Intranets are widely used. According to Simpplr Research, 93% of companies are already using an intranet. But a whopping 60% are currently dissatisfied with their intranet. So how do you make your intranet the best company intranet against these odds?
Organizations now are more distributed and traditional intranets fail to accommodate the needs of today’s workforce. The reality is they fail to empower companies to run at the speed of business. Companies need to realign their needs with modern technology that reflect the nature of today’s modern workplace. Modern intranets should be a strategic tool for internal communications to align and engage the workforce. Fortunately, modern intranets are specifically designed to drive employee engagement with an intuitive and modern interface, making it extremely easy for employees to use. In short, modern intranets are purpose-built to prevent the top reasons intranets fail.
How to make the best company intranet
Now that we’ve set the precedent of how a company intranet should work for the modern workforce, we’ll dive into how you can make the best company intranet so it connects, aligns, and engages employees across the organization.
Best company intranets have: A clearly defined purpose
A company intranet should help employees better connect with coworkers and find the relevant information they need to do their job. The core purpose of IC is to align the entire organization, making intranet software an integral part of the internal communications (IC) strategy. Alignment is critical to an organization’s success because it focuses employees toward a single goal, establishes and reinforces purpose, and engages employees to make them feel included. So it makes sense that the intranet should be used as a vehicle to elevate internal communications.
A company intranet should ultimately serve as the company’s virtual headquarters™ so all employees:
- Stay informed about important company communications such as important news, strategy, and events
- Find and connect with experts across their organization
- Socially communicate with coworkers to share personal news and discover common interests outside of work
- Access critical information, data, knowledge, and documentation to complete day-to-day tasks
- Collaborate with coworkers, particularly those across cross-functional lines or in different office locations
Best company intranets programs: Understand that an intranet’s success isn’t just about functionality
If you want to make the best company intranet, make sure you’re not only focused on the intranet software’s features and functionality. This is a common mistake that many practitioners do when evaluating intranets at an early stage. What happens is you overlook solving your company’s challenges and pigeonhole yourself into choosing a solution that is features-focused. Features-focused products lack the understanding of your organization’s challenges at a holistic, strategic level. When you focus on features, you end up with a Frankenstein intranet software that:
- Is not purposeful
- Does not address strategic problems (e.g., employee engagement)
- Neglects the user experience
- Becomes cluttered with unused features
- Eventually fails
The best company intranets address the modern workforce, focuses on solving problems, and are purposely built for organizational alignment.
Best company intranets: Establish a strong foundation and processes
Don’t get us wrong, features are important but only to a certain extent. You can have the best software in the world, but if you don’t have leadership involvement, good governance, a clearly defined (and communicated) purpose, your intranet will fail.
How to establish a strong intranet foundation
Define your intranet’s purpose
Again, it’s critical to clearly communicate why the intranet exists. The best company intranet programs go out of their way to communicate purpose to employees again and again. Simply put, the intranet is more likely to be used by employees and executives when everyone understands its purpose.
(Really) Engage your executives
Intranets often fail because executives are not fully engaged. Being fully engaged means that leaders are using the company intranet to communicate, align, and connect with employees. Employees look up to their leaders for inspiration and direction, so executives need to constantly beat the drum and utilize the intranet as their primary tool for strategic communications. We understand that executives are busy and might not know where to start. But it is your job as an internal communicator to not only enable your executives to use the company intranet but also help employees understand the value of the intranet. With that said, it’s critical to align your intranet with executive strategic initiatives to reduce as much friction as possible. If your goals are strategically aligned, executives can see the value of the intranet much more easily as opposed to seeing the intranet as a new project or tool.
Here are some strategic tips and best practices on how our global customer successfully connected nearly 60 offices across 30+ countries while turning executives into active champions.
Establish governance early and keep it intact
According to Simpplr Research, the number one reason company intranets fail is due to unclear ownership and governance. Since modern intranets are inherently built to connect employees across locations and functions, proper governance helps disparate functions align with the ongoing strategy that intranets execute against.
