These are 10 things every intranet should have to ensure a healthy, vital, essential intranet that engages people, supports their daily activities, reflects the company ethos and ultimately and helps people get work done.
This is the vision and should be the aim of every intranet manager.
So where do you start?
Start here, looking at the basics. This is not a finite list, every intranet can and should move beyond these points, but these are the foundations upon which any intranet, certainly one intent on greatness should have.
1) Well Populated Profiles
It’s massively important to a healthy, vital intranet that the profile pages of those who use the intranet are well populated, accurate and up-to-date. Responsibility for this should be placed firmly in the hands of the user. Profile completeness should be monitored, perhaps by making it part of a yearly appraisal and users should have the means to correct information that is not right.
From an aesthetic point of view, grey ‘missing’ people images and empty profile fields make an intranet feel unloved, unused and unattractive. On a more practical note, missing images and information wastes time and effort and causes frustration. If ignored, this can escalate into big, costly mistakes. It can also have a knock-on effect on user adoption as an employee’s sense of ownership is absent. Accurate profile information is important; it’s used in a variety of situations for a variety of different needs:
- People looking for each other’s contact details
- Workflow and Forms working out permissions for a certain workflow
- New starters working out who is who in the company
- The system as it builds the company organogram
- Project teams and work groups being put together to include members with the right mix of skills and expertise
- Identification of knowledge and experience to establish who would make good experts for various topic forums.
It is in the best interests of the intranet and the company it serves, to ensure everyone knows why profile information is important and how best to maintain it.
2) An Intelligent, Tailored Search
Ineffective search is one of the biggest criticisms users have of any poorly functioning intranet. The reasons why split between frustration with searches that bring back nothing and searches that bring back so much that finding the right result is an impossible task. Whatever the cause both are outcomes a good intranet should avoid.
While having a powerful, intelligent search that learns as you use it is important, it is not enough on its own. Having an effective search returning meaningful results starts with clear governance on the titles, summaries and keywords of your content.
Do your content pages have meaningful summaries? If they do then they help save time when people are searching, by giving them a good idea what the content is about, without them having to go into it?
Simply repeating the content title in the summary box is not sufficient.
Does your content have a meaningful, short title and a good list of associated keywords? Do these keywords reflect the terms that people might use to look for content? Adding ‘maternity’ as a keyword to a maternity policy is redundant, but adding the keywords, ‘Mum’, ‘baby’ or ‘pregnant’ might save someone a lot of time.
A powerful search, working in conjunction with well-managed, well-governed content will make your search amazingly powerful, saving time and effort, getting work done quicker and massively increasing the trust people have in the intranet.
3) Well Written Engaging Content
Writing for an intranet is not the same as writing paper copy. People read on-line content in a different way to that of paper text. A great intranet will take into consideration not only the audience it is aiming at and their needs, but also how on-line content is digested.
So what makes good content?
Research suggests that the following points are key:
- Written text should be in short, easy to read chunks
- Bullet points should be used to emphasise key points
- Images are very important to attracting readers, illustrating points and breaking up text
- Short multi-media videos enhances content, making engaging people far easier
- Content should have helpful links to further related information, either through manual links or from automated recommendations made by the intranet itself
- Pages, as much as possible, should sit within the intranet, providing a seamless, integrated experience
- Readers should be able to react to and interact with the content, either through feedback, comments or liking a page
Beyond the look and feel of the document, governance should provide a strong framework for the content writer. Training and support of content authors ensures the company culture and ‘tone of voice is an integral part of content pages, along with the ‘domestic’ points of having sufficient keywords and a short snappy summary. With Interact Analytics you can easily monitor and benchmark every page of content with an automatic Document Quality Score.
4) Lots of Engaging and Dynamic Homepages
When it comes to anything online people have huge expectations. They will have the same expectations for their intranet. One expectation is that content should be dynamic, engaging and ever changing and this starts with your intranet homepages. Often getting people to log into your intranet is an effort in itself, but if, once you have got them there, they see the same pages, messages and images they saw last week and last month, they are going to never come back. Most people have far too much work to do to waste time reading the same content repeatedly. Therefore, when information does change, it will be missed and the intranet fails.
Every intranet that wants to have high adoption rates needs to create homepages where the content changes frequently (ideally, daily or even more frequently if it can be managed.) It should show information that is not only relevant to topics being discussed across the company, but it also tailored to the individual.
This can be achieved in a variety of ways, from displaying pages from a range of different areas, representing different business needs and regularly publishing blogs from people within the company that employees would like to hear from, to having an intranet intelligently suggest content to people based on content they have read and searched for in the past.
However you choose to do it, every intranet should have tailored, dynamic homepages that grab and hold the attention, while still serving the important role of transmitting business information in a timely and relevant fashion.
