LinkedIn branded bicycle
PHOTO: Greg Bulla | unsplash

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. It could also be LinkedIn.

LinkedIn introduced a 'My Company' tab in 2020, initially for larger organizations 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, I’m starting to hear suggestions that LinkedIn could replace an intranet (though in fairness to LinkedIn, it has 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 found in 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 read and 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 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 contribution activity is often hoped for on intranets, but hard to bring about.

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Is Everyone Already on LinkedIn?

When I speak to LinkedIn advocates within companies, they point out how many employees are already on the platform 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 LinkedIn, this falls far short of everyone. Advocates are often enthusiastic early-wave adopters, comfortable in an online social world and in figuring it out. Every organization 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 realize. 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! 

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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 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.

But you’ll still need proper, secure internal channels such as an intranet due to three things:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 follow Meta’s (Facebook) approach of creating a Workplace tool that models its public one. Given Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn, I doubt it would pursue this in competition with SharePoint.

However, the company has plans to bring LinkedIn closer to Microsoft 365 (for example, for some time there’s been the LinkedIn tab in your Delve profile card) and I fully expect 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.

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