From September 2019 until July 2020, Niels Hofman conducted a graduation project in cooperation with ORTEC for Communications. In this blog he writes about his research and its outcomes.
Internal communications platforms have undergone fast and dynamic developments in the recent years, leading to a growing number of organizations to implement such platforms. The Relevance platform, which is the internal communications platform designed by ORTEC for Communications, pose new opportunities for organizations to support internal information sharing, stimulate internal collaboration, and enhance employee engagement. One of the main success factors for realizing the full potential of the platform is the adoption rate. As part of my graduation project at ORTEC for Communications, I researched the factors that influences the adoption rate of internal communication platforms.
Acceptance of Internal Communication Platforms
During my research, I investigated the acceptance of internal communication platforms. Acceptance refers to an employee’s intention to use or not to use the platform that is being offered by the employer. By creating a better understanding of the acceptance of internal communication platforms, we can adapt the design and implementation of the platform.
After an assessment of over 100 scientific studies in this field, I concluded that there is a wide range of factors that influences the acceptance of internal communication platforms. One can think of the ease of use of the platform, which refers to the required efforts to install and getting started with the platform, as well as familiarizing oneself with the functionalities. Another example is the extent to which the employer facilitates the use of the platform with the right technologies (phone, computer, internet connection, etc.), or training sessions or a point of contact to reach out to when an employee faces problems. In the current case study, I investigated which of the identified factors have an influence on acceptance of the Relevance Platform, as well as the strength of the factors that appeared to influence the acceptance.
To examine which factors have an impact on acceptance, a large survey within all ORTEC departments has been conducted. And also interviews with several clients from ORTEC for Communications have been conducted. Based on the outcome of both investigations, a list of impact factors has been created.
Factors impacting Acceptance of Internal Communication Platforms
As internal communication platforms can offer various functionalities which can be employed for fundamentally different uses, the impact factors can differ from platform to platform. However, I identified several main factors that impact the acceptance of most frequently integrated platform functionalities.
- Performance Expectancy
Performance Expectancy, this refers to the believe of an individual that: using the platform will help him or her to attain gains in job performance. This is one of the most prominent impact factors for the acceptance of internal communication platforms. This means that employees are more likely to use a platform when they believe that performing their job will become easier.
- Hedonic Motivation
Hedonic Motivation refers to the pleasure, joy, and entertainment that is associated with the use of the platform. One can think of the pleasure that can be derived from reading news articles, sharing (informal) content with colleagues, or gamification components that are integrated in the platform.
- Relationship Expectancy
Relationship Expectancy refers to the believe that using the platform will help to initiate or maintain relationships with the organization or colleagues. Most employees want to stay up to date with what is happening in the organization and they want to have a good relationship with colleagues. Internal communication platforms that are being used both to share corporate news and to allow employees to engage with one another tend to be well-adopted because of this motivator.
- Effort Expectancy
Effort Expectancy refers to the ease associated with the use of the platform. One can think of the efforts that are needed to install the platform and to familiarize oneself with the functionalities. Platforms that are more intuitive and easier to use are more likely to be accepted.
- Facilitating Conditions
Facilitating Conditions is about the existing organizational and the technical infrastructure that supports the use of the platform. Organizations that actively help employees to understand the platform and its purpose, and offer the right technology to use the platform, are more likely to have higher platform adoption rates.
- Social Influence
Finally, Social Influence has to do with the perception that: if important others believe he or she should use the platform, the acceptance is higher. For example, it is more likely that an employee is going to use the platform when his or her direct colleagues also use it, than when none of the direct colleagues are using the platform.
How to improve the design and implementation of my internal communication platform?
Now you might wonder how you can incorporate these factors in your own platform design and implementation process. I proposed four main focus areas that should be given proper attention to ensure satisfactory platform adoption rates. These areas have been identified based upon the impact factors and the interviews which have been conducted with clients.
Focus on engagement
Improve and increase the number of (sub-)functionalities that enhance employee engagement. The factor Performance Expectancy appears to be a strong motivator for employees to use the platform. This means that when employees experience many possibilities to interact with the organization, they are more likely to continue using the platform. Functionalities such as the Social Wall or possibilities to like and comment on articles enhance the engagement and are, therefore, good ways to increase adoption of your platform.
Focus on content quality
Make sure that content on the platform is of good quality. Based on the interview responses, I have a strong indication that the adoption rates of the platform are highly dependent on the quality of the content. Therefore, it is important to be aware that the quality of the content directly influences employees’ perception of the platform. It is advisable that clients hire a content manager who ensures content quality that matches with the interests of the employees. In general, content that is interesting, easy to understand, a pleasure to read, and not too extensive, is more likely to be read by employees. However, it is important to realize that an organization can hire different kind of employees with different backgrounds and interests. Being able to target your content to the right sub-audience can be very helpful as well.
Focus on onboarding
Reduce the efforts required for the onboarding process. In the initial onboarding process, employees need to invest extra effort before they can benefit from the platform. These extra efforts are needed for the installation process, logging in, and familiarizing themselves with the platform. Employees often do not have experienced the benefit of using the internal communication platform before these processes are successfully finished. As a result, a relatively large number of employees will feel reluctant to try a second time when something goes wrong during the initial steps. To ensure a smooth onboarding process, it is important to support employees as much as possible. It is important to inform employees about the steps required to install the platform, to make them aware of the benefits of the platform, and to assist them when they face difficulties during the onboarding.
Focus on supporting job performance
Stimulate employees to use the platform by integrating functionalities which are beneficial to work results and productivity. I expect that when an organization focusses on offering additional applications that are beneficial to the work results and productivity, it can help to increase the adoption rates. One can think of integrations with other employee collaboration platforms or integrating extra functionalities for employee convenience, such as the roster.