9 Intranet Best Practices. To Ensure Success & Engagement
Clunky. Cumbersome. Restrictive. Unnecessarily complicated.
These are some of the adjectives unhappy Capterra users have used to describe their company’s legacy intranet software.
Not everyone loves their intranet. In fact, Gartner research shows that 90% of intranets fail to meet their initial objectives.
Perhaps you can identify with the frustration of having spent thousands on legacy intranet setup and support, only to have your employees ignore it. Unfortunately, adoption is one of the main challenges companies face with their intranet software. Many end up sitting on the shelf collecting dust.
But that doesn’t mean intranets aren’t useful—far from it!
Correct implementation of an intranet will make employees’ lives easier, serving up access to the files, folders, and applications they need; encouraging them to communicate across teams, across locations. This increases engagement and improves your business’ performance. The key is to find a modern intranet that’s easy and fun to use, and then make sure employees are actually using it.
If you’re struggling with your intranet, don’t lose hope. In this article, we’ll outline nine best practices to help you get the most from your intranet. We’ll also describe a breakthrough modern solution that will help you get the results you deserve.
Want to learn more about intranets and how to choose the right one? Have a look at our book, Redefining the Intranet—it’s specifically designed with HR managers in mind.
1. Make It Modern: Intranet Best Practices in 2021
Our first tip is simple: make sure your intranet is up-to-date. Here are a few details about intranet history, and how our thinking about them has changed in 2021:
Early intranets were little more than lists of links. A 1996 article in BusinessWeek by Amy Cortese describes a company intranet consisting of “more than two dozen corporate databases that employees can traverse by clicking on bright-blue hyperlinks”.
In today’s world, though, intranets include more features like document management and corporate bulletins. The most forward thinking Intranets are built with a familiar social experience at the core to cater for a workforce that is only getting younger; such as the ability to like, share, and comment on content.
Social media features, modern design, and a seamless user experience are crucial features for any intranet today. An intranet needs to have a modern interface that looks like other technologies that employees interact with regularly. Common complaints about legacy intranets include “poor user experience” and “stale, outdated content.” Because most employees, particularly Millennials and Generation Z, will not want to use dated software, they will avoid it by any means necessary. A modern user experience built with the end user in mind is key to increasing intranet adoption.
Besides being easy to use, a modern intranet should be flexible enough to meet the needs of your specific company. A startup or SMB will have different needs and requirements than a larger organization. Modern intranets should also be designed to meet the needs of remote workers—namely, ease of remote access and security. More on that below:
2. Optimize Your Intranet for Remote Work
“Remote work is the future”: in 2021 this is no longer a cliché, but a proven fact. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many companies to remote work. A number of these are planning on staying remote or transitioning to a hybrid model.
A survey by Gartner revealed that 82% of company leaders plan to let remote work continue for some of the time after the pandemic. 47% plan to let their employees work from home full-time. Gartner predicts that the demand for remote work will grow 30% by 2030. This is due to Generation Z entering the workforce.
An intranet that’s optimized for remote work is essential. The first place to start is to make sure the software is easy to access without the need for a corporate device. Cloud-based (SaaS) software like Workvivo enables employees to access it anywhere.
Your intranets design should meet the specific challenges of remote teams. Many of these are communication-related. Some remote employees report feeling “Zoom fatigue” (exhaustion from many video-based meetings). Others may be grappling with worry, sadness, stress, loneliness or anxiety.
There’s been a lot of talk lately on how Instant messaging/video apps like Slack and Teams create distraction, fatigue, and end up overwhelming employees.
Bottom line? They’re not designed for this hybrid workplace the world is shifting to.
To successfully transition from office-based to a digital-first workplace environment, companies must find a way to keep everyone informed, engaged, and connected to the company culture, values, goals, and to each other, wherever they work from.
A modern intranet can help you deal with these challenges. When used as the digital office where communication flows through, the asynchronous nature where people can consume at their own pace builds deeper connections with less distraction.
3. User Experience is Key: Intranet UX Best Practices
We’ve already mentioned the importance of having an easy-to-use intranet. Legacy intranets like Sharepoint aren’t always the easiest to use, nor are they the most attractive. Research shows users prefer “beautiful-looking” products over usable but not beautiful ones.
Capterra users have left complaints about bugs and the complicated interface of legacy intranets.
