Whether you have an existing intranet in need of an overhaul, are setting out on your first intranet project or you’re looking to build a business case for a new intranet, the question, ‘what content do we need on our intranet?’ is one of the core concerns for any intranet manager.
The power of content.
Content is king. It can also make or break an intranet project. At its most basic level, an intranet should make it easier for employees to do their day-to-day roles, as well as offering benefits such as improved communication and collaboration with colleagues or the streamlining of everyday business processes.
However, with a historic reputation as a DMS, many intranets can become a dumping ground for information. Users are forced to navigate multiple versions of documents, unintuitive or illogical structures, or battle poor search functions. Without a strategic plan, this can quickly escalate into an internal comms nightmare.
If your intranet content isn’t aligned to the needs and wants of your users, is outdated, difficult to find or simply not available, this presents a considerable risk to your project. Simply put, if your intranet isn’t serving its purpose, it will soon become redundant. All that investment goes down the drain: and you’re left cap in hand, explaining the demise of your project to the C-suite.
So, how do you create a solid content plan for your intranet that will ensure and maximize its success?
Intranet content isn’t a game of luck.
Businesses hold vast volumes of information. If you have a new intranet project that offers a DMS or CMS functionality, it may be easy to assume this is the holy grail solution: a one-stop shop on which you can collate all your documents from across the business.
A word of warning: don’t.
Years of intranet strategy experience has shown us the importance of setting out a clear and defined content strategy to maximize the success of your project. When setting out your plan, you need to consider:
- Your overall intranet strategy: what your objectives are, and how content can support your goals
- Your users and communities: who will be using your intranet and what they’re looking to use it for
- Types and formats of content: will your employee demographic respond better to documents, blogs, video? Are they accessing your intranet on a desktop, or from their mobile device?
(Intranet communities typically form around groups that relate due to a shared purpose, practice, event or interest. A successful intranet content plan will recognize the unique needs and wants of these groups. Discover more in our eBook, ‘Intranets: Are they still relevant?’)
It’s important to note that what goes onto an intranet is unique to every individual business – there is no prescribed checklist of essential documents that ‘must’ form part of your content strategy.
In our experience, there are common types of content that appear time and again, but the process of defining your intranet content strategy is personal to your business.
What is content?
It sounds simplistic, but bear with me here. Let’s take a moment to consider what actually constitutes content.
To those operating in the C suite, this question usually triggers answers such as policies, compliance documents, benefits and HR information or the information security agreement. The focus is on business-critical or process orientated documents that primarily provide information.
Increasingly however, employees and managers alike are looking for content designed to drive communication and that will contribute to the overall employee experience. This can span the likes of blog posts about company events, successes or plans, through to comments or forum post questions from their peers. In reality, the potential range of content available in your business is endless.
Who, what and why
Before we go diving in and start putting up every piece of available content onto the intranet, there are a few key questions to answer first.
- What is the purpose of our intranet?
Is it to provide access to policies and procedures through a centralized hosting of information? Are you looking to connect employees and improve engagement with the organization? The main objectives for your intranet govern what type of content you need to populate it with – so set out clearly what the end-goal of your intranet is first.
- Who is the intranet – and content – for?
Define your audience. Is the intranet serving home-based or remote workers, employees on the road? Is it for those operating on the shop floor or based in regional centers? Look at the demographic for your intranet and take the time to assess their needs and wants.
Working with employees, the actual end-user of your intranet and consumer of the content, is a foundational part of intranet strategy. If your intranet doesn’t meet their needs, it ceases to have a purpose. Usage will quickly fall away, dooming your project to failure.
- Are we speaking their language?
You know who your audience are – now consider how your content should be structured, formatted and the tone of voice used. Is it in a language they will understand?
This sounds simple, but it’s easily missed. When you have your technically-minded IT Manager compiling the acceptable usage policy, there’s a risk that the people it’s aimed for – your employees – won’t understand the more technical terminology, or will disengage from it if it’s too ‘dry’ or not aligned to their roles. Approach your content from a ‘what’s in it for me?’ perspective on behalf of your employees.
- How are our employees accessing the information?
Mobile use is continuing to rise, with mobile web usage overtaking desktop for the first time in late 2016 – a trend set to continue. The growth of ‘bring your own device’ cultures, combined with flexible working and globalization, mean that the way our employees connect to the business (and, subsequently, their intranet) is changing.
Research into use trends amongst Interact customers shows that 23% of all intranet activity occurred outside of core business hours in 2016.
This has implications for the content you place on an intranet. How many of your employees will be willing to scroll through long documents on a mobile device, for example? Building your content plan with a mobile-first mindset may call for more digestible forms and greater emphasis on images, video or microblogging.
- Will they be able to find it?
Taking the time to carefully plan and map out your intranet content means nothing if your employees can’t find the content they’re looking for.
With a considered structure, a powerful enterprise search function and advanced capabilities such as intranet analytics or algorithms that will push content to users based on their previous interactions with the intranet, you can ensure your efforts don’t go to waste. Tagging content with relevant keywords and assigning review dates for content will ensure that when your employees search for the ‘CSR policy’, they don’t get a 5 year-old blog that talks about how expensive the photocopier is to run.
Time for a content spring clean?
Considering your content strategy for an existing or prospective intranet project is a valuable opportunity to take stock.
Organizations hold vast knowledge assets: the bigger and the older the business, the more information they acquire. But when was the last time you audited that vast stockpile of content? The chances are, it’s been a while. And the danger is, much of your existing information may no longer be relevant or even correct – putting your business and its employees at potential risk.
