Intranet Radio at IBM

The technology titan turns to an old technology to engage employees.

Despite its technology prowess, IBM has added an old medium to its impressive employee digital workplace to engage employees: radio.

IBM Community Radio is the new intranet radio station for IBMers worldwide, broadcast from Austin, Texas. The brainchild of a designer with the relatively new IBM Design group, up to 6000 employees tune-in to IBM Radio every day, and can talk about whatever they want, from 9-6pm CST. Employees from around the world are encouraged to contribute their own shows, which also feature call-ins from employees. Topics range from workplace issues, to customer services, to career advice, with weekly guests and Q&A.

Live radio on the intranet is a departure, and possibly an improvement from the traditional podcast approach. While up to 100 million people around the globe are listeners of podcasts on the Internet, intranet podcasting is still relatively rare, and enjoys a fraction of the penetration than, for example, traditional home page news. However, podcast broadcasting is on the rise, and so is listenership. According to Edison Research, up to 60 million Americans have listened to one podcast in the past month; an increase of 75% since 2013. Proof positive that people are listening to more and more radio via the browser.

Being a former broadcast journalist myself, I can tell you that radio is a winning medium: people love to listen in their cars, on their computer, phone, iPod, etc. We love the spoken word, and so do employees, particularly because they can listen while they work.

IBM designer Miroslav Azis hosts a weekly show, Public Services, on the intranet-based IBM Community Radio, where he discusses technology issues that don’t necessarily get a lot of ink on the mainstream IBM intranet. "We have a lot of things we do in our everyday work," says Azis, in a recent interview with the magazine Fast Company. "But we don’t have time to think about those things."

IBM's new intranet design, W3

IBM Community Radio is a live-streamed intranet station cofounded by Azis and a few other designers in Austin in 2015. Now, more than a year later, any employee can record and stream a radio show. Multiple offices around the world now have radio “studios” and broadcast shows every week. 

“It’s a way for everyone at the company to listen in and discuss and learn about internal topics,” says Azis, who broadcasts from a sound-proofed conference room.

The power of story-telling has also captured the attention of employees: one show featured upper-level executives just tell interesting stories. 

"We want to be able to talk product strategy, talk road maps," Azis told Fast Company. “The shows need to reflect the concert of people and roles at the company, he says, but as long as it stays behind the IBM firewalls and allows anyone to take part, the project persists. In the end, Azis says, "this is for IBMers by IBMers." 

Speaking of broadcasts, be sure to tune into our next intranet webinar broadcast on Intranet Design, a tight 30-minute webinar packed full of recommendations and case study examples on December 15 at 1pm EST. Register for free