How Building Your Own HR Systems Can Transform Company Culture

By Brenna Child, Head of Talent Management & Employer Branding, The Washington Post

Brenna Child, Head of Talent Management & Employer Branding, The Washington Post

When you think of the term, “human resources,” technological innovation probably is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, as HR professionals, we must consider the tools that change human behavior and increase productivity, which contributes to the growth and transformation of the business. What mediums do your employees rely on? How many applications do your employees access to retrieve information? Does it increase productivity or slow it down? It is our responsibility to think bigger and find creative technological solutions for meeting business objectives, dismantling silos, and improving company culture.

If you are looking for a place to start — consider your company’s intranet. Is it built to supply information or to move the organization forward? Does it have a sustainable and fluid infrastructure that can support the external platforms your employees use? Can it ebb and flow with the changes and speed of the business? If so, does it keep your employees engaged in your company’s values? Too often, the intranet is only considered a tool for disseminating information or social collaboration. It is not often thought of as a tool for culture change and business success. As the main communication hub for your organization, your intranet should act as a strategic business enabler, serving as a vessel for cultural change.

"Do not be afraid to take a holistic approach to organizational change and shape the narrative and the channels where that narrative is written"

Across the organization, The Washington Post has adopted a build versus buy mentality, meaning the company builds its mission-critical systems in-house. This allows for greater customization and control to meet business needs. This approach guided The Post’s HR team in its quest for an intranet solution that would give us the ability to move faster, become more adaptable, and create an innovative culture that would keep pace with the direction of our business.

The project team’s vision was to build an intranet that would enable HR to communicate with, and inspire,The Post’s increasingly dispersed and diverse workforce around three focus areas – shape ideas, redefine speed, and take ownership. The success of this vision, and ultimately the ability to affect culture change, was based on the team’s decision to focus on the following:

Speed of development using an agile approach

Replacing the top down “waterfall” method to design and development, with the popular agile approach, allowed the team to match the speed of the business. This also allowed them to mitigate the high cost of resources that many long and drawn out processes can have, at the expense of action.

End user involvement

Technology and design is important to the success of an intranet, but if no one reads, both become null and void. Requesting feedback and ideas from the end user up front and responding to immediate, justifiable requests, was critical to initial acceptance and increased usage of the tool. Many of these requests were simple (example, better access to a company directory and ability to book a room on the go), but by making these a priority, intranet usage went up and the content we were elevating was seen by more of the company.

Strong content strategy and execution

Although the technology and design are important, the content of an intranet is what makes it shine. We adjusted our content strategy to include more information around product, culture, people and evergreen business content, allowing us to provide a more personalized and engaging employee experience.

Integration with other communication and HR tools

Alone, the intranet can be a powerful tool. But connecting and supporting it with communication platforms such as Slack, Instagram, HR Systems, Twitter, among others makes it a superpower tool. The intranet acts as a one-stop-shop for all company programs, tools, and applications, becoming something employees do not want to live without.

Development of an app for mobile use

Along the same lines as end-user involvement, it is important that communication tools are built to meet the end user where they are – on mobile platforms. Building an app to complement the intranet desktop version, with direct access to the top 10 things users commonly accessed, was a marked success. This also led to increased user acceptance and usage of both the app and the desktop version.

After building software to address our company’s unique needs, we witnessed a shift in company culture. Silos slowly came down, employees became more engaged, and better communication improved the atmosphere and productivity of the workplace. This has translated into tangible results across the business.

Think critically about where your company stands and where you want it to go. Do not be afraid to take a holistic approach to organizational change and shape the narrative and the channels where that narrative is written. Your intranet, and all communication channels should be rooted in a foundation that emanates your company’s core values. By building a customized framework with that in mind, you aren’t just implementing a new technology, you are rebuilding your company’s culture in support of organizational success.

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