Resolutions: Tame Your Inbox

Resolutions: Tame Your Inbox

Forty percent of executives say they spend between half a day and one full day every week managing communication that has no value.

The reduction in workforce productivity caused by email and information overload has become a well-documented fact at many organizations. When it comes to the sheer number and quality of emails sent and received, the cost to employee productivity and engagement can be staggering, including an inability to make decisions, process information and prioritize tasks.

In 2017, tame your inbox, so you can spend more time being productive and building the relationships that really matter. Here are six tips to help you:

5 Keys to Successful Portal Development

5 Keys to Successful Portal Development

intranetforum-updated-11-6-16There’s a lot of confusion between the terms digital workplace, intranets, portals and hubs. To me, they all describe the same thing – a collection of digital tools, and/or a common digital space, that helps employees stay focused and on top of relevant information, provides access to the work tools that keep them efficient and which also connects them to the colleagues they need to interact with, no matter if they are around the corner or around the world.

Here are the five keys for a successful hub or portal:

  1. Strategy: The most successful hubs have a strategy – a reason for being – that matches business objectives. Without a clear, workable strategy your hub will quickly dissolve into chaos. It needs that business reason for being which will keep the site on point.
  1. Collaboration: This is where a true digital workplace comes into play. Your hub needs useful tools and designated space for online collaboration. This space is where teams will do their work and where innovation and knowledge transfer will take place. What kind of tools? Which types of space? Your strategy – and your audiences – will tell you that. But you have to ask, and listen.
  1. Governance: We’re often asked who should “own” the intranet? The answer is: Everyone and No One. Intranets work best when they have clear and simple policies. Good governance means active representation from all functional groups, most especially Communications, Human Resources and IT. And yet Everyone must have a stake in contributing and maintaining the content, or No One’s needs will be filled. Effective hubs are not a service provided to your employees, they’re a healthy collaboration and mix of relevant content and open space to create.
  1. Relevance: Content is still king. If you can’t provide relevant, compelling content that meets your users’ needs, your hub is already dead. Spend time thinking through what content and tools employees need to be effective, and continue to be interested, and then organize the hub so they can find them. And assemble cross-functional teams to keep it going.
  1. Customization: Or What’s in It for Me (WIFM). The ability to customize a portion of a common corporate homepage leads to better and more frequent usage of a hub. Set aside room for a user’s local and/or business unit news, and allow users to choose links for the homepage to the tools and resources they use most often. It’s their hub too; let them mold it to their own hands.
A final word – on mobile apps. Mobile apps are the new buzz word. Everyone wants one because our smart phones let us choose our own apps and so, hey, why can’t we have fun apps like that at work? When looking at mobile app development, you want to be sure that: (a) the app meets a business need; (b) it links back to your intranet or hub, (c) it’s extremely easy to use, (d) you have tested it with a pilot user audience before launch. Mobile apps work best when they are highly focused and do no more than three things. For example, an HR app might provide 1. paystub information, 2. a link to job openings and 3. enable benefits enrollment. A retail manager app might provide a dashboard that tracks three key items and/or compares that store’s metrics to other stores in the region.

These are just the top notes. How you use your portal, your hub, or what you design a mobile app to do, depends on the make-up, the business needs and usage of your audience. That can be a daunting task. You don’t have to go it alone.  Consider partnering with us here at OTSP.  We have the experience, we have the skilled technical partners, we can help you benchmark with others, and we will be beside you as you navigate through the process, from strategy to development to launch. You can reach me via email at:

Building Effective Virtual Communities

Raise your virtual hands if you remember The Cluetrain Manifesto. I met the Manifesto 15 years ago, at an internal communications conference. The book had just been published, and it hooked me with the opening line—“A powerful global conversation has begun.” It also served a heads-up: my job was changing.

I was part of a team turning our company’s database-posing-as-an-intranet into the interactive community our Fortune 500 organization needed. We had big plans but no blueprint. The Manifesto made that more than OK. Its foreword told of, “a world of new online communities; of self-organizing corporate employees; of … ‘open source’ movements that seem to erupt from thin air.”

Today, building virtual communities is a skill every internal communicator must master. Earlier this year, Shel Holtz noted that, “Increasingly, employee communicators are as concerned with facilitating communication among employees as they are in crafting communication to them.” Virtual communities help us connect employees in different business units, geographic locations, and time zones.

Now that creating and nurturing communities is a part of our job description, and we’re 15 years into our mission, what’s working?  Here are five attributes successful communities seem to have in common, along with tips to build them into your internal community.

1. They launch with the right participants—and build from there. 

Successful communities often have a core group of participants who are knowledgeable about the subject matter and passionate about feeding the community with fresh conversations, provocative questions, and new connections. Tip: Identify and cultivate a strong core group. 

2. They ensure participants get something they can’t get elsewhere.

In a corporate environment, this equates to advance news, a preview of a system or process, or access people, such as leaders or industry experts. Tip: Scan corporate calendars, meeting agendas, and project plans for ideas.

3. They help participants give something, too.

People like sharing knowledge and news, but sometimes they need encouraging. Tip: Ask questions, conduct polls, request updates. For a conference call or web meeting, assign responsibility for part of the agenda. DO conduct a regular survey of participants; DON’T forget to close the feedback loop. 

4. They’re focused, but not rigid. 

Successful communities are clear at the outset about the intent, and they share the intent with participants. Is the goal to help participants improve their work? Share information and ideas? The former is called a community of practice; the latter a community of interest. Is the goal to solve a problem or complete a project? There’s a name for that, too: community of purpose. Tip: Define some lines. It’s OK if they get blurry or messy—just keep them in sight.

5. They’re easy to access. 

Make the community easy to find, link to, or log into. Tip: Place login codes in multiple places (e.g., both the calendar entry and a separate email). If it’s live web meeting, send the links ahead of time so that people can test their systems if needed.

You’re part of a community of communicators—please contribute to this list!