Your company intranet is a powerful hub that affects how your company operates on a day-to-day basis. It helps employees keep track of company news, connect and communicate with fellow employees, find important company documents, keep track of projects, and so on. Learning from intranet best practices, you can apply key intranet learnings to your intranet transformation.
With strategic intranet design, you can turn your company intranet into an engaging platform that your employees use on a daily basis.
Question is, how do you come up with a good intranet design that will strike the right note with your employees and get them to take advantage of all the features and tools provided on your intranet?
In this article, we are going to answer this question. We’ll take a look at some best practices and proven ideas to help you get the most out of your company intranet.
Let’s dive in!
1. Personalize Your Intranet
While your organization operates as a whole at the top level, it is made up of individual employees, all of whom have different skills, hold different positions, and have different objectives within the organization.
It is these individual employees – rather than the organization as a whole – who are going to use the company intranet, and therefore, when designing and implementing your company intranet, your core focus should be on their needs.
Specifically, you should ensure that the company intranet is personalized to provide each individual user with a unique experience that best helps them to get their work done and boosts their productivity.
Imagine an intranet where everyone within the organization – from the CEO to the janitor – had access to the same features. An intranet where a salesperson in the field has access to the projects the CEO is working on, and where someone from the social media marketing team has access to recruitment policies.
Such an intranet would create a lot of chaos. Employees would be constantly distracted, with access to things that do not matter to them, and overall productivity would take a huge hit.
To prevent this, your intranet should be personalized to suit the needs of each individual user. Here are some ideas on how this can be achieved:
- Each user should have access to a unique intranet subspace that is dedicated to their specific department or team.
- Every user should have a tailored homepage that provides appropriate information to them based on their position, projects, and milestones. For instance, a new employee should receive information that will help them with the onboarding process, while an employee working on a specific project should have on their homepage information that is relevant to that particular project.
- Management should have access to crucial information that is not accessible to their subordinates.
- Users should also be able to customize their homepage such that it only displays information that they deem relevant to them. This way, they have the freedom to choose what they want to see and eliminate news and information that doesn’t help them do their work better.
2. Make Sure That the Intranet Is Aligned with Business Objectives
While we’ve seen that your intranet should be first and foremost focused on the needs of your employees, because they are the ones who are going to be using it, this does not mean that you should ignore your business needs.
On several occasions, I have seen organizations that spent time, money and resources to develop a new company intranet, only to implement the new intranet and realize that it is not aligned with the organization’s business objectives.
If your intranet is not aligned with business objectives, it won’t deliver any value to the organization, and with time, your employees will stop using it.
To ensure that your company intranet is aligned with your business objectives, here are some questions you need to answer before you start designing your intranet:
- What are the organization’s long-term objectives, and what influence will the company intranet have towards the achievement of these objectives?
- What are the objectives of each individual unit within your business, and how will the company intranet push these units towards the achievement of their objectives?
- How will you determine whether the company intranet has been successful or not? What metrics are you going to use to measure performance?
- Does the intranet have the support of senior management?
Once you answer these questions, you can then design an intranet that will help the organization achieve its objectives.
For instance, let’s say that following the COVID-19 pandemic, your organization has decided to adopt a remote work policy going forward.
- Will the intranet you are building support a remote workforce?
- Will it allow workers access outside the company premises?
- Does it have the right features to allow workers to collaborate properly on projects without being together in person?
Failure to think about such things will result in an intranet that is bound to fail.
3. Make Sure Your Intranet Solves Communication Problems
One of the primary reasons for developing an intranet is for it to serve as a hub for the company’s communications, a central place where employees can be provided with all crucial information about the company and the projects they are working on.
Therefore, if you want to implement an effective company intranet, you need to make sure that it solves the organization’s communication problems.
For this to happen, the intranet needs to provide the company’s staff with multiple ways for communicating with each other. Employees should be able to hold public discussions around the projects they are working on, share information and files, view announcements from the organization’s leadership, directly message each other, and so on.
A good intranet should also create new lines of communication that would have otherwise remained closed or inaccessible. For instance, in many organizations, communication is a top-down affair – senior management makes announcements which trickle down to employees in lower levels, while the voices of employees in these lower levels remain stifled.
