In 2013 John Lewis introduced their new ‘social intranet’, with the aimof increasing internal communication amongst their 84,000 employees (Gosling,2013).
This new platform was based on a social networking model, available toall staff from every department, with contrasting colour and imagery dependingon the employee’s role and store (Gosling, 2013). An intranet is a highlybeneficial tool for communication as it enables the interconnection ofemployees from every corner of an organisation (Curry and Stancich, 2000). Itprevents employees from being disengaged and misinformed through connecting theworkforce using one platform, to increase job efficiency and productivity(Knight and Steinbach, 2005). Darrel Worthington, director of technology atRufus Leonard suggested that intranets as a whole improve the time it takes foremployees to reach agreements, further facilitating real-time resolutionsregardless of the number of parties concerned in different locations (Gosling,2013). Karayanni and Baltas (2003) suggest there to be four aspects of websitedesign, which can be applied to John Lewis’ intranet. Interactivity for theaudience with an ability to customise preferences, evident in the searchfunctions and location finders. Its navigability must be efficient, with anappropriate structure in order to facilitate the retrieval of information(Karayanni and Baltas, 2003). This is made evident through the appropriategrouping of headings such as vacancies and support under the umbrella heading’tools and resources’, in accordance with Jeffrey Zeldman’s (2001) suggestionthat it should take only ‘three clicks’ for the retrieval of information(Sfetcu, 2014).
Finally, the content must be relevant, coinciding with themessage the corporation wishes to share. In this case, John Lewis displaystheir company’s culture and values within their ‘about’ section in order tocommunicate to their mass workforce (Gosling, 2013).However, we could argue that the use of intranets for internal communicationreduces face-to-face interactions amongst employees. A Harvard Business Reviewstudy of Project Management Best Practices in Global 500 Enterprises found thatface to face interaction is reducing rapidly as a result of virtual methods. Thestudy showed that only 4% of teams actually meet physically, with less than 17%ever meeting team members in person (Ward, 2017). It can be suggested that communication isless to do with content but rather the method in which is expressed, includingtone of voice and non-verbal expressions which are non-evident in digitalmethods (Ekman, 1993).
Professor Albert Mehrabian’s communication researchsuggests that 55% of a message is decoded from feelings and attitudes in facialexpressions (Mehrabian, 1981). In the same way, Computerworld illustrated thatemployees feel isolated when contact primarily takes place online (Lungdren,Strandh and Johansson, 2012) Figure 5: John Lewis’ social intranet (Gosling,2013)4.2 RoadshowsIn order to convey John Lewis’ latest strategies to employees, theyadopted a two-phase approach. Instead of a conventional method of conducting apresentation over one day within one of their stores, they instead introduced’roadshow sessions’ to preview the strategy and increase employee involvementin the discussion (Harris, 2017). This was in the view that previewing a newstrategy would enable employees to discuss corporate messages, for around aweek before the ‘main event’. This created an interactive environment with fargreater communication between employees, in contrast to their old method of asingle instore presentation (Harris, 2017).
Subsequent to these ‘roadshowsessions’, John Lewis established a digital platform which gave lower levelworkers a voice to communicate their personal thoughts towards new policies,providing them with direct access to the most senior individuals within theorganisation (Harris, 2017). We could say this strategy for corporatecommunication is in accordance with Leagans (1963) model of communication, inthat it generates an audience response that can be assessed (Dahama, 1988).John Lewis adopted a skilful unique method to communicate their message, usinga ‘roadshow’ method as an appropriate channel to initiate discussions amongsttheir peers, with the ability to gain their audience response through theirdigital platform connecting staff from all levels of the organisationalstructure. This formula can be seen as highly effective in the way that itpresents a post-event feedback mechanism, in contrast to a company-wide email (Leavittand Mueller, 1951).
Sensibly, after theevent, the organisation had adopted a live, real-time webchat so that theirpartners had the ability to query members of their Management Board (Gosling,2013). This can be important as Berlo’s model of communication (1977) suggestsindividuals have different communication skills which effects theinterpretation of messages (Stead, 1972). Ultimately, this created a furtherplatform for the transmission of information, ensuring the required decodingand understanding of the corporate strategic message (Cornelissen, 2004). In a similar way, Allianz created interactivesessions across the UK for groups of up to 25 employees, with the aim of re-engagingstaff in their 18 sites within 6 weeks (Event Marketing Solutions, 2017).However, we must consider the length of time it could take to completenation-wide roadshows of John Lewis’ 49 UK stores and over 84,000 employees(Johnlewispartnership.co.uk, 2017