So, approach the process with the same mindset as you would when moving house. Take a brutal approach to collating information from across your business – the different versions saved on various drives, the 2003, 2005, 2007, 2012 copies of that HR policy – before identifying what you actually need and use.
Intranet content ideas
So, we’ve argued that there is no right or wrong when it comes to defining and executing your intranet content strategy. However, we do have some ideas for the types of content you may look to include as part of your intranet content plan.
1. HR, IT or business policies and documentation
They may be dry, but they are important.
Vital business policies and documents that cover everything from annual leave entitlement through to IT acceptable usage policy are a foundation of many intranet. If you have mandatory compliance documents or defined procedures that your employees need to read and acknowledge, the ‘Mandatory Read’ functionality will help you abide with compliance criteria. They should be easy to access, and centrally hosted and controlled – avoiding the potential non-compliance issue of multiple versions saved to various servers or desktops.
(HR areas on an intranet can be used to host essential documents and information, answer common questions or to highlight recent changes or developments impacting employees.)
2. Orientation and onboarding support
We talk about the importance of onboarding employees and the impact that experience can have not only on productivity, but employer brand, retention and more. Spearheading your onboarding process through your intranet can be invaluable in supporting this.
Tailored new starter homepages can push the most important information to your newbies, including your values and mission, vital HR information or FAQ forums to help answer their most-asked questions. You can also make use of quizzes or workflows to help new starters complete tasks or learn more about your business in the early days.
(A New Starter homepage on your intranet presents tailored, personalized information designed to support new staff in becoming orientated and performing essential tasks autonomously in their early days and weeks.)
3. How to: user guides or support for everyday tasks and use of the intranet
One of the most common questions in any business nowadays is, “How do I…”?
Dedicating specific content areas on your intranet to answering commonly asked questions can relieve pressure on internal HR or office support resource, streamlining the resolution of key internal queries. Include user-friendly guides or tips on how to use the intranet and to complete essential tasks, empowering your employees to self-serve and take ownership for their own upskilling and learning processes.
4. Team specific content
Not all content is relevant for everyone; depending on the communities using your intranet, tailored or personalized content aligned to their specific goals, objectives, interests or projects may be useful.
Making the most of team areas on your intranet can be used to host this. Content may range from discussions or sharing information around a specific project through to blogs, updates or events for the company football team.
(A team forum can be used for team members to put forward ideas, suggestions and questions to their immediate colleagues, without irrelevant content being visible to those outside of the team).
5. Administrative tasks or automated processes
Are there everyday processes or workflows that could be streamlined through your intranet?
For example, many organizations experience tremendous pressure on internal resources for the processing of absence requests or completion of expenses. Alongside ‘How To’ information hosted in your intranet content areas, using forms and workflows can relieve this pressure and enable employees to complete common tasks self-sufficiently, relieving the demand on back office or administrative resource.
6. User-friendly or user-generated content
We’ve already talked about the types of content that employees and intranet users are more likely to engage with. Although it may not serve an obvious business purpose, these types of content are far more likely to engage your staff and will contribute towards intranet usage, your business culture and overall employee engagement.
Examples may include employee or team blogs, covering news and updates (both business and non-business related – such as the completion of a key project, or perhaps a wedding or baby announcement) or perhaps recommendations, events and charity work. Opening up your intranet to employees, allowing them to submit their own content, can prove a highly successful strategy to drive adoption and engagement.
7. Access to external content
Admittedly this one is not technically ‘content’, but it forms a vital part of your overall intranet content strategy.
We’ve already argued that not every single piece of content or collateral your company owns or uses needs to be hosted on your intranet. In some instances, this can prove counterintuitive and may undermine your overall intranet goals. If you work across several different business applications, sites or platforms, then integration functionality, widgets or even simple links within content areas will ensure your intranet can serve as the portal or access point for employees to tap into the information they need – even if it is hosted or found outside of the intranet.
8. Brand and culture material
Global organizations are increasingly finding the need to build digital workplaces that can support cultures without walls: connecting employees across multiple offices, locations and even languages or timezones. Your intranet can support this process.
Content that communicates your internal brand, values and mission can help instil purpose and direction in employees. By making these visible in the everyday roles and processes for your employees, you reinforce that virtual culture and message. At Interact, we also assign our values as #hashtags as part of our peer-to-peer rewards system, promoting that vision further.
Don’t forget that the presentation of your intranet content, and the brand you create around it, is a vital part of your content strategy also. Building a recognizable identity and brand can significantly impact on user engagement with an intranet. Looking for inspiration? Some of our award-winning customer homepage designs can give you some starter ideas.
9. Top-down communication and recognition
One of the most powerful things an intranet can provide is the capacity to improve internal communication and drive engagement amongst your employees. Using blogs or peer recognition tools, it can significantly improve transparency and help keep employees up to date with what is happening in your business.
These forms of content are typically ad hoc, as and when events or announcements are required. However, when creating your content plan and intranet structure, factoring in areas for these forms of content is essential.
(Management blogs are a strong way to build on the company culture, share news or give recognition. With social tools to allow users to like, share or comment, they offer a more informal and inclusive approach to internal communication.)
If you’re considering the intranet content plan for your own project, or you’re in need of an overhaul for your existing intranet, why not speak to a member of our professional services team? Our specialist intranet experts have extensive experience delivering tailored design and strategic support to help maximize the long-term benefits and return for your intranet.