A governance team typically is composed of:
- Internal Communications (typically the project owner)
- Human Resources
- Executive representation
For best practices and how to build a governance committee download our guide: Intranet Governance Planning Checklist
Enforce your intranet as the single source of truth
Nobody benefits from multiple intranets. The intranet owner suffers from effectively streamlining strategic communications across multiple applications. Content authors double their publishing efforts. And administrators are forced to manage more than they should. Most importantly, important information gets lost and fails to reach all employees. The most effective method to connect employees is through a single intranet with multiple broadcasting channels that can reach all employees. That way, when content needs to be updated, intranet administrators only need to go through a single portal to make changes that are consistent across channels. It’s critical to upkeep a single intranet for the entire organization because it reinforces the company intranet as the single source of truth. In addition, it’s essential to keep your content and documents up-to-date so you condition and reward your employees with relevant information every time they search using your company intranet. When an employee asks another colleague “where can I find the travel expense policy?”, the goal is to get the colleague to respond: “you can find it in our intranet.”
Capabilities that are purpose-built for intranets
When choosing the right intranet for your organization, you’ll need to have the right balance of purpose-built features. Here is a mix of features and differentiators that the best company intranets typically have:
A modern, user-friendly interface
Best company intranets today are built with a modern, user-friendly interface that makes it easy for employees to use. According to Simpplr Research, bad user experience is a top reason intranets fail. Familiar and ubiquitous social apps such as Facebook and LinkedIn have shaped our user behavior so we expect software to be intuitive. So if you have to train your employees to use your intranet, you’ve already failed. The better the company intranet experience is, the more likely your employees will continue to use it.
Traditional corporate intranets require a gatekeeper or an individual with high technical skills to maintain the intranet software. Unfortunately, many intranet companies continue to use this model today primarily because their technological infrastructure is outdated. The challenge with this gatekeeper model is that processes get bottlenecked or backlogged and makes it extremely difficult for intranet owners to make any kind of changes. Ultimately, intranets fail under this gatekeeper model because the content and information don’t get updated and consequently the intranet lags behind employees’ needs.
With a modern intranet, administration is distributed across multiple individuals and that encourages wide-scale involvement and engagement across the organization. The administrative burden becomes shared across different departments, encouraging organizational-wide accountability. In addition, modern intranet software makes it easy for non-technical users to manage the intranet. This removes the traditional bottleneck and reliance that older intranet software typically requires. So for example, the accounting manager can manage the Finance site while someone from marketing owns updating and maintaining the marketing site. This ultimately prevents Why Intranets Fail Reason #5: The intranet gatekeeper’s approach
Segmentation is a key to intranet user experience. To make the best company intranet, your intranet software should be able to personalize every employee’s experience based on role, location, and domain. Personalized content is critical to keeping employees engaged so they continue to return to your company intranet. Content becomes noise and clutter to employees when irrelevant information surfaces. Employees eventually distrust the intranet as being the single source of truth.
Your corporate intranet should equip intranet managers with analytics to inform their decisions so they can sustain and assess the performance of the intranet and drive it to success. Intranet analytics should go beyond just the number of logins, engagement metrics, and adoption. Modern intranets provide analytics that give actionable insights into employee behavior that you can use to:
- Improve employee productivity
- Increase user adoption by tracking and measuring trends
- Improve user engagement by understanding employee preference
- Deliver strategic internal communication to employees to align your workforce
- Drive an increase in collaboration and knowledge management processes
- Make more effective decisions when curating and creating intranet content
For more analytics, read Simpplr’s Simpplr Intranet Features that Matter: Analytics (Part I) and Part 2.
Trusted, up-to-date information
Best company intranets do not surface old, outdated content. In fact, best company intranets are like a news source for your employees. Think about your favorite news app: it’s credible, time-sensitive, always updated, and pushes information that is relevant and interesting to you. Intranets should do the same. Your company intranet should always surface the most recent and relevant content so you’re constantly in-the-know. Not only that, your intranet should be the single source of truth for all information. You shouldn’t be finding documents from 10 years ago or seeing an event from last week. Modern intranets make it easy for you to manage your intranet content, keeping everything fresh and up-to-date with content governance technology.
