Social governance models to unlock the value of your social intranet

Enterprise social technologies can have a transformative effect on workplace culture but achieving this requires considered planning and strategy. To truly realize the potential value of a social intranet, enterprises must implement a governance model that's tailored to their intranet goals and company values.

Employees discussing ways to increase engagement on their social enterprise intranet

Unlock engagement on your social intranet

Enterprise social networking tools provide a space for open communication, knowledge sharing, and collaborative discussion; bringing the reward of a more connected workforce. But the full value of a social network hinges upon the enthusiastic participation of employees that are comfortable sharing on your platform.

To reap all the benefits requires structured management and governance to drive adoption and keep conversations on track. A lack of management puts the success of your entire platform at risk, as poor governance repeatedly cited as the top reason social intranets fail.

Social networking tools are designed to overcome communication barriers like location, business silos, and language, so applying rules and policies to this may at first seem counter-intuitive. However, without any governance in place, the potential value of a social intranet can be entirely lost.

Intranet governance basics

Social intranets have become a staple in the digital workplace due to the success of social features at promoting engagement, networking, and information exchange. However, unlocking the value of social requires effective management, which means bringing the right leadership and guidance to your platform is crucial. You can’t expect a social intranet to flourish without governance, but what models prove most effective?

The objective of governing social is to define a common purpose and set of goals that guide users to leverage features for positive business outcomes and achieve up to 25% boosts to productivity. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to social governance that guarantees success. Every governance framework needs tailoring to reflect the needs of your organization and the goals of your digital workplace.

It can be challenging to know where to start when it comes to planning your governance model, so below are some guidelines, policies, and tips on the basics that your governance should cover that will help you derive the most value from a social intranet.

#1. Assign roles, set permissions, and provide training and guidelines 

Setting user permissions and assigning roles, for instance, appointing an individual that understands the finer points of your social intranet as an administrator, defines who can make changes to your platform and its content. Social features are intuitive and familiar by design, but providing training and guidelines is still necessary to show users how to get the most out of social.

#2. Outline a clear strategy

Users benefit from a clearly laid out plan defining the fundamental purpose of your social platform, how it should be used, and the direction it takes. Is your platform primarily for collaboration? Or for engagement? Should users bring personality and a sense of humor, or remain professional? Guidelines specifying the best practice and processes colleagues should follow to use, edit, and contribute to your platform will demonstrate optimal use of your platform.

Defining a clear governance strategy

#3. Make your platform inclusive to everyone

One obvious step that drives the adoption of social tools is to make it inclusive to everyone. This may sound like common sense, but giving everyone access to social tools might mean ensuring your platform is accessible via mobile. It might mean thinking of ways to prompt mobile staff to interact on mobile using visual prompts in the absence of a mandatory desktop homepage. Giving every staff member access to internal social media tools gives everyone the chance to get involved with the conversation.

#4. Develop a content strategy

Meaningful content should be visible so that employees can readily find and access it, while outdated and irrelevant content should be sorted to keep it from congesting your platform. Assigning content tags and roles to keep constant tabs on your content is another crucial aspect of social governance.

#5. Allow your community to moderate itself

There will be times when you need to intervene to keep your social on track, but if you can demonstrate the principles of your social governance to employees, they will start to take moderation into their own hands. The more you can trust your community to self-regulate, the more everyone stands to gain.

3 social governance models to transform engagement on your social intranet

Disengaged employees cost businesses in the US alone $450-500 billion each year.

A social platform that engages employees and improves productivity is a win-win for your enterprise, but giving employees the space to connect and collaborate doesn’t necessarily mean they will use it to its full potential. To have a thriving, engaged community, you need to establish an environment conducive to high levels of interaction, communication, and collaboration.

Creating this environment requires having the proper governance in place to support changes to the way people communicate and work. Unfortunately, not enough organizations map out a clearly defined model for social governance.

An internal social network without governance is like leading a debate with no topic; eventually, it’s going to lead to a lot of people saying a lot of things with very little focus or cohesion. Or, conversely, an overbearing governance structure may lead to very little discussion at all.

Are you struggling to work out where to start when it comes to your social governance? Governance of an intranet can be categorized into three distinct approaches, which you can take inspiration from to inform your governance strategy.

#1. Collaborative ownership

Everyone who participates on your social intranet has a stake in its success and the direction it takes. Treating your employee community as stakeholders ensures that decisions about the acceptance and usage of the platform reflect the opinions of your community.

A collaborative model of social governance shares the ownership of your platform. This type of approach can involve forming a dedicated management team from across your enterprise or allowing each department to take ownership of their dedicated channels of your social intranet.

One of the key disadvantages of a collaborative model is that it can lead to a type of ‘Frankenstein’ social intranet, where everyone pulls the platform in different directions to suit their needs. The lack of one clear vision for social can overstretch your platform and create a divergence between how departments and business units use features.

Collaborative governance’s goal is to spread ownership across your community of stakeholders who can govern and control together. Democratizing the responsibilities of social governance encourages adoption and engagement by bringing everyone together, leading to a more active and engaged community. The more you share this responsibility among your employees, the easier the platform is to govern, and thus the more effective it becomes as a productivity tool.

Collaborative social governance

#2. Centralized ownership

A centralized model of social governance places the responsibility of managing your platform with one governing body or department. Ownership and authority are handed over to administrators, allowing your platform to follow one clear vision for best practice. The advantages of centralized ownership predicate upon strong leadership, so appointing individuals that can represent the needs of all departments and facets of your business is vital.

Centralized governance comes with the most potential for problems to arise, however. Centralized social governance can form a bottleneck, as siloing the responsibility of management can limit the freedom of users. The value of social is best realized when employees feel as though they have agency and a voice on your platform. With one vision for social leading the way, your platform can become a highly regulated and controlled environment, which can stifle the creativity and innovation social features seek to encourage.

Offering a clear structure of ownership and management, but at the potential cost of user freedom and engagement, centralized ownership is arguably the highest risk approach to intranet governance.

#3. Decentralized ownership

There is no clear ownership when governance is decentralized; everyone is given free rein to act as they wish.

One of the key benefits of this approach is that it gives employees the freedom and confidence to communicate and collaborate openly to take full advantage of the benefits of a social platform. This freedom can create and an excellent platform for sourcing employee feedback, where comment boxes and surveys become valuable tools for identifying issues occurring within your community, which in-turn makes governance easier moving forward.

Letting your social play out without interference can lead to a thriving social platform, but it does risk things getting out of hand. With no governance and management in place, the conversations taking place across your intranet may devolve into a platform that benefits no-one.

A decentralized social governance model is a fine line to walk. Done right, it can lead to free and open collaboration. Done wrong, it can completely negate the value of a social intranet.

Don’t know where to start with your social intranet strategy?

Does creating your own social governance model seem a daunting task? Let our intranet experts help. Discover how to maximize engagement on your social intranet, get in touch today.

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