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Internal communication: go social at work!

Social media fosters collaboration at Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Social media give us a powerful sense of connectivity. Now Hanze University of Applied Sciences uses the same tools to help staff work together and share their experience


As part of a massive overhaul of its website and intranet, Hanze University of Applied Sciences added new social functionality to its online capabilities. “Before this project everything was so fragmented, with thousands of documents and webpages all over the place,” admits Jan Liefers, a staff member at Hanze and the university’s Opening Up project manager. “There is a whole team of 20 people busy now focusing on improving the page search functionality; the additional social media elements will give the university a great community feeling where colleagues are much more visible, open and able to collaborate.”

The project started because Hanze realised that the communication culture among its academics had changed. People were spending much more time interacting with peers and colleagues via social networking rather than face-to-face meetings and seminars. Changes in legislation were also forcing the university to become more transparent in the way it stored and handled data and content.

Planning and participation

Updating the university’s web and intranet backend became a mammoth task that involved integrating more than 15,000 web pages and 55,000 online documents, plus many more available through the intranet.

The project was divided into three phases. First, the migration of all the data and documents to a Microsoft Sharepoint web environment (which eventually involved 500 people across the university). Second, changing the look and feel of the university website and intranet. Finally, the team wanted to add various new social components, like posts, blogs and timelines.

The programme began as part of Opening Up in 2012 with a full survey and analysis of the best ways to get users involved in “bottom up” design. A video explained the project to staff and asked for their ideas. Focus groups evaluated their contributions. The final specifications and designs were publicised through various channels including presentations, articles and web announcements. “The primary objective of the team was to support Hanze as a respected institution. The new platform addressed the need for user-friendliness, continuity, safety and performance as well as flexibility and web responsiveness,” Mr Liefers explains.

Culture shift

Change is always difficult, but by involving employees from the outset and clearly communicating the project’s vision, Hanze has begun to develop a more collaborative culture even before the new social media tools are in place.

“For internal communication, we are shifting away from making all information available to everyone,” says Mr Liefers, “focusing on using social tools to make relevant information available for individuals. People will be able to share data and content and work together using social tools. We are making collaboration the norm.

When the project is finished users will experience an integrated community which is much more accessible and open for all kinds of cooperation and sharing between internal and external contacts.”

“Colleagues and data are much more visible, open and able to collaborate”

Summary of benefits

  • Make content and documents sharable

  • Foster collaborative working

  • Make colleagues and their interests more visible

Next steps

Fancy Facebook? Analyse your municipality’s digital maturity and readiness for social media or play oursocial media game.

Further reading

Web links


Jan Liefers, Project Manager OpeningUp, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands. Email:

Social media at work: a better way to train?

Can social media tools improve collaboration and professional development at work? Social media is designed to connect people who share similar interests – like their work. Employers should encourage staff to share advice and expertise.


Social media networking is all about connecting like-minded people who share common interests.

I believe that “work” is a great unifying theme. All employees have their organisation in common; many of them have similar jobs too and may have stories and advice to share that could help other workers, boost innovation and raise productivity.

Of course, if you are a bad employer, letting all your employees loose to air their views in public may be a really bad idea, but let’s not focus on the negatives for now.

Instead I want to explore how a social media platform is perfect for internal communication and as a medium for continuous improvement and training.

Internal communications

Social media are part of everyday life, so people are ready to opt in. No longer must you rely on employees making an effort to read internal memos – social media pushes messages straight out.

You can set up a closed Facebook or LinkedIn group, or perhaps use another less “mass market” platform. Just make it easy for staff to post and interact with minimal effort.

Of course, using social media is not just about posting information. It provides employers with an excellent opportunity to listen to staff and engage in open dialogue. Use social media to improve employer-staff relations!

Staff development

Social media platforms make it easy to set up interest groups among your employees where they can seek advice and share experience. Municipalities employ people for such a diverse range of activities, but staff often feel isolated. Perhaps a social worker wants some advice to help them with a difficult client? A quick post to the municipality’s social work interest group sets off a discussion as colleague from across the city shares their experience of similar situations (without breaking any privacy laws, of course!).

When staff share their experience and advice you will see their performance improve. At the same time you allow employees to uncover tacit knowledge, which can be integrated into future training programmes and employee development.

Well curated interest groups and pro-actively managed discussions via social media can often be far more effective than official continuous professional development (CPD) programmes. It is so easy to share a link or a helpful post, so you can rapidly build up a valuable resource of information and advice. Your employees will keep up with all the latest developments in their field with minimal effort.

In Hanze University of Applied Sciences we are in the processes of adding social media tools, to foster more internal communication – aka collaboration – between our academics. We want to make staff and their interests more visible, then help them get in touch with each other, share ideas and collaborate.

Thanks to social media self-improvement and community can become part of “business as usual”

“Embed CPD and self-reflection into ‘business as usual’”

Next steps

  • Take the social media maturity test

  • Play the social media strategy game

Further reading

Web links


Jan Liefers, Project Manager OpeningUp, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands. Email: