support each other and those around them
- By supporting affinity groups which help to drive equality and diversity
- By helping to give all groups within the organisation a voice
- By promoting and supporting employee health and well-being
- By supporting the basic operations of not-for-profit organisations who are making a difference in the world
- By increasing transparency and accountability
- By helping to drive messages about mission and purpose for employees, giving more of a rationale to corporate life
- By helping to reduce environmental impact by increasing use of digital tools and decreasing the need for travel
- By supercharging Corporate Social Responsibility efforts which drive fundraising and volunteering efforts
Why is this important?
In the 2014 Aon Hewitt Engagement Survey “Organisational Reputation” was the third most important factor in employee engagement and the fastest growing area. It’s also more important for millennials than their Gen X or baby boomer counterparts.
Organisational reputation is also very important for public opinion and perception of organisations. For example several issues continue to be of concern to the public including environmental impact, working conditions across the supply chain and corporate tax avoidance. Hopefully public opinion will also turn against organisations who rely on zero hours contracts and not paying interns. Transparency of organisations is also key, as we have seen with FIFA recently.
Come on, do digital workplaces really make that much of a difference?
It’s easy to be cynical and dismiss CSR or employee well-being initiatives as a corporate tick-box exercise, or ESNs being full of meaningless conversations and platitudes. Perhaps that’s the case in some organisations, but actually you usually find the teams and individuals behind them are highly committed to making a real difference.
It’s also worth remembering that some of the benefits of digital channels are intangible and cannot be easily expressed as a value sum or an ROI figure without stretching credibility to breaking point. The social good that intranets contribute is not easy to express in figures, but has much more impact when told as a story.
Making Smiles, Changing Lives
I was lucky enough to be the special guest on this month’s edition of the Digital Workplace Livewebinar talking about this topic. The broadcast also featured a live tour from the excellent “Making Smiles, Changing Lives” CSR initiative from Johnson & Johnson Asia-Pac. The intranet microsite, which supports fundraising and volunteering efforts from employees across the region, has helped children with cleft palates by funding life-changing operations. It’s raised money for nearly 5,000 operations.
It’s impossible to put any ROI on that for Johnson & Johnson, but it’s a powerful example and story of how a digital channel can make a real difference to the outside world. It also drives the type of employee engagement which will be far deeper felt than what can be achieved through more traditional internal communications.
You can read more about the site and also examples from Bajaj Finance, Plan International and Minter Ellison in a blog post I’ve written over at the Step Two blog.