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At the heart of building a great global intranet is getting the right balance between global and local content. How do you mix corporate content from the central organisation with local information relating to different countries, locations, divisions and functions? How do you deliver an experience which feels relevant to each individual employee, regardless of where they are located in the organisation?
There is an inevitable tension between delivering content which meets the wider communication goals of the company, often focused on driving a “one company culture”, and delivering local, useful content which will resonate strongly with a location-specific audience and is used in employees’ daily work.
The starting point for a successful global intranet is assembling the right team. Global intranet projects must have team members who come from across the globe. Having this group in place means your intranet design and related content strategy is far more likely to:
- align with the needs of users from different countries and regions
- be inclusive and reflect the diversity of your workforce
- be sustainable once it’s launched, with content coming from different countries and locations.
On global intranet projects, a number of different approaches and tactics are commonly deployed to get the “global-local” balance right and deliver an excellent experience for each employee. Here are some of the approaches we’ve observed.
1. Mix global and local news seamlessly
Many global intranets successfully use personalisation to deliver both global and local news seamlessly to an individual user. What content gets shown is based on each user’s profile.
If each user’s profile information (for example contained in Active Directory and fed from the HR system) records their location, country and business division or function, then it should be possible to target news (and related content like events and links) to them.
For example, Swedish multinational construction company Skanska delivers a stream of news to users on the intranet homepage based on their profile, with an option to filter by country, unit, location or by global news. This helps deliver a more relevant user experience.
2. Deliver operational content to the right location
As well as news, users in specific locations or divisions will also have operational information which they need to regularly access and which is only relevant to them. This is particularly true of HR information, where arrangements and systems used may differ from country to country or division to division.
Macquarie Group is a global financial services company headquartered in Australia. In order to deliver a global intranet with a single navigation but showing location-specific operational content, the team developed a framework in which global and specific operational content relating to a country, and even a location, can appear together within the same page on different topics. Therefore any employee navigating to the page “annual leave” will have information relating to the global and local position.
3. Allow users to change preferences
While delivering default news and content targeted to an individual’s location based on the default location in their user profile will be the norm, there will be some users who may need to adjust their default settings. For example, they may move between offices or want to search for relevant information relevant to another location.
Global pharmaceutical firm GSK allows users of their “Today” intranet to adjust settings so their news feed reflects a different location and business unit. Employees can also change their default language.
4. Use multiple languages
For some global workforces it will be necessary to provide different content in multiple languages, either with translated content or specific content in particular languages. Different organisations will take a different view depending on the composition of their workforce and how much they encourage the use of an “official” corporate language.
A good example of providing content in different languages is Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), which has recently merged to become part of Coca-Cola European Partners. In 2013, as CCE, the company launched an excellent mobile intranet with news available in a number of different languages. Translated global news was made available along with local news in the appropriate language. Employees could also easily switch between languages.
5. Deliver content about different locations
Global organisations are vibrant and diverse organisations. Global content should also reflect the diversity of the workforce and activities across different regions, countries and markets.
Featuring a range of content about different countries can help employees stay informed about what is happening across a global network, and encourage employees in different locations to work together more closely and feel part of a global company.
For example, HEINEKEN’s Green Room established a communications portal aimed at employees (but with some content also accessible to the public) which covered different stories from across the globe. It also contained facts and figures about every market HEINEKEN operates in.
6. Consider the needs of a global audience
A global audience may have particular needs for information and tools, especially if they are working across different locations or closely with international colleagues. Providing relevant content and apps can make your intranet more relevant and useful for a global audience.
For example, Spanish energy company Repsol arranged for a variety of tools and apps to be readily available from the intranet header. These included a foreign currency calculator, a translator, exchange rates, time zones, maps and more.
It’s about balance
Achieving success with a global intranet is about getting a good balance between content which meets global needs and content aimed at local needs.
Many of the examples featured in this article show approaches and tactics commonly deployed by global intranet teams. Some of these can be challenging to get right – for example, multi-language intranets are not easy to implement. But if you start to execute some of these on your intranet, you’ll be well on the way to building an intranet that is truly relevant to a global workforce.