An effective intranet should give everyone a voice and make it possible for anyone to interact with everyone, regardless of their position in the organizational structure. It should make it possible for employees in the lower rungs to voice their concerns and get heard.
For effective communication, your intranet needs to have a direct messaging or chat feature. This way, employees can get in touch with each other directly and discuss ideas and projects – right within the intranet. This makes communication within the organization a lot easier compared to relying on email.
Aside from one-on-one chats, a good intranet should also allow group chats and file-sharing within these chats. This is very useful for collaboration. For instance, a team working together on a project can create their own group chat and hold discussions, and even brainstorming sessions right within the intranet.
Your intranet also needs to have a responsive notification system that alerts users to everything that needs their attention – companywide announcements, direct messages from colleagues, responses to their posts in the company forum, tasks that they need to work on, and so on.
The faster users get alerts about things that need their attention, the easier it becomes for employees to respond to this communication or take the required action.
4. Provide Your Employees with The Tools They Require to Do Their Work
Your employees don’t visit your company intranet simply because it is there. They visit the intranet because they want to get something done – in most cases, something that is related to their role within the organization.
They either visit the intranet to complete a task, to find information that is related to their role, or to find and connect with colleagues that can help them complete a task.
Therefore, you need to ensure that your intranet supports the reasons why employees use it by providing them with the tools they need to get their work done.
More specifically, your intranet needs to be packed with a set of tools that solves the following problems for your employees:
- Communication problems: Your intranet should make it easy for your employees to receive communication from their superiors and to communicate with their colleagues:
- Information problems: Whether they are looking for the employee handbook, or a company policy on how to handle certain things, your intranet should make it easy for employees to find whatever information they need in order for them to perform their roles well.
- Collaboration problems: Your intranet should also make it easy for your employees to team up and work together on projects, or to find and connect with people who can help them get certain tasks done.
- Business process problems: Finally, your company intranet should provide tools that allow your employees to easily carry out business processes, such as submitting expenses, booking their leave, and so on.
It’s also good to note that regardless of how good your company intranet is, there is a high chance that your employees will need access to some third-party tools. A good intranet should be able to integrate well with these third-party tools and act as a Launchpad from which your employees can access these external tools.
If you do this, your intranet will become a very useful central hub from which your employees can access everything they need to get their day-to-day work done.
5. Your Intranet Should Help Create And Foster Company Culture
A lot of organizations ignore the impact of company culture on the organization’s performance, mostly because organizational culture is an intangible concept. However, company culture is one of the most crucial factors in determining the success of an organization.
Company culture has an impact on everything within an organization, from the ability of the organization to attract and retain great talent to the organization’s business performance and how the organization is perceived by the media.
A 2015 research carried out on CEOs and CFOs of 933 Northern America companies found that:
In today’s world, where many companies have a diverse workforce spread out across multiple locations, fostering a company culture is no small task.
Fortunately, it is possible to use your company intranet to drive company culture, even when you have a geographically spread-out workforce.
Here are some of the ways you can use your company intranet to drive company culture:
- Share your company’s brand and purpose: As the primary communication tool within your organization, you can use your intranet to communicate your company’s brand to your employees and promote the company’s mission, vision, and purpose. Making these factors clear to your employees is crucial to establishing a company culture.
- Employee onboarding: After recruiting a new employee, how you get them to integrate into the company during their first few weeks will have a huge impact on their perception of the company, its culture, and their colleagues. You can create a custom intranet homepage for new hires that helps with the onboarding process and one that helps introduce the new employee to the company culture, so that they start adapting to the company culture within their first few weeks.
- Employee recognition: A positive company culture is one that recognizes and rewards employees for their contributions. You can foster such a culture by having a section on your intranet where you give recognition to outstanding employees, making them feel appreciated for their work. This will in turn encourage other employees to also give their best towards the success of the company.
- Make the leadership visible: For a certain culture to become entrenched within an organization, it has to start from the top – with the company’s leaders. In cases where the company’s workforce is geographically dispersed, however, employees rarely get the chance to see or interact with the company leadership. However, the company intranet can make the leadership more visible by giving them a platform to communicate regularly and interact with all employees and help foster the right culture.
