Google’s influence inside your organisation

A group of researchers coined the phrase ‘The Google Effect’ in 2011. In a nutshell, they were arguing that search engines were reducing our capacity to remember things given that all answers to our questions are but a few taps of the keyboard away.

Is the internet making us dumber? Are search engines prematurely bringing on a form of amnesia? Maybe this one should be left with the academics to fight it out.

Perhaps a more meaningful way to look at ‘The Google Effect’ is the fact that these tools may be having a big influence over how people within your organisation critique the way you communicate with them and how helpful your organisation is at providing convenient access to information.

Think about your own personal life and how easily you connect with friends online, review information on topics of interest to you and quickly gather facts to support any decision you make on things you need to do; all this on any platform at the time and place that suits you.

Now compare this experience to where you work. Is the information you are after at your fingertips or locked up in a PDF in another team’s folders? Do you benefit from instant feedback on things that are important to you or is the information flow a bit more structured and slow? Is the material you need to review entertaining and stimulating or hard work to get through?

Some of the solutions to this issue are touched on in an earlier article on ‘A game to be played at work’. However Watson Wyatt, a human resources consulting firm in the US, has concluded this is a key reason for poor engagement with internal communications.

Their research focuses on the gap between peoples’ personal experience with technology versus their experience at work. The gist of this is that the pace of applying new tools inside the organisation of course lags the external changes. I say ‘of course’ as there is a number of strategic, HR, financial and other organisational considerations that influence the speed of adoption of new ways to connect and communicate. You can’t simply open the floodgates to all that is new and exciting in technology.

However, we do have to recognise that there are a lot of new tools being employed inside organisations under the guise of being progressive that are simply falling short of the mark. Intranet and other portals that encourage open discussion and exchange of ideas don’t actually cut it.

Participation rates of below 20% are not uncommon.

There is a risk that new platforms are being introduced but old principles of communications still apply. Launching enterprise social networks like Yammer may have potential but if the content still looks suspiciously like the all staff emails you use to receive from your boss then it is no surprise the these new tools aren’t working.

To genuinely engage with your people, self-critiquing your communications against a clear set of outcomes is very necessary in this highly unengaged environment. Outcomes that are as measurable as the performance measures you place on external marketing investment should be a given.

Here are a couple of thought starters for assessing whether your internal engagement is all talk but no real action.

Figure 1

Peter Hosking
BY Peter Hosking ON 14 August 2013
Peter Hosking is Director of
gho works with organizations in retail, banking, education and the public sector. Increasingly gho is seeing more investment in new technology and creative communications to protect and grow quality people to, in turn, become strong advocates for their brands.