5) Peer-to-Peer Recognition
A fundamental truth about human nature is that most of us like to be praised. We like to be told when we do a good job and are pleased when extra effort we have put in, is recognised and rewarded. In many companies everyday opportunities for this can be missed, because those with the power to praise and reward can’t be everywhere. Often those putting the super human efforts in day after day are the quiet ones; the ones who are always on hand to answer a question and willing to help when asked, without making a big fuss.
With a peer-to-peer recognition tool, like rewards, the ability to thank those who go the extra mile is put where it belongs; in the hands of their colleagues, in the hands of those they have helped. So, as well as providing a positive boost to moral, this is another area where people can take ownership of their intranet and feel empowered.
By harnessing the inherent feel good factor that peer-to-peer recognition brings on your intranet, value and care are promoted and this can be a big contributory factor in making your intranet the heart and soul of your organisation.
6) Quick, Easy Access to the Important Things
Your intranet is a business tool. The more everyday ‘work’ people can do through your intranet the bigger the ‘pull’ to it. If the intranet is not a vital part of every day that helps people get work done, it’s failing. Getting people onto your intranet in the first place is critical, and pulling them in with work tasks they can only achieve on the intranet is a great way to do it. A vital intranet should have lots of tools and functionality that allows tasks to be done quicker and easier.
This can be done in a variety of ways; it can be as simple as adding quick links on the homepage or top menu to regularly performed tasks – booking a holiday or booking a room, to presenting people with alerts about information or actions that are expected of them, making time management easier. Even more useful is presenting people with personalised information they need on the homepage. Having Intranet widgets that tell them of mandatory content they need to read, quizzes that need to be taken are great ways to make sure work gets done, knowledge transferred and key communications absorbed.
Moving paper forms into the electronic environment of the intranet is an important step in making your intranet the place where people can get work done. Not only will it reduce errors and streamline tasks, it also creates a self-service view of the processes for your pro-active, empowered staff.
A good intranet will include all of the above, but a great intranet will also provide people with functionality that allows them to tailor some of the content they need for themselves. Being able to create an easily accessible list of favourite pages, or place watches against pages that are important to their role can make finding the right information for getting their work done easy; saving time, effort and ultimately, improving productivity.
7) On-Demand Project Areas
In any moment, in any business, you will find active projects. These could be; conferences being planned for, marketing campaigns being managed and office moves facilitated. With a great intranet all of these events, projects and campaigns can take advantage of an easier, more efficient working environment with their own project areas.
By providing people with on-demand team areas, that they can set up, manage and dispose of themselves, people are empowered to take control of their working space. This makes the intranet feel much more their tool, increasing adoption, while getting focussed around work tasks. Making these project areas self-service, will also take pressure off the intranet manager as people will be able to create the area they need themselves.
These areas can hold all the content, images and discussions required for a particular project, allowing all project members’ equal access to the information needed, regardless of their department, location or time zone and making sure keeping everyone up-to-date is easy.
8) A Structured Place to Ask Questions
Asking questions is an on-going, ever evolving part of every company, however how these questions are answered, and by whom, is often not planned for. With an intranet, there is the opportunity to structure this question and answer dialogue, and store the results.
Every intranet should have some method of focusing these questions, getting fast, accurate answers from the right person and then when the question is asked again making sure the answer is even quicker and easier to find.
Question forums is a great way to do this. With forums created for specific topics or content areas, so that experts can be assigned to it based on the expected questions. The discussion around the question and/or the answer can encourage collaboration and involvement, leading to better clarification and competent, well-managed crowd sourcing.
9) Reflect Company Culture
While the intranet is, primarily, a ‘tool’ for getting work done, one of its more important additional roles is to ensure that the company culture, mission, values and ethos are present for everyone. Corporate brand is something that large amounts of time, effort and money get spent on. Often the challenge is ensuring everyone in the company understands this brand and how they fit into it.
Every intranet should reflect this corporate brand and culture, reminding people every day what they are aiming towards, bringing them together and creating a solid sense of coherence. The intranet will allow people to engage with each other as individuals, but in a professional, inclusive manner. It will also provide new starters with a platform to accelerate their acclimatization to their new role and company environment as a whole.
10) Well Defined, Communicated and Delivered Governance
So how does an intranet achieve everything listed above? Well, to reach the heights of indispensable, vital, business tool, there must be a clear, well-defined road map. This will state what are the goals of the intranet are, and what benchmarking will occur to record and show this achievement.
Beyond this, to implement these plans, you need governance. How your intranet will work must be thought through. There should be content standards that explain how content should be added and maintained. There should be a process that covers how new starter training needs to incorporate the intranet. There should also be ‘look and feel’ rules that cover which widgets, colours and images should be used. Other questions answered by our governance will include; Will your intranet pages look the same? Do you have a corporate style for documents? Will there be a standard ‘work’ photo for everyone’s profile, or can people add their own? Will having a well-populated profile page be a requirement that people are appraised on?
Once the answers to these questions are known, they need to be communicated, clearly and directly to every person who uses the intranet. Having this clear, well thought out and well planned governance for your intranet will make ensuring all the other nine things your intranet needs are achieved is a straight forward task.