Intranets are supposed to help create connected and vibrant workplaces, but a poorly designed and maintained intranet does exactly the opposite.
Why? Because traditional intranets typically use an outdated structure based around clusters of hard-to-find folders or hundreds, sometimes thousands, of ad hoc pages that no one in their right mind wants to spend time sifting through, let alone update or maintain.
This makes it difficult to find important documents and information that are relevant to your specific team. If this sounds a lot like your company intranet, it’s likely a major source of frustration for your employees and (let’s be honest) a waste of money for your company. The end result is an intranet that no one uses.
A lone tumbleweed rolls by.
If this sounds like your situation, don’t despair! Here are six intranet best practices that’ll increase participation and engage your people.
6 intranet best practices
1. Ensure your intranet is the preferred mode of communication at your workplace
Your intranet should be the place where both official internal communications are published and informal conversations happen. If it’s not already the preferred medium of communication at your organization, it’s time to think about how to go about transforming it into one.
The first step is to discourage and eventually phase out other avenues for internal communication like newsletters, long email threads, outdated chat clients, etc. This makes the transition to your company’s intranet a no-brainer.
More importantly, though, you’ll want to use your intranet as a tool for a more open, relevant kind of communication. Which is to say, the kind that appeals to specific teams and people. Otherwise, your people will experience an overload of information that isn’t relevant to them or their teams, and eventually they’ll stop regularly checking the intranet, which is exactly what you don’t want.
Your people want to hear about information that’s relevant to them. If your intranet doesn’t include a way of targeting teams and people, it’s time to find one that does.
Tip: Get your leadership team involved and using your intranet in a way that inspires others to do the same. Participation begets participation, especially when it comes from your organization’s leaders.
2. Use your intranet as a tool to digitally connect remote workers
According to Quartz, remote work is more popular than ever, and companies need to adapt. To get the most out of your intranet, you’ll need to consider the ways in which it can best be utilized to bridge the distances between your remote workers.
Long email threads, newsletters, and extraneous chat programs won’t cut it. Your intranet is the easiest way for remote workers and far-off satellite offices to stay in touch with each other and conduct business. But for this to happen, your intranet should include:
Instant messaging: a must-have to help facilitate a more connected digital workplace
News feed: this enables remote workers to see what’s going on at the head office and stay engaged with updates and company culture. It also allows them to post their own information and news to HQ and other branch offices.
Mobile capability: this is absolutely key, especially if your workforce doesn’t always have access to a computer.
Video calling: an excellent way to conduct meetings and improve person-to-person collaboration over long distances.
Tip: To promote connectedness across multiple locations, you can make your intranet’s employee directory searchable and your organizational chart visible to all employees. (Assuming that your intranet includes these functionalities.) That way you can put a face to a name and quickly contact the correct colleague at a far away office.
3. Make your intranet a safe environment with two-way participation
The downfall of traditional intranets is caused in large part by the one-sidedness of it all. In many cases, intranets are used only to publish announcements from the top down, usually written by a sole member of the HR or communications team. This drastically limits the number of voices contributing to your intranet.
If your company’s intranet is a one-way street as far as communication goes, that’s a problem. A successful and effective intranet should resemble a thriving, interactive community, not a repository for stale news updates.
So what can you do? Perhaps the most important (and most obvious) is to open up communication across your intranet platform. This means inviting feedback and criticism, and encouraging others to comment, like, share, etc. In other words, offering up ways in which your people can contribute to the messaging and overall experience of the intranet.
After all, it’s their intranet and they ought to have a voice.
It might be helpful to think of your intranet as the public forum for your organization. To keep people accountable for what they post or comment, users shouldn’t be anonymous (unless they’re taking part in a poll or survey). That way everyone is given appropriate credit for their contributions to the intranet, which is, again, a digital extension of your organization.
Tip: Conversation and discussion that takes place on your intranet needs to lead to real action. If people don’t think their words and thoughts will be taken seriously, they’re going to be silent and your intranet will stagnate over time.
Looking for a new kind of employee intranet?
4. Use your news feed for relatable, engaging content
Similar to my last point, the communications published on your intranet can’t just be in the form of HR-authored company news. To keep your people engaged and active on the platform you’ll need to share updates and promote posts that appeal to their interests and celebrate their contributions to your organization.
Looking for content ideas for your intranet? Here’s a small sampling of content types you can use to grab the attention of your people:
CEO blog posts
Company event details
IT or product announcements
Public shout-outs to acknowledge individual accomplishments
Polls and surveys of the best lunch spots
Event and conference announcements
New employee announcements
New customer announcements
News articles about your organization
You get the idea. You’ll continue to publish important updates, but your news feed should be about the people that make your company what it is, not just business outcomes and quarterly earnings reports. Keep your people engaged with varying types of content, and they’ll start contributing their own content.
Tip: Put together an internal communications content strategy that works best with your people, their interests, and your organization’s goals for a more engaged intranet. A diverse and well-planned editorial schedule will go a long way towards keeping your people’s attention on your intranet.
5. Position culture/community champions in a leading role within your intranet
One way to get your people using your intranet is to find the influencers at your organization. These are typically the people most active on your intranet, and they’re invaluable for getting their colleagues contributing as well.
Find your company’s culture champions and, if possible, amplify their voices on your intranet. Well thought-out, popular posts on your intranet are the key to generating lively discussions and drawing in colleagues to the conversation.
Tip: The conversations taking place on your intranet ought to be an appropriate mix of casual social topics and work-relevant, actionable topics. But if your culture champion’s cat memes lead to more people contributing in a productive way across your intranet, that’s a success.
6. Store all pertinent information in one searchable place
The other cause of intranet death is the page cluster, million-folder approach. An employee looking for an important document that explains your company’s healthcare benefits shouldn’t have to delve into a labyrinth of dead-end file directories and decades-old pages to find what they’re looking for.
Your intranet should keep all files in one searchable shared location. That way, all an employee has to do is search for “Benefits” and the document instantly is in front of them. Welcome to the 21st Century, please enjoy your stay.
Document retrieval and uploading should be easily navigable and straightforward. But so should the documents permissions, approvals, and security clearances processes. An intranet that takes all three of these into account and incorporates a feature that automates them is a must.
Tip: A cloud-based intranet is perhaps your best bet for document sharing, especially if your company is spread across multiple locations and/or servers.
Following these intranet best practices will get your people using your intranet, but also keep them active on it. Having a thriving digital interface as an extension of your office(s) creates a venue in which your people can interact and collaborate, tie together distant teams, and share glimpses into their lives outside of work. All of which are excellent ways to keep your employees engaged. Throw out that outdated intranet and get with the times.