Today’s intranets must live up to high expectations

Author BIOPublished 4 Min Read

All of us are used to fast, slick and intuitive digital experiences. We expect sites to load instantly and navigation that takes us to what we need in a minimum of clicks with no dead ends, no glitches and no going round and round in circles. It doesn’t take much to put us off using one resource and switching to another – permanently.

But when it comes to company intranets, many of them haven’t kept pace with the high-quality consumer digital experiences we have every day. A company may create great products and services for its customers, while its employees have to make do with an intranet experience that is a thing of shreds and patches. But for employees the intranet IS the company. If the intranet is outdated, hard to use, constantly falling down or difficult to navigate, this will be the overwhelming impression of the business they go home with every day. Millennials and Generation Z, being digital natives, are likely to have the least patience, so the more time goes on, the more of a problem it’s going to be.

Of course a poor employee experience is not the only way an outdated intranet is likely to be detrimental to the business. Somewhere along the line it has an impact on workplace productivity, the product or service offered to customers, and eventually the bottom line. By contrast a great intranet creates speed and efficiency in working and knowledge sharing that drives competitive advance.

So what principles will drive a successful intranet transformation? Here are seven points to consider.

Have a clear initial and ongoing vision
Initially there needs to be consensus from stakeholders across the business about what its purpose is and what tasks people will be able to accomplish. Otherwise it’s entirely possible that one department considers the end result a success, while another sees it as entirely pointless because it doesn’t have the functionality they need. A successful intranet has got to help people to do their job, not represent extra work with no tangible benefit. This situation will only enforce the silos that modern businesses should be trying to break down. Agreeing goals, both initial and ongoing, not only starts the new intranet off on the right path, it also cements the need for continued investment in order to stay relevant in the future.

Build the experience around the user
A good intranet should be intuitive enough to use with very little training – if it isn’t, there’s probably something wrong. It needs to be designed around the user, with easy navigation to help them achieve their goals. One of the biggest challenges of intranet implementation is maintaining high engagement and only through close collaboration and testing at every stage will it be possible to hone an experience that people value and enjoy.

Provide easy access both in and out of the workplace
Though it may not be possible for some high-security businesses, creating an intranet that is available via mobile is going to be crucial for many, given our always-on lives and the increasing trend towards remote and flexible working. Shutting employees out of the intranet if they’re not in the office will impact negatively on company culture. Everyone needs to feel part of a shared vision and the intranet has a strong role in this.

Create robust governance and make it clear who is responsible for content
An intranet may be used by the whole business, but it’s important to decide who has responsibility for managing and maintaining it, not just at launch but years down the line. Responsibility for content ownership needs to be clear and in order to stay relevant in the future a roadmap of updates and functions for the future is crucial.  

Develop strategies to encourage user feedback and build a sense of community
Regular user surveys are essential to monitor levels of satisfaction and engagement. Creating a forum where users can help each other or ask for assistance will help energise the intranet as a community. An open board where people can post up their ideas for new functions (see Monzo’s Extraordinary Ideas board on Trello) is a great way to crowdsource innovation. Users also need simple ways to report any glitches and bugs and receive notifications that they have been actioned.

Choose the right solution for the business
Off-the-shelf solutions won’t necessarily work well for the company even if they’re designed specifically for that vertical. They may need to be heavily customised, which can bring its own problems. It may not be the fastest or cheapest solution but sometimes bespoke is the only way to fully reflect the culture and methods of the business.

Lead by example
If the C-suite use it, the rest of the employees are likely to follow. Senior management need to become advocates for the new intranet and become active users. It also needs to be promoted to new staff members to ensure that use and awareness remains high.

If you’re interested in this subject, why not read more about the importance of company culture and the employee experience in the logistics industry here

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