There is no doubt that the skills, knowledge, and experience needed within intranet teams is changing, but what exactly are the skill sets in demand?
Basically, watching people trying to use your intranet, observing what is working and what is not, and making improvements driven by what users are trying to do. A devastatingly simple idea but there is a lot of skill involved in doing it right. Usability tends to be thought of as an approach to design and building of intranets, but it’s increasingly seen as part of continuously improving the intranet.
Continuous quality improvement
Being able to measure and improve a process is standard stuff in some industries but it’s a new role for most Intranet teams. If your business case is built on automating some employee tasks, or on increasing use of online tools, then being able to measure and improve performance of the core processes in these areas is likely to be a useful skill. Often connected with usability, this skill set adds some extra abilities around measurement and process design/redesign.
For teams seeking to embrace the thinking of people like Gerry McGovern, it means measuring performance of the most frequently used tasks (or top tasks) on your intranet and making changes that continuously improve completion rates and shorten the time taken to do these tasks.
Modern intranets often promise to ‘transform’ things, like services from HR. These improvement efforts provoke a need for a further set of skills around change management. Models of communication and techniques for fostering support and dealing with resistance abound, but there is less clarity about the actual skills required.
Communicators are often involved in change efforts but rarely invited to plan changes or deal with resistance. The failure to develop and embed new social intranets is often attributed to a lack of change management skills.
A growing number of teams include someone in charge of managing online communities. A host of skills buzz about in this space but consistently, community managers need to be excellent communicators who know how to listen and have real empathy for the communities they support. They also need to be a protector for their communities – guarding against inappropriate content. It also falls to these people to help communities use collaborative tools and make sure the right configurations of these tools are implemented, and be a source of expertise in using them.
The need to be able to communicate clearly has not gone away. Good content is still vital and the ability to write for the web is still a hard to find valuable skill. But, write about what? It’s no longer just announcements from the C suite; it can’t just be descriptions about changes in the company, it’s not even about positive stories from the front line of sales (although that’s OK sometimes). Improving everyday communication for field staff and staff who work on the factory floor using modern digital tools is a growing requirement of Intranet teams.
New employees expect to understand how to find and use online tools to do their job straight away, and of course this means clearly written content. This work often goes hand in hand with usability.
I’m sure my list of skills is neither comprehensive nor correct, nothing much is settled in this space which makes it a pretty good topic for discussion. If you’d like to debate what skills are needed then please come and run an unconference session at Intranet Now.