- Give employees a voice: A good company culture is one that recognizes the importance of giving everyone within the organization a voice and making sure that they get heard. A company intranet provides the perfect opportunity for this. Tools like user generated blog posts, discussion forums, and polls give employees an opportunity to share their ideas, opinions and concerns.
It’s good to note that the company intranet won’t build a company culture by itself. However, it provides organizations with tools that can be used to enhance and entrench the company culture among employees.
6. Adding Some Fun into Your Company Intranet
A lot of times, companies assume that since the company intranet is going to be primarily used for work-related uses, it needs to be all formal and corporate. Unfortunately, such formal intranets are a great bore for your employees to use. Your employees will avoid visiting your intranet whenever they can.
If you want to encourage your employees to use your company intranet, you should spice it up by adding some fun elements that make using the intranet an enjoyable experience.
Here are some ideas on how to add some element of fun to your company intranet:
- Make the intranet social: Adding a social element to your intranet, where your employees can share, like and comment on statuses will enhance the sense of community among your employees and provide a fun element that is not necessarily related to work.
- Run contests: Contents are another way of keeping things interesting and getting employees to engage on the company intranet. The contests can be about anything – best profile picture, best vacation photo, best dressed person, best team, anything. Just find a way to keep things fun and interesting.
- Introduce photo sharing: Encouraging your employees to share photos on the company intranet is another great way of making your intranet fun and engaging. They could be photos of your employees at work, photos of their outfit on casual Fridays, work-related memes, and so on.
7. Give Your Intranet A Unique Identity
Have you considered what you are going to call your company intranet? Will it have a unique name, or will it be referred to using generic terms like “the intranet?” Does it matter what name you use to refer to your company intranet?
In the intranet examples we covered earlier in the article, you might have noticed that the majority of the companies have given their intranet a unique name.
- 3M Go – 3M
- Pulse – Anthem Inc.
- The Portal – Duke Energy
- Inside NYRA – New York Racing Association
Why did these companies spend time coming up with unique names for their intranets, instead of simply referring to them as “the intranet?”
Giving your company intranet a unique name gives it its own identity. It affects how your employees are going to perceive the intranet, which will in turn affect how they are going to use it. A unique name humanizes the intranet and draws in your employees, encouraging them to use it.
In addition, giving your company intranet a unique name creates buzz around it and makes it easier for employees to reference it. Imagine saying “Have you checked Inside NYRA today?” versus “Have you checked the intranet today?”
With the first statement, someone can easily tell what you are talking about. The second statement, however, sounds like you are talking about something arbitrary. Which intranet are you asking if someone has checked?
When coming up with a name for your intranet, you should go for a name that is aligned with your company culture and style, one that reflects the goals of the company and the role that the intranet will play towards the achievement of these goals.
At the same time, the name should be short, easy to pronounce and memorable. No one is going to call the company intranet by its name if the name is too long or hard to pronounce.
A good way to come up with a great company name and at the same time increase the likelihood of user adoption for the new intranet is to hold an intranet naming contest. This will make your employees feel that they are part of the process and will lead to greater engagement once the intranet is launched.
8. Make Your Intranet Accessible Via Mobile
A lot has changed over the last couple of years. Today, remote working and telecommuting are the norm, unlike twenty years ago when every employee was expected to report to the office physically in order to work.
As more and more companies adopt flexible working policies, your employees won’t always be in a position where they can access your company intranet through a desktop computer.
In addition, we have already gotten to a point where more people are using mobile devices to go online compared to desktop. In 2019, mobile traffic accounted for 51.5% of global internet traffic, up from just under 3% in 2010. (Source: Broadband Search)
This means that if you want to build an effective company intranet, you need to think about making it accessible via mobile devices.
Think about your employees who operate from the field, such as your salespeople. In most cases, these employees won’t have a laptop with them at all times.
By creating an intranet that is accessible via mobile devices, you are making it possible for these employees to access vital information from where they are. This will in turn enhance their ability to do their jobs and improve their performance.
You should also keep in mind that simply building a duplicate version of your intranet that can be accessed from mobile devices is not enough. Instead, you should make sure that your intranet delivers an awesome user experience regardless of the device it is viewed from.
