Providing Good Policy Guardrails for Employee Intranet Users

Providing Good Policy Guardrails for Employee Intranet Users

“We just make everything a policy,” said a conference attendee at last week’s IABC Southern Region Conference in Austin in reference to their intranet governance.

I asked how they enforce those policies. She shook her head. “We really don’t.”

Part of the reason why governance doesn’t work is because users often don’t understand it. They don’t know what they can and cannot, should and should not do in the context of the employer’s digital workplace. We don’t help when we confuse can’t with shouldn’t.

Making the Guardrails Simple

Start by clearly defining your governance materials:

  • Policy: Things I must do; if I fail to follow the policy, I could get fired
  • Code of conduct: How I’m supposed to behave to keep my job, my customers and my employer safe
  • Guidelines: Things I should do; I won’t get fired if I don’t, but they’ll make my life and that of my users much easier
  • Standards: Specifications I must follow and in many cases cannot change anyway

Many of our clients believe it’s too difficult to alter the code of conduct, so the examples of do’s and don’t make their ways into policy and guideline. This is ok. Just make sure guidelines are things that won’t get you fired, and policy includes required elements.

What’s in a Policy

There has been more focus on policy since the advent of social technology. Before social, policy usually had to do with use, damage, or loss of hardware (e.g., laptops and phones) and software (e.g., email). Social added complexity – with more focus around actual content – organizations try to address in policy.

RELATED: Your Digital Workplace: Why Governance is Not Just Hardware and Software

I recommend putting all things digital workplace into one policy, rather than making employees hunt through several policies. Simplify where possible.

Good digital workplace policy should include:

  • Definitions of Terms
  • Applicability
  • Consequences
    • Disciplinary actions
    • Termination
    • Image use
    • Reporting
  • Ownership
  • Privacy
  • Confidentiality
  • Use of Copyright/Protected Material
  • Approvals
  • Moderation
  • Monitoring, Review, Auditing, Blocking
  • Information and Resource Protection (security)
  • Devices (e.g., BYOD and network connectivity)

In some cases you can refer to another policy, such as confidentiality.

Guidelines Vary By Organization

Every organization is concerned with different things. But every organization has some things it wants employees – particularly site managers and owners – to do on the intranet. Some typical guidelines include these:

  • Language (translation, corporate language, localization)
  • Customization
  • Moderation (if not required)
  • Community Site Management
  • Wiki Site Management
  • Approvals (if not required)
  • Measurement (including content reviews and site audits; if not required)
  • Use of Personal Sites/Profiles
  • Use of Blogs
  • Use of Status Updates/Dialogue Tools
  • Determining What Content Goes Where
  • Determining Content Relevancy
  • Appropriate Commenting

Keep each of these short and simple. The idea is to help users better understand how to use the technology to get work done.

RELATED: 14 Governance Guidelines to Consider for Your Intranet

Some guidelines are specific to certain groups of users only, as in the measurement guideline, which applies only to site owners. Others, such as appropriate commenting, apply to all users.

Code and Standards Round It Out

Your code of conduct already addresses desired employee behavior. This makes it the perfect place to include use of the digital workplace, particularly social tools. Again, keep the language simple and straightforward. Examples are very useful here.

In addition, more and more companies are leveraging templates, site definitions and page layouts to lock down most standards. Why is this is a great practice?

  1. Your user-centered design is easily broken when all site managers can creatively mess with the interface; don’t waste your investment in usability testing
  2. You aren’t paying site managers embedded in the business to do design work; you pay them to manage users, content and collaboration
  3. Every site manager isn’t great at effective usability testing and user requirement gathering

Standards include elements such as navigation, colors, fonts, information architecture, headers, footers and web part styling. These are the important elements that make up the user experience. There is a reason why all the Microsoft Office apps look similar; users can translate what they’ve learned in one to another and function more productively. Thus, having sites on your intranet use similar conventions in a similar design is useful for usage and adoption.

Use Storytelling

Stories and examples are useful when communicating governance guardrails. Painting a picture or illustrating what you expect is very useful for many employees. Use internal examples and internal champions where possible.

It takes time up front to get your governance material right, but you’ll save time later by avoiding confusion, misunderstanding, broken interfaces, out-of-date content and frustrated users.  

I’ll lead sessions on governance, content migration and integrated social next week at ALI’s SharePoint for Internal Communications conference in San Francisco. Hope to see you there!

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