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To deliver a great intranet, intranet teams need to really understand what staff do. One of the best ways to understand the tasks and roles undertaken in an organisation is to conduct one-on-one interviews with a selection of staff. However intranet teams often struggle to find the right people to talk to.
Staff can fit into many different roles:
- front line staff (such as call centre staff, sales and customer service)
- professionals (such as lawyers and auditors)
- specialists (such product experts or researchers)
- staff working on the floor (such as nurses, doctors and factory workers)
- staff working in the field (such as engineers and inspectors)
Deciding what types of staff to interview is the first stage. One approach is to cover a broad cross section of the organisation; the other is to take a deeper investigation into one business area. The number of roles, the locations of staff and whether they work in the ‘field’ or in the ‘office’, are some of the factors to consider. Other considerations include who uses the intranet now, length of service and organisational politics. Once the types of staff are decided, there are both formal and informal ways to find the right individuals to interview in the organisation.
Standard methods for finding staff to interview include:
- Management – going up the management chain and then across the organisation, asking managers to nominate people to be interviewed.
- Staff directory – using the staff directory to identify staff in key roles, departments, or locations and inviting them to be interviewed.
- Volunteers – calling for volunteers via the intranet or other communication methods. Beware that this method may find interviewees who are more interested in the intranet or technology, know more or have more free time than other staff.
- Past contact – finding staff members who may have complained or complemented the intranet in the past. Beware that these people might not be representative of staff as a whole, and not match the roles required.
Informal channels provide an opportunity to make connections with individuals and then ask for recommendations of other staff to interview. Before doing this, intranet teams need to be clear about the types of people they need to interview. Informal contacts can be found through:
- Meeting places – anywhere large groups of staff gather can present an opportunity to recruit participants. Chat to staff and explain the type of staff you are interested in and ask for recommendations. Try the staff canteen or the entrances to major buildings.
- Social groups – one of the easiest ways to connect with a cross section of staff in the organisation is by participating in a social group. Is there a volleyball team, charity committee or social club?
- Connectors – some staff are naturals at knowing most people in an organisation. Work with these people to leverage their networks and identify the correct staff.
- Knock on effect – start by interviewing and then ask for recommendations on who to interview next.
Interviewing staff takes a lot of time and effort, so it is well worth selecting the right staff from the outset. In practice, four or five interviews for each role or area under consideration will identify the majority of issues.
Going beyond the interview
Along with interviews, consider doing some workplace observation for insights into staff work needs. Listening to customers’ calls in the call centre and observing when and where the staff members seek information can be enlightening. Watching staff complete (or fail to complete) tasks on the intranet and investigating the workarounds they have developed for common difficulties can also provide insights on how to improve the intranet.