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PHOTO: Jordan Ladikos

Blagoja Golubovski has worked with good mentors and managers across his entire career. But the lesson from one of his most memorable mentors shapes the way he works today: “When you lead a team, you give direction, not directions.”

Rather than getting a laundry list of things to do, his early jobs gave him the freedom to explore and test out-of-the-box ideas to solve problems.

“I was very fortunate because, rather than being told what to do, I was given a goal and an outcome with all the tools and means for me to get there,” he said. “Looking back, I know it doesn't happen that way in every organization, but I hold that same philosophy with the teams I manage today.”

Golubovski is VP of product management for Simpplr, an employee intranet provider. Simpplr is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group's Winter Digital Workplace Experience (DWX) Conference, held online on Thursday, Feb. 11. Golubovski's colleague, Amit Bhatnagar will present a session titled, "Measuring Intranet ROI in the Digital Workplace."

We spoke with Golubovski about the changing role of the intranet and how it can be used to enable distributed workforces while building company culture.

The Employee Intranet: Then and Now

SMG: Has the importance of the employee intranet as a workplace tool changed since COVID-19 began?

Blagoja Golubovski: COVID has not only increased the visibility and strategic relevance of the internal communication profession, but is also driving more investment in internal communication technology as employees continue to work remotely. This is a vast change from years past, as improving intranet technology and internal communications are now top priorities for organizations going forward.

Also, most organizations believe that the current state of their internal communication is much better than it was a year ago. Simpplr conducted its State of Internal Communications survey in September 2020 and found that 56% of respondents rate their program as above average or excellent compared to only 37% the year before. We also saw that 43% of people report having better technologies. These findings are consistent with other trends we’ve seen out there.

SMG: What are the biggest benefits that employee intranets provide for hybrid and remote workforces?

Golubovski: The first benefit is strengthened communication with a single source of truth. Intranets make it easier to send company-wide announcements, help employees stay up to date on what's happening around the organization and in their departments, and of course, measure the reach and effectiveness of this communication.

The second is higher productivity because employees are spending less time looking for the right information or finding the relevant people to help them. For example, Nutanix, who is a Simpplr customer, ran an A/B test using a scavenger hunt to prove ROI of their intranet. They saw a 50% increase in time and efficiency with new hire onboarding and a 590% increase in employee NPS.

A third benefit is strong employee engagement. It's much easier to recreate the water cooler effect and connect employees across departments and regions when everybody's digital. Now more than ever, employees crave that morale boost and feeling of belonging. Great employee intranets allow businesses to nurture and build employee culture in this new world.

Simmplr's Blagoja Golubovski:  “When ... people are stuck in a traditional way of thinking, intranets simply become repositories for old, unusable information.”

Struggles and Solutions for Internal Communications

SMG: According to Gartner, nine out of 10 intranet projects fail. Where do most organizations struggle, and has COVID-19 brought about new challenges?

Golubovski: Our research has found that this failure is attributed to two kinds of issues: process and technology. On the process side, the biggest challenges are: no clearly defined purpose, unclear governance and lack of executive engagement. On the technology side of things, it’s poor user experience, outdated content and irrelevant content. When these go unchecked, and people are stuck in a traditional way of thinking, intranets simply become repositories for old, unusable information. That's not what modern intranets are all about. COVID has highlighted these existing challenges.

SMG: What are your top recommendations for how organizations can overcome these challenges?

Golubovski: First, get a best of breed, purpose-built intranet that addresses your business need. Most intranets haven’t evolved beyond the platform to meet these needs. The modern intranet is built to help achieve workplace goals like employee communication and driving corporate culture. It’s multichannel, mobile friendly and it doesn't wait for the employees to come to it. It goes to the employees when it's needed with information that's critical for the business, whether through a Slack integration, or a mobile or SMS message.

Next, strengthen your governance and ownership so you can keep your content fresh and relevant. Shift administration from manual processes that rely on teams of people to simple point-and-click administration that can be easily handled by business users. Finally, adapt success measures from a manual approach to one that takes advantage of prescriptive analytics so you can guide users to work more efficiently and gain better outcomes.

All of this should be underpinned with a strong internal communications strategy that includes executive engagement and participation.

The Missing Link for DWX Success

SMG: What are you most excited about when it comes to the future of the digital workplace?

Golubovski: Employee experience is the new customer experience. Businesses now realize how critical it is for the wellbeing of their employees, and how much of that actually drives the overall success and bottom line impact. 2020 was disruptive in many ways, and we’ll never go back to the way we worked then. With that in mind, you need to level the playing field so that everyone in the organization feels included and practices are equitable. The concept of a virtual headquarters, where communication is shared at the speed of business — independent of location and time zones — becomes uber important for company culture, employee engagement and business success.

It's a very exciting time. You have best of breed solutions when it comes to chat — everybody's on Slack. You have best of breed solutions when it comes to video conferencing — everybody's on Zoom. That's all great, but what's missing is a solution like the intranet that ties all of these together.

Register today for our free, virtual event: 2021 Digital Workplace Experience Conference Series.