I just got off the phone with a company trying to reach a multi-generational employee base. They’ve had a large influx of new employees, nearly all of whom are millennials. These young people have been tossed into a conservative company with many soon-to-retire boomers.
The client’s questions about how people of different generations consume information got me thinking.
First, you should know that willingness to adopt new technology actually has more to do with prior experience and familiarity with technology than it truly has to do with age. So, my two children growing up in a house full of technology will be apt to adopt new things more readily. Children in homes absent of technology will be less inclined.
I saw this first hand when I spoke to a college communication class at one of our Denver-area community colleges. In a room of 20 kids there were 2 Facebook users. Most hadn’t grown up with technology in the household.
Second, think about how those in different generations consume news. Just start with news and you get a good picture of the challenges the corporate communicator is up against. The decline in print newspapers that started some time ago continues (The transition to digital journalism, Feb. 2, 2014). Meanwhile, the rise of social technologies in the media market changes how journalists approach their craft.
For example, Pew research uncovered that30% of American adults get news from Facebook while 8% get news from Twitter. All the other top news sources are web-based, some still hanging on to a print edition that churns out longer feature stories and nice-to-know content.
What constitutes good internal news?
I’ve written about this before in an article for IBF, or what is now the Digital Workplace Group (DWG): Creating a better intranet news experience in SharePoint.
The top points made there all still apply:
- Employees put all the news into one bucket. We see this when we do usability testing. But, they want to be able to filter it to find what they pursue.
- Most employees don’t set up alerts or use RSS feeds effectively. This takes training and guidance. Even some prodding.
- Employees search by topic, not channel or date. A news search space must deliver such functionality.
While I mention other important functionality in the article, let’s just focus on these three. And, because I’ll be talking about this in Copenhagen in a couple weeks at the IntraTeam Conference, let’s talk about them in the context of a SharePoint intranet.
One news hub
I cannot tell you how important this is. Employees do not parse the news out into separate buckets. They do not put regional news in a regional bucket and department news in a department bucket. They lump it all together.
SharePoint enables communicators to drop news web parts â€“ or in 2013 “apps” â€“ anywhere. Fine, but. If a user is intent on consuming news, they will not troll from their region site to their department site to their benefits site to see everything they seek. For those who refuse to create a more customized view (still the majority of employees), one central view with the right search and filtering is crucial.
In organizations with shift workers, both front-line and leaders, this is even more important. They may not be able to monitor current news feeds while off shift. When they return to work, they need to catch up with what they missed. One central news hub is the easiest way for them to accomplish this.
Getting people to establish alerts and RSS feeds is a pain. It takes training, time and patience. The advent of mobile news apps that are typically easier to configure and easier to use is pushing us beyond this limitation.
Organizations willing to make the leap to mobile access are reaping quick benefits of more education employees who can make better decisions faster. And don’t think that your organization is too backward or conservative; we have clients in the conservative industries of mining, petroleum and gas and manufacturing who are making this move.
But don’t assume there isn’t still a training requirement. To get the most from the mobile news apps, you need to deliver news in narrow streams. This means it is still important for employees to pick the streams that mean the most to them individually. Again, teach them to customize so they can be more productive.
Microsoft has created some new mobile apps for use with SharePoint 2013. Start there and customize where necessary.
I spoke recently with a manager who works shifts. When he’s on shift he sees all the news (which they deliver primarily via email). When he’s off shift he sees nothing. He could be off shift for a week at a time. He wants to see what he missed, sifting through by topic to get to what he believes is most important.
Enter good search and filtering. We’ve uncovered several important filters in our research:
- Communication channel â€“ as in the quarterly e-magazine, the monthly safety meeting, the leadership blog, the quarterly sales report, etc.
- Department or function â€“ either the publishing department and/or the department the topic is primarily about
- Geography â€“ region and office location can be good filters; relative importance varies by business and industry
- Social filters â€“ author and top contributors, for example, can be good filters for news
Great search and filtering demands good tagging and taxonomy. Getting the proper tags into your content is paramount to delivering a good user experience. SharePoint 2013 helps you do this well with content typing and the term store.
Get more insight
Want a good example of what news in SharePoint can be? Eloquor lent expertise and insight to the team at Coldwater Software for ElevatePoint News, a SharePoint add-on that makes news creation, consumption and management better. While you are at it, check out ElevatePoint Plan and get your communication planning under control too! This planning tool is based on Eloquor’s methodology grounded in more than 2 decades of experience.
Learn even more at my conference session on news in SharePoint at the IntraTeam Conference this month.