SharePoint Intranet. Enabling staff engagement in a crisis

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By Neil Wells-West on

SharePoint Intranet. How it enables staff engagement in a crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant disruption to our daily working practices and therefore has the potential to cause major employee disengagement as a result. Some of the key areas where organisations will want to ensure their employees remain engaged at this time will include safety of their staff, following any emergency procedures, ensuring dissemination of important information and co-ordination of any relevant response actions. Ensuring you have the right tools available is of paramount importance and therefore a SharePoint Intranet can provide a critical tool in support of these efforts.

Image: SharePoint Intranet Contoso travel screens

Why SharePoint Intranet?

A SharePoint Intranet is the ideal place to provide a central information point for staff to use on a day-to-day basis, particularly when getting information flowing is a critical to the operation of the business. It makes sense that any previous investment in SharePoint should start to deliver benefits.

Positioned and promoted correctly, a SharePoint intranet can provide a rich, powerful and engaging platform to support your organisation through the crisis and beyond. You may have already implemented SharePoint within your organisation for your intranet or maybe you are just considering what options may be available to help with providing an effective internal communications solution during the current crisis.

Either way it’s worth spending a few minutes looking at how the different features and functionality of a SharePoint intranet can be leveraged to meet your needs.

Image: SharePoint Intranet Employee Engagement Image

SharePoint Intranet: 5 key areas to focus on

The following sections outline 5 key areas where a SharePoint Intranet can help with employee engagement:

#1: Provide access to critical information such as policies, procedures or documentation

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A SharePoint intranet should be positioned as a centralised repository for essential information.

Using the dynamic and rich interface provided by SharePoint communications sites, integrated with selected SharePoint document libraries can enable you to provide simple, easily searchable and centralised access to critical information your staff may need. This could include anything from fire and emergency evacuation procedures to your enforced home working processes.There are also some scenarios that may require the management team to easily determine the locations and statuses of key staff; ensuring you have procedures for remote workers or those travelling for business that are available to update managers regarding their whereabouts will ensure they can be reached.

Unlike more traditional intranets or document management systems, a SharePoint intranet can improve the process of crisis policy management by using native capabilities and features including tagging or keywords to ensure the required information is found efficiently in an emergency. In some situations, SharePoint can be setup to ensure staff confirm read and receipt of critical information in order to support compliance and to make every effort to ensure staff have read what you need them to.

Additionally, by assigning ownership, review and expiry dates for related content pages (such as policies or procedures), you can keep tabs on any crisis management protocols and avoid them becoming redundant or out of date (or worse, a risk for both staff and managers).

#2: Review, evaluate, and reinforce staff knowledge

One of the biggest issues faced by many HR or internal communications teams when it comes to policies and procedures (no matter how nicely formatted or simple they are), they are often difficult to take in and properly understand.

Ensuring these key documents are properly digested and understood by staff is a challenge, however it is a necessary one. Most organisations require new members of staff to read policy overviews as part of their on-boarding process and then expect them to recall the details of those policies months (or even years) later. The chances are that they will have forgotten the all-important specifics that will safeguard them and your organisation before and during a crisis.

Including regular touch-points and checking staff knowledge at regular intervals can help to reinforce key policy details and keep them prescient. One of the key ways to achieve this is by using quizzes and polls to check knowledge retention (as it relates to various key policies) on a SharePoint intranet. This can be done in a number of ways including embedding a survey into the intranet using Microsoft Forms. A clever way to increase engagement in this way could be to add an element of gamification such as a ‘multiple choice question of the day’ poll published on the homepage, or perhaps display a ‘leader board’ list of the ‘policy heroes’ to provide an element of competitiveness.

Image: MSFT Forms survey screen shot

#3: Form a crisis champions group

Image: IT Support champions network

For larger organisations having clear direction in a crisis can be difficult. Whilst the senior management team will undoubtedly be leading from the front in terms of giving overall direction, there will almost always be a subset of staff providing support from the back office.

Forming a dedicated Crisis Champions Group or even creating a specific area for related content on your SharePoint intranet can provide a number of specific benefits as follows:

• A central area for the group to coordinate information and efforts
• A way to brainstorm potential crisis scenarios
• A place for employees to ask questions.

Also, using forums will enable you to tap into front-line knowledge of staff in order to identify risks, vulnerabilities, or potential emergency situations, helping to minimise or even mitigate these events.In a crisis situation, staff at ground level can identify and find those responsible quickly and effectively and escalate issues to the right individuals.

Another suggestion is to consider expanding staff profiles to include the field ‘Crisis Champion’ as a specific additional field. This can then be searched quickly from your Staff Directory. An example would be as follows:

• A member of staff working in a logistics role who arrives for the day only to find a huge water leak in the warehouse can quickly search from within the SharePoint intranet app for their nearest Crisis Champion.
• The Crisis Champion would have the knowledge and permissions to initiate communication and safety procedures accordingly. Unlike the normal escalation from line manager to area manager to health and safety official, this cuts to the chase – saving valuable time when it matters.

#4: Staff alerts

Image: SharePoint Intranet Single message multiple channels graphic
One of the most powerful and useful mechanisms in a crisis or emergency is the ability distribute high priority, real-time information across multiple key channels or platforms in order to alert staff of any emerging situations, updates to safety guidelines and to provide any critical information as necessary.

Key staff can create the alerts (e.g. messages) within the SharePoint Intranet and Microsoft Power Automate (part of Office 365) can be leveraged to create ‘Flows’ that broadcast the information to staff via SMS, mobile app notification, email etc. Broadcasts can provide an efficient, easy-to-use and centralised large-scale crisis alert system at critical times. Providing the ability to push notifications across multiple devices and multiple locations (in the case of a serious incident or emergency situation) when the distribution of critical information in a time-sensitive way is crucial.

By creating a single message that can be distributed simultaneously across multiple channels to hundreds or even thousands of employees, you save critical time and ensure speed of communication – as well as consistency of message, a risk often seen with management escalations
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For remote field workers or those staff who are generally harder to reach, the ability to send a text message to their personal devices or use to use a push notification can prove vital: 90% of SMS messages are read within three minutes, and this hugely reduces the potential for missed information created by email alone.

#5: Provide shorter, frequent updates using timelines and @mentioning

When a crisis occurs, we rarely have all the required information to hand; issues and situations often develop and evolve very quickly.
Because of this, it’s important to try and ensure key staff are able to receive urgent information in real time and any alerts that contain quick links to further required information.
One of the best ways to achieve this in real time is using @mentioning by individual, team, or location – or by linking to the relevant policies, pages, or content areas on your SharePoint intranet.

Using Microsoft teams in conjunction with your SharePoint intranet provides a rich, dynamic and intuitive way to bring other members of staff in to conversations and with notification settings, those staff will receive alerts via email and push notification to keep them informed.

How can we help?

Silversands is a Microsoft Gold Partner of over 30 years standing,  which specialises in Microsoft 365 delivered across cloud (Azure) and hybrid IT infrastructures. We provide consultancy, support and user adoption services. The Covid-19 virus will make organisations seriously re-assess their business continuity plans and we are running a series of webinars over the next few months that will be relevant to your organisation.However, in the short-term your priority is more likely to be support to back up your IT team.

IT Support – Silversands provides pre-paid support which covers a wide range of needs including:

• Remote IT cover
• IT service desk calls / escalation
• End user support calls
• Setting up VPNs on firewalls
• Windows Virtual Desktop
• Microsoft Teams deployments
• Intune / BYOD management
• General Microsoft 365 advice & guidance

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