This is often due to the one-way mediums used and is also a reflection of the self-centric world view people and organisations tend to develop.
Humans tend to carry over existing ideas, approaches and methods into new mediums, and then figure out how they have to change them. The early days of movies, with stage show-like productions is a classic example.
This tendency has also led to ten years of websites and intranets falling into the same pattern of talking at their audiences, with the new new thing only now being to talk with them.
Our audiences, also used to being talked at, sometimes find it a little confronting to suddenly be asked what they think, though the last ten years have changed this to some degree.
One of my challenges for my agency's intranet is to influence the approach of our content publishers and consumers from talk at to talk with.
It's a tiny change in words, but can be life-changing for an organisation or individual.
Our latest initiative in this area has been to add a page rating/feedback system, which allows any staff member, on most pages of our intranet, to tell us whether the contents met their needs fully, partially or not at all.
They can then leave feedback as to why the content didn't meet their needs, to allow the content owner to consider and reassess the page and make any necessary changes.
We allow staff to make comments as frequently as they like, and do not protect any pages from commentary (although certain pages are excluded as they are either transitory news stories or purely navigational pages).
The only restriction on staff is that they are identified when submitting a rating and/or feedback. This is to ensure the system is used responsibly and prevents any anonymous biasing of page content - either to the positive or negative.
Content authors can view the ratings and feedback for their pages, and centrally we can view all ratings and feedback, to help identify areas of improvement.
Since introducing the system in the second week of August, we've received an average of more than 30 ratings per day, with feedback on over 100 pages in the intranet. There's a good spread of 'yes', 'partially' and 'no' ratings, indicating that our staff are willing to tell content owners when they've provided exactly what was needed, as well as when they have not.
We're now working with content owners to help them take full advantage of the system in adjusting content, where required, to more fully support our staff and thereby help them in their jobs.
Centrally my team is using the system to identify areas where our intranet currently lacks content important to staff and support our other measures of staff satisfaction.
This type of feedback system isn't particularly new or leading edge in itself, but the impact it can have on the organisation is profound.
In the short-term we are forming a better understanding of staff needs and building towards more of a two-way interaction with them to support them in their roles.
Over the longer-term we're creating greater engagement and participation in the intranet as a staff support tool.
We're also supporting the success of content authors and owners. While we have a fantastic group of authors now, who are committed to ensuring our staff have what is needful, the page rating/feedback tool adds a layer of accountability to their actions. They can more rapidly identify how successful they have been and make their content even better targeted.
This type of interaction system is a lot of work to run and manage. It requires more effort to interact with others and continually improve than it does to write content, tick the box and move on - never to review it again.
However the rewards for the organisation are immense.
- Improved staff morale - as they are heard and supported
- Better customer service - as staff can access appropriate content and support
- Greater intranet engagement - allowing the system to become a strong staff support tool
- More effective organisational management - the system increases managerial understanding of staff needs