Finally, when building a mobile-responsive intranet, don’t forget to think about security. Mobile devices are a lot more vulnerable, and therefore, you need to ensure that you have protocols in place to keep important company information secure.
9. Deliver A Great User Experience
Your company intranet won’t be your employees’ first interaction with web-based technologies. They are already familiar with other web-based technologies such as social media platforms, popular news sites, their favorite blogs, and so on.
One of the things that keeps them going back to these platforms that they use on a regular basis is the great user experience offered by these platforms.
Therefore, if you want them to use the company intranet regularly, you will need to deliver a level of user experience that is similar, if not better, than what they are used to.
Here are some tips on how you can deliver a great user experience on your company intranet:
- Conduct user research before developing: It is impossible to deliver a great user experience without a good understanding of your users, how they interact with technology, and how they are going to use the site. Therefore, start by conducting a research of your employees to gain insights on what constitutes great user experience for them.
- Improve your intranet’s navigation: Navigation has a very huge impact on user experience. The harder it is for someone to find their way around your company intranet and locate what they are looking for, the poorer their experience. Therefore, you should ensure that your intranet is easy to navigate, and all the important tools and links are easily accessible.
- Maintain brand consistency: You should also make sure that the design of the company intranet is consistent with the company’s overall brand design. This will make employees feel like the intranet is something they are used to, rather than another new thing that they have to figure out and master.
- Improve page load speed: The longer it takes for pages on your company intranet to load, the more frustrated users will get, and the more likely they are to stop using it altogether. Therefore, like any other site, you have to optimize your intranet and make sure it has fast load speeds.
- Make all tasks simple and intuitive: Your intranet should not require one to undergo some training before they can use it effectively. Everything should be intuitive. Whether an employee is trying to upload a file, post an update, apply for leave, give feedback, or reach out to a colleague for collaboration, they should be able to find the function they are looking for easily, and the process should be kept as simple as possible.
10. Your Intranet Should Be Regularly Updated with New Content
If you walk into a garden the first time, you will notice the fragrances of the different flowers and shrubs within the garden.
The more time you spend in the garden, the fragrances of the flowers become less noticeable. By the end of the day, you won’t probably even be aware of the fragrances.
This is because your brain has realized that there are no new fragrances stimulating your smell receptors. Your brain has become accustomed to these fragrances and learnt to ignore them. This is known as sensory adaptation.
So, what do flowers and fragrances have to do with intranets?
Sensory adaptation is not restricted just to flowers and smells only. It applies to anything that is capable of acting as a stimulus to your brain, including the company intranet.
If your company intranet rarely gets updated, your employees will become accustomed to what is there. Sensory adaptation will kick in, and they will stop checking for new content. The problem with this is that when you actually update new content, it will take ages before your employees realize that new content has been updated.
This means that your employees could easily miss critical information, or view time-sensitive information when it’s already too late.
When your company intranet is constantly updated with fresh content, on the other hand, you are giving your employees a reason to check the intranet regularly. This means that they are unlikely to miss important announcements and information.
The best way of ensuring that your intranet is constantly updated with fresh new content is to develop a content roadmap for your intranet.
With a content roadmap, you determine in advance how often you’re going to update content on the intranet, the days on which the new content will be published, the person that will be responsible for each piece of content, and so on.
With such a plan, you are less likely to forget to update the intranet content. In addition, each contributor will be aware of the content they need to create well in advance. They will have enough time to do their research and create high quality content that other employees will find engaging.
With a content roadmap and a decentralized intranet content team, you can rest assured that your intranet will never run out of fresh content.
Wondering about what kind of content to post on your company intranet? Here are some few ideas on the kinds of content that will keep your employees engaged.
- Blog posts by the CEO
- News articles about the company
- Announcing employee milestones, such as promotions
- Content related to upcoming company events
- New employee announcements
- New customer announcements
- Announcing the company’s successes
- Content meant to recognize and appreciate outstanding employees
- Tutorials on how to use various work-related tools
- Polls and surveys
- Celebrating employee birthdays
- User generated blog posts
There’s no limit to the kinds of content that you can post on your company intranet. You only need to make sure that it is interesting, and that it is relevant to your employees.
