Boost internal communications with a honey-coated intranet

For many companies and organizations the intranet is virtually synonymous with internal communications. Everything from business strategies, news, and events to work-shift swops are communicated via the intranet. The ability to handle all communications using one single platform is truly fantastic. But it only works so long as your employees prefer the intranet to other tools and channels. If this isn’t the case, it may even prove to be a hindrance to internal communications.

Outdated and neglected intranets that management depends on and employees despise are unfortunately all too common today. Consequently, critical information isn’t always communicated throughout the organization in a timely manner, and indeed sometimes not at all. A delinquent intranet also has a negative impact on employee engagement, making the organization less productive and more difficult to steer.

There could be many reasons for an intranet’s unpopularity. Maybe it’s not mobile-friendly, for instance. Or perhaps it’s grown into a massive tangled web of data, making it difficult to extract relevant information. It’s also possible that tools and functions preferred by employees are just not available, something that can easily happen if the intranet hasn’t been updated for a long time, so the hands of the IT department are tied when it comes to integrating modern tools. Also, if the homepage isn’t addressing what employees see as the most important internal needs and preferences, this will have a negative effect on their view of the intranet as a whole.

In this blog post, we’ll give you a few basic tips on how to design your intranet so it becomes a real honey-trap, providing a powerful boost to internal communications.

Make employees intranet addicts

You may not think any of these problems apply to your intranet. It’s hypermodern, optimized for mobile devices and, in your eyes, easy to navigate. However, if intranet usage is low and your organization is perceived as being uninformed, divided and unengaged, then your communications strategy, as well as your intranet, are probably not working very well. In that case, a radical redesign of both your intranet and your communications strategy is most likely what you need.

The best way of doing this will very much depend on your line of business, the size of your organization, whether you’re running a global operation or have been recently merged, and so on. It’s a complex issue that we’ll save for a future blog post.

The structure and function of your intranet must of course also be adapted to the unique needs of your organization and your operations. But there are several success factors that are applicable across the board. Every communications manager should always aim at making employees intranet addicts. If you succeed in doing this, management can rest assured that the intranet is doing its vital job of keeping the entire organization constantly updated with all the latest important information.

Clean up, slim down, impose a strict diet

An intranet has an annoying habit of swelling. New documents, blog posts, subpages and landing pages, images, videos, and other media are added all the time, around the clock. If not kept on a short leash, it can easily grow into an impenetrable and enormous mass of old, redundant, duplicated and in many cases inaccurate information mixed with critical fresh information. The bigger the mass, the more likely it is that employees miss out on important information and that they start deliberately avoiding the intranet. And if the same information is available in a host of different versions, the intranet will furthermore completely lose its trustworthiness.

To avoid this counter-productive amassing of information, you need to establish strict lean routines for every aspect of information management, from the posting of new information to the deletion and archiving processes. For instance, there should be a dedicated information-owner for each business area, someone who is responsible for cleaning out and archiving information on a regular basis. Intranet editors seldom have the knowledge necessary to validate the accuracy of all the information channeled through their intranets. Blog posts, documents, and pages with limited life expectancy should always have an unpublish date. Duplicates can be eliminated or reduced by using unified publishing and catalog routines. An integrated document management system will also simplify the work of keeping the intranet clean and tidy and easy to navigate.

But having introduced a shiny new structure and best-of-class routines, the trickiest task still remains. The most important success factor now is to make sure that all publicists (often comprising the whole organization) follow suit. So as to keep the intranet fit and slim, regular education and information campaigns are therefore a must for any organization.

Make the intranet available to everyone. All the time.

Today, when practically everyone sleeps with their mobile phones next to them, mobile adaption of the intranet is absolutely vital if we are to optimize internal communications. Even if your employees spend a large part of their days in front of a computer, the mobile phone plays a significantly bigger role in their lives. At many workplaces, employees may not even have a computer. The mobile phone, or a tablet, is perhaps the only digital communications device available. Thinking mobile, from a user’s perspective, is thus key to building a popular intranet.

Availability is also about accessibility. Granting accessibility to everything for everyone is rarely an option. There is always a certain amount of sensitive information that is reserved for a select few.  Data protection and integrity compliance regulations must also be taken into account. But you should nonetheless always aim at making as much information as possible available to as many as possible. Transparency and openness more often than not pave the way to increased employee engagement, making it easier to unify the organization and steer it towards strategic goals.

Therefore, make sure to reserve time to regularly revise and update your information accessibility lists. It’s truly a successful recipe for attracting and keeping users. Another way of enhancing availability is to structure search functions and guides to match work roles, processes and responsibilities. This will make the search for relevant information so much easier.

Navigation for efficient communication

Many intranets, particularly older ones, can be hard to navigate. The homepage, for instance, may be out of sync with the development of the business, focussing on outdated user needs and preferences. This is where we should be able to find the most prioritized work tools, all the latest news and entries to current focus areas. Additionally, the layout must be eye-catching, airy and easy to navigate. Reoccurring events and calendar activities can, for instance, be moved to a separate landing page instead of cluttering up the homepage, thereby making space for the most important messages. The contents of the intranet and its menu structure should be regularly revised and updated in line with current communication and operational processes and users’ needs.

Reviewing search functions is also of utmost importance if we are to enhance the intranet’s popularity. When the search result lists become inordinately long and have many similar or irrelevant hits, users will start looking for alternate search options. So in addition to trimming the search function’s settings, e.g. with self-filling suggestions for search phrases, you’ll need to structure everything published in accordance with modern SEO techniques in the same way that you handle your external web. In practical terms, this means that search words and phrases should be embedded in headlines, excerpts and lead paragraphs, that meta descriptions are optimized and that everything is tagged and categorized, etc.

Add color and life

An intranet filled with bureaucratic text, few images, and no videos will be put to rest in the digital graveyard in no time. If you want messages to spread quickly, your productivity optimized and your workforce constantly thirsting for new information, you need to add life and color to your intranet. You have to spice it up with plenty of images and videos, reflecting your organization’s unique values, characteristics and sub-culture both visually and verbally. But always keep the tone easy-going, so your employees feel as much at home online as they do in the physical workplace.

Think about how your various messages are presented so as to get the best results. It’s far more inspiring to learn about management’s new business strategy via a video compared to reading it in a news bulletin. A video is a lot more personal and has a much better chance of triggering employee engagement than a dry press release.

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