Imagine a platform where your employees can see company news easily on mobile and desktop; where they can like and comment, ask questions and share stories. One that has rich profiles so you can find experts by skill and location, and where it’s easy to connect with contractors, suppliers and partners that work with your company too. That could be a really good intranet product, but it could also be LinkedIn.
LinkedIn introduced a ‘My Company’ tab in 2020, initially for larger organisations but now for all companies. It can only be seen by employees – LinkedIn sends a code to your work email address as a check. Once in you see news, new joiners, colleague activity and stock price, all within the context of the regular LinkedIn company pages (About, Jobs, Posts etc.).
Unsurprisingly then, I’m starting to hear suggestions that LinkedIn could replace an intranet (though in fairness to LinkedIn, they’ve never promoted it as such). How far can you get? (spoiler, not very far, but it makes a great complementary channel if used well).
Why use LinkedIn for employees?
The most obvious part of an intranet that LinkedIn replicates is people search. It’s notoriously hard to get people to fill in profile details on an internal system, but potentially your employees have already invested considerable effort into doing this on LinkedIn. The details go well beyond things often found on a company address book, and the search is powerful, allowing you to filter by skill and location.
However, I think the real reason LinkedIn has invested in the My Company tab is the employee advocacy angle. Plenty of companies actively use LinkedIn as an external channel to promote their activities and employer brand. On the My Company tab, employees are encouraged to share stories that have been recommended by admins with their networks, and there are detailed analytics for admins on the engagement response. Collectively, individuals have many more followers than companies, so it greatly extends the messaging reach.
The final appeal of My Company is that it can optionally show ‘Trending co-worker content’ – an algorithm-curated activity feed of LinkedIn posts by employees. Again, this kind of peer-to-peer contributions activity is often hoped for on intranets, but hard to bring about.
Is everyone already on LinkedIn?
When I speak to advocates of LinkedIn inside companies, they point out just how many employees are already on there and how much they personally use LinkedIn. I’m reminded of similar past conversations with enthusiasts of Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, even Reddit as the model for the ‘next wave’ intranet.
The problem is that even if 50% or even 70% of your employees have an account on a platform this falls far short of ‘everyone’. The advocates are often enthusiasts who are early-wave adopters, comfortable in an online social world and in figuring it out. Every organisation also has people at the other end of the scale, reluctant to share something online, and even more reluctant to do things on a public platform.
Opt-in is one thing, but being told you must do it by an employer is a much bigger change management challenge than people realise. For this reason, LinkedIn is only ever likely to be a complementary channel to an internal one.
Remember too, that few companies strictly police profiles, so the “number of people who work here” figure you see on LinkedIn may well include ex-employees, retirees, and tricksters. Nor is it a good indication of active users – plenty of people only think of LinkedIn when they are looking for their next job!
LinkedIn complements your intranet
I do think there’s mileage in embracing LinkedIn as an employee channel, but as a complementary one to an intranet. It will appeal to employees who are active in social media and proud to choose to be ambassadors for their company. So often externally-facing communications get greater investment, so encouraging employees to follow this content too means a greater return.
There are things that mean you’ll still need proper, secure internal channels such as an intranet too though:
- Reference information and Search. More than ever, I’m hearing employees say they value well-run intranets as their trusted source of company information. There’s no way to share employee-only pages or documents on LinkedIn. Plus, enterprise search is already hard enough. Employees can’t specifically search the ‘My Company’ tab so you can’t rely on them being able to retrieve any information from it at a later date.
- Employee orientation. Stories on LinkedIn are meant for sharing outside your company, so you can’t rewrite them with the same voice or set of assumptions that you can when you know you’re addressing employees.
- It is only comms. The best intranets aren’t just about news, but provide services, manage tasks, give access to collaboration spaces and more.
You might wonder if LinkedIn will even follow Meta’s (Facebook) model of creating a Workplace tool that models their public one. Given Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn I doubt they would pursue this in competition with SharePoint.
However, there are plans to bring LinkedIn closer to Microsoft 365 (for some time there’s been the LinkedIn tab in your Delve profile card for example) and I fully expect that this will be an active area of development in 2022. On my wish list is a way for frontline workers to access the My Company page. It would be a simple and effective way to engage a wider proportion of the workforce, but many in this kind of role don’t have the company email address needed to gain access, so they’re back to square one.
A version of this article was first published by CMSWire.
Editor’s note: CMSWire named Sam a ‘contributor of the year‘ for the seventh time. Which is nice.