11. Ensure That Your Intranet Has an Effective Search Function
The search function has a very huge impact on your intranet’s user experience. By its very nature, a company intranet contains tons of information – blog posts, announcements from the CEO and other senior leaders, numerous documents and files, links to different features and functions, and so on.
Regardless of how well designed your intranet is, it would be impossible to fit everything on the homepage. An effective search function makes it possible and easy for your users to find everything they are looking for, right from the intranet homepage.
Imagine trying to find information on the internet without Google. How long would it take you? Actually, some information would be impossible to find. That’s how challenging it is for your employees to find what they are looking for without a powerful search function on your company intranet.
A good intranet search engine should find everything contained on the intranet, including:
- Company announcements
- Company news articles
- User-generated content and blog posts
- Employee profiles
- Business processes
This one thing – effective search – will greatly determine whether your employees are going to use your company intranet, or whether they will ignore it and turn it into another obsolete project.
12. Allow Integration with Third Party Tools
Today, a lot of digital workplaces depend on a variety of external tools to get their work done.
For instance, the sales team might be heavily reliant on Skype to communicate with clients. The HR team might be heavily reliant on LinkedIn for recruitment. Your business as a whole might be using various G Suite apps. You might have a document management software that you’re already using.
While it is possible to develop your own tools to replace many of these external tools, that is akin to reinventing the wheel. It is far much easier to create an intranet that allows integration with these external tools.
For instance, if you are already using G Suite apps, you can integrate G Suite with your intranet such that things like Calendars, documents, and groups directly are directly accessible right within your intranet.
Instead of having to switch to G Suite to access the calendar of workplace events, for example, you can integrate it with your intranet, such that the calendar is displayed on the intranet homepage.
Allowing integration between your company intranet and external tools has several advantages, including:
- It makes all the different apps and tools accessible from one central place.
- Employees won’t have to waste their time switching from one app to the next.
- Employees don’t have to learn how to use new platforms. They’ll continue using the tools and platforms that they are already conversant with.
- Making your intranet compatible with third party tools and platforms is a lot easier and cheaper than developing your own custom tools to handle the tasks handled by these external tools.
13. Keep Improving Your Intranet as Your Business Grows
It is disappointing that a high number of companies consider designing a company intranet to be a one-time project.
They envision the project, hire someone to build the intranet for them, and then once the intranet has been designed and built, they launch and celebrate the new intranet and then consider the project to be done.
To understand why this approach is flawed, let’s take a step back and look at the reason behind developing a company intranet.
The main purpose of a company intranet is to provide employees with the tools and information they need to get their work done. In other words, it supports the day-to-day operations of the organization.
Today, we live in a highly dynamic and fast-paced world where things are constantly changing. The kind of tools that you need to get your work done today will be obsolete by tomorrow. Business processes that are highly efficient today will be redundant by tomorrow.
If you treat your intranet as a one-time project, it will quickly become obsolete as new tools emerge and as the business world evolves. Within no time, you will be left with another legacy intranet that doesn’t do much to support your business operations.
To avoid this, it is important to keep improving your intranet as the world around you continues changing. To be effective, your approach to improving your company intranet needs to be two-pronged.
First, your developer should be on the constant lookout for new trends in business communication and intranet technology in general. This will help you to constantly take advantage of emerging technologies to support your business operations.
Apart from making technological improvements to your company intranet, you should also be evaluating your business objectives and performance. These are bound to change with time, and as they change, you will need to make changes to your intranet in order to support the new goals and objectives.
Finally, you should make improvements to your company intranet in consultation with your employees.
They are the people who use the intranet on a daily basis, and therefore, they know best where the shoe pinches. Ask for their feedback on suggestions on how the company intranet can be improved in order to best support their work functions.
Take Your Digital Workplace to The Next Level
A company intranet is a very useful hub that acts as a platform for sharing information, bringing employees together and building the connections between them, collaborating with colleagues, finding and accessing important documents, and giving employees the tools they need to get their work done.
If you are in the process of developing a new, modern company intranet to take your digital workplace to the next level, we hope the information shared in this article will help point you in the right direction.
We have shared with you some proven ideas and best practices to help you get the most out of your company intranet.
All you need to do now is to apply the insights gained from this article to help you come up with a powerful and useful intranet for your company.
All the best as you embark on this journey to transform your digital workplace.