Many lifetimes ago, I was an intranet manager, with over 5,000 content pages at my disposal to convince my colleagues – dotted as they were, over multiple locations in the UK – that given the chance, the intranet would revolutionise their working life. All they had to do was use it without first muttering expletives.
I’ve since managed other intranet sites and come to the conclusion that:
- Employees really hate their intranet
- Employees really, really hate their intranet.
The intranet is seen as a necessary evil. And, as an intranet manager, the quicker you can make peace with this, the easier your job will be.
You could argue that the main reason that employees hate their intranet is because:
- They can ‘never find anything’
- They think the intranet has no relevance to their work, hence their low engagement with the tool
- The information architecture leaves much to be desired.
Any one of the above statements could be true. But, the truth is that the intranet is a company’s favourite punch bag. Think Google employees don’t gripe about their intranet? Of course they do!
So, how can you improve your intranet?
Yes, content is king, even on the intranet. And seeing as the common gripe about the intranet is its lack of engaging content or relevance to employees’ working lives, here are three key steps to creating a useful, ‘sticky’ intranet.
Work on your information architecture
An oft-repeated gripe is that people cannot find anything on their intranet. There are many ways to get round this:
- structure the content according to tasks
- or, by department.
You could even do both. Have your top tasks (for example, holiday and sick leave forms) on a highly visible area of your homepage, and for an easy life, structure your navigation by department or tasks.
I once worked at a company that structured their intranet based on employee interest (‘Your work/life balance’, ‘Your career’ ‘Your pension: planning your future’). Needless to say, it was a disaster. Nobody could find anything.
You see, human beings are creatures of habit. If people want information from the intranet, the first thing they do is head to the department/team pages. An information architecture based on supposed ‘interests’ throws people off, sends them into spasms and more expletives about ‘the bloody useless and complicated intranet that doesn’t work.’
So, don’t be clever with your IA: keep it simple and give people the intranet they want – one that is structured by department/teams and tasks. It’s the only way of keeping chaos at the door.
2. Structure your content
There is a tendency to use the intranet as a dumping ground. That’s why it becomes bloated and unwieldy. When you’re training people to use the intranet, go beyond the CMS training and ensure they’re also trained on the essentials of creating valuable content. Namely, that before putting anything on the intranet, two questions should be asked:
- Is this information?
- What action do people need to take after reading this content? Writing a five-page policy document on the latest update to financial law might make sense to you, the policy maker, but all 99.9% of staff want to know is: where’s the form (because it’s always about the form) and what do I need to sign?
If possible, tag each content page with ‘information’ and ‘action required’ labels, so that the target readers are informed regarding the steps they need to take after reading the content.
3. Have an intranet strategy
An intranet strategy would benefit your organisation in many ways, not least, by boosting employee productivity. For starters, it will help them ‘find things on the intranet’, their most common gripe:
And your intranet strategy doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. Divide the strategy into four main areas:
- content development: use different content types (video, infographics, animation – and yes, there are free tools to help you do this), and wherever possible discourage Powerpoint presentation
- information architecture: the easiest way is to design it by department and team. Don’t be clever with your IA; your colleagues will hate your intranet even more
- governance: who is the content owner for every asset and other content uploaded on the intranet? How often would the content need to be updated? How regularly will be the intranet be audited (every 18 months, 2 years?)
- employee engagement: run a poll and ask your colleagues for three things they would like on their intranet wishlist and use the results to drive engagement and secure buy-in for the tool.
Liaise with the decision-makers/knowledge in each of those areas of the intranet and you have the beginnings of a winning intranet strategy.
With these three steps, you are well on your way to creating intranet that rocks.
Over to you: what can you add to this to help people create engaging intranet content?