If Google’s search didn’t return the results you expected, then it wouldn’t be the most widely-used search engine. If your intranet’s search capability isn’t intelligent enough to return the most relevant results, then it’s difficult to position your intranet in becoming the best company intranet. An intranet’s search capability should be purpose-built for corporate intranets to accommodate specific use cases. When evaluating an intranet’s software’s search capabilities, look for:
- Personalized search
- Federated search
- Fast search results
For more intranet search requirements, read: Simpplr Features that Matter: 6 Intranet Search Requirements
Integrations with best modern applications
Integrations should be core to a company intranet because intranets involve either connecting a distributed workforce or providing employees with a single source of truth for critical company information. It’s important to avoid focusing on the number of integrations. Instead, pay attention to the quality and workflow of integrations that will help improve your employees’ productivity day-to-day.
To learn more about integrations, read our blog: Intranet Features that Matter: Cloud-based Management Integrations.
For example, cloud-based content management systems are integral integrations with intranets because intranets are content-heavy. When evaluating this type of content integration, make sure that it supports your employees’ goals by making sure it:
- Helps prevent duplicate content
- Makes content easily searchable
- Governs the flow of data
Video and multimedia
A must-have integration is video. The ability to easily upload, share, and embed videos in your company intranet is a contributing factor to a successful IC program. Simpplr Research’s State of Internal State of Communications research report substantiates that video usage in IC has the strongest impact, as proven by organizations with leading IC programs. Videos are more interesting, faster and easier to consume from an employee’s perspective.
One intranet available both on desktop and mobile
Depending on the structure of your organization, communicating through a single channel may not suffice. There are mobile-first or mobile-only company intranets available on the market, but if your organization employs knowledge workers who sit in front of computers for the majority of the day, it does not make sense to require them to access the intranet through a mobile app. So when considering an intranet, be conscientious of your employee’s environment and their work structure. The optimal solution that addresses the diversity of your workforce is with a single intranet, available both on desktop and mobile. Not only does it give access to all kinds of employees, but it also makes it easier for authors to publish content and managers to administer the platform.
Amazing content strategies
Managing content is a critical part of an intranet program’s effectiveness and sustainability. We understand it’s not easy to maintain critical communications while keeping the rest of the workforce engaged. While we outlined the recipe for a successful intranet foundation above, it’s also important to think about the type of content that satisfies both senior management and employees.
When thinking about the content piece of your intranet strategy, focus on creating a sustainable content strategy. Your intranet content strategy should include editorial calendars (tailored to both employees and executives), balancing the fun with necessary content using hooks to drive your organization to read the content.
Here are some content ideas to add to your intranet to make your intranet the best company intranet:
- Leverage your intranet for launches, strategic company initiatives, and company-wide announcements
- Post important documents and information such as training documents, 401K, benefits, policies, etc.
- Use video as a part of your internal communications strategy!
- Create and foster community by forming sites around affinity interests such as philanthropic initiatives, career resources, and other things your employees care about
- Promote company events, happy hours, competitions
- Post the lunch menu
- Share fun photos and holiday cards
- Announce new hires, birthdays, work anniversaries
- Use humor! Be human and communicate like one
- Encourage your employees to fill out profiles
- Broadcast company and individual accomplishments
- Use intranet for employee feedback
- Encourage forum amongst employees (depending on your culture)
- Give your executives a private space to collaborate
- Plan easter egg hunts on your intranet. Make it fun.
On your way to making the best company intranet
The old intranet days are gone. The days of clunky, static, resource-heavy, difficult-to-use intranets are in the past. Modern intranet technology has made it much easier to connect, align, and engage your workforce. Once you set the foundation and processes for your intranet, you can pave the way to elevate your intranet to become the single source of strategic communications and engaging content for your entire organization. Follow this checklist and your intranet will become the best company intranet in no time! If you’d like to share more ideas with us, shoot us a message at [email protected].