Like all things digital, intranets have changed dramatically over the last decade. The first intranet I worked on launched in 2007. So much has changed from that basic online repository of news and documents.
Intranets must adapt to the ever changing interactive world. Most of these changes boil down to one idea – giving employees the features they’ve come to expect from external sites. Beyond that, good intranets can also serve a greater business function and deliver real value by supporting and engaging employees.
1. If the intranet features company news, it needs to be updated daily. Do you re-read news stories? Stories sitting on the homepage for more than a day (maybe two) just eliminated one of your main reasons for employees to use the intranet every day. Most intranets and employee newsletters use lengthier feature stories that are great for telling a full story, but also take longer to create. Consider alternate content to deliver that daily update.
- Try shorter updates on performance or projects that relate to the business’ goals.
- Include an external news feed about your company, customers and the industry to help keep employees informed.
- The Intranet Benchmarking Forum even suggests adding lifestyle content like health and wellness articles, which drove a 41 percent rise in overall traffic in six months for Unilever.
- Use employee authors to help balance the workload and increase engagement. Taking it a step further, encourage the employee to then follow and respond to comments to enable more information transfer and collaboration.
2. Search has become the most common method for people to find information online. Give your employees that same service on your intranet with features like search-as-you-type, search results sorted by view count and smart search that recognizes common misspellings so a match can still be delivered.
3. People like personalization. The Intranet Design Annual Report from Nielsen Norman Group suggests allowing employees to create personalized shortcuts, or bookmarks. Borrowing a tool from online news sites, recommend related articles on the intranet news stories.
4. Researchers project there will be 1.4 billion smartphones and 268 million tablets in active use in 2013. Companies with a mobile workforce, or a workforce without daily computer access (manufacturing and service industries), can increase intranet use and build a more informed employee base by providing access via mobile devices, or at-home online access.
5. Feedback mechanisms drive engagement and buy-in for company strategies, according to CMSWire. A Hewitt Research Brief on employee engagement at double-digit growth companies found that in companies where 60 to 70 percent of employees were engaged, average total shareholder’s return (TSR) stood at 24.2 percent. By comparison, in companies with only 49 to 60 percent of their employees engaged, TSR fell to 9.1 percent.
But, a good intranet design is only that (a good design) if it’s not tailored to serve the needs of your company and employees. Involve leaders from all divisions of the business to help guide the strategy and content of the site. Not only can this increase leadership support, it facilitates feedback on each departments’ functionality needs and ensures all areas of the company are represented in the employee news.
The most important step may be to commit to continuous improvement. Measure the success of story topics and types, functionality, quicklinks, etc. to determine what is most valuable to your employees. Then, listen and adjust so the intranet the tool your employees need.
What other best practices are you using for your company’s intranet?