Good UX is crucial to meet the expectations of Millennials and Generation Z. They simply won’t use old-fashioned top-down intranets and comms tools which look like they were made in the stone age.
They expect everything to look like a consumer style app (especially business software!). Here are some best practices to follow to make sure your intranet results in unmatched levels of employee uptake and satisfaction from day one:
Intranet Homepage and Layout Best Practices
The homepage is the first part of your intranet a user will see. It should immediately draw them in and encourage them to look around. The user should get a high-level, compact overview of only the most important and most recent news and events.
Many legacy intranet solutions have a cluttered homepage that overwhelms the user when they first log in. If the user is not immediately engaged, they’re unlikely to continue using the software. Modern intranets need a “smart homepage”, customized to the individual user, which engages them with social features.
Have a look at Workvivo’s homepage. Users can immediately see updates from their colleagues, company news, and upcoming events.
Intranet Navigation Examples
Besides the homepage, the layout of the rest of the intranet is just as important. It should be immediately clear what each page is about, and what you can do on that page.
For example, in the “Goals” section of Workvivo, you can browse all the organization’s goals, create a new goal, or search for a specific goal. The microcopy on each of our pages is short, sweet, and to-the-point. It guides the user through the software with little effort on their part.
Intranet Navigation Examples
The screenshot below shows Princeton University’s intranet in circa 1996 (source). Fancy searching through all those blue links to find what you’re looking for?
Of course, Princeton has long since updated its intranet to make it more convenient. If your intranet is currently outdated and difficult to navigate, it could be time to update it too. Users need to be able to find their way around your intranet with ease. This means having a search function that works well, and an intuitive structure that doesn’t need a lot of training to figure out.
One of the major pros of choosing a social intranet is the navigation is intuitive. Users are “fed” information automatically via a newsfeed, without the need for excessive or convoluted navigation around the site. If your staff knows how to use social media, they’ll be able to use software like Workvivo. Helen G. on Capterra describes Workvivo as “the easiest, most straightforward platform to introduce [to your employees]”.
4. Tie Together Your Company Culture
An intranet can do great things for your company culture with the correct implementation. Intranets are all about communication. Healthy communication is one of the cornerstones of a strong corporate culture.
According to a Deloitte study, employees consider “regular and candid communications” important for company culture, more than several other factors, including financial performance and compensation.
There are many different ways you can use your intranet to supercharge your culture. Everyone in your company will stay informed through consistent posts on the intranet. But it can be so much more than information sharing! Once you have your workplace communication in good nick, the next step in building a great place to work is to focus on boosting engagement.
You can (and should) use your intranet to organize group activities, create interest groups, micro-communities, and foster a sense of connection and belonging in your company.
Not only that, but modern intranets that are built for the new hybrid workplace have the ability to facilitate peer to peer kudos to make public employee recognition a cornerstone of your culture.
Recognition is an important factor in employee engagement and building trust. When recognized in the past month, 86% of employees say they trust one another, another 86% trust their boss, and 82% trust senior leadership, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Workvivo has a unique feature that can help strengthen your culture by associating content you post on the intranet with specific company values. This gives you a tangible way to show how team members are living your values each day.
5. Use It As the “Go-To” Channel for Company Communication
The old game was where companies used to have intranets and internal communication tools as two separate tools, and two separate line items in a budget. It was the right call for the time, because ‘complete’ employee communication hubs just didn’t exist. You had to go with point solutions to make sure you got the job done. You didn’t have a choice.
Enter the new game. The all-in-one employee experience platform that caters for both and more; workplace comms, workplace engagement, and a modern intranet all can live under the one centralized roof. What’s not to like?
Companies at the forefront of solving for their employees understand that streamlining all different types of internal communications alongside the more classical intranet use-cases like easy access to apps, files, folders in one place results in a communication experience that’s easier to manage, easier to use, and simply works.
Want to know the secret to helping make sure your employees read the more company-wide critical communications you post into your Intranet? You make sure it sits at the core of everything they do. That means making sure it seamlessly integrates with your existing tools. The Slacks, Teams, and Zooms of the world. Build this unified experience, and you’re going to make your intranet the beating heart of your digital workspace.
On the lookout for a new Intranet?
Or simply wondering what ‘good’ looks like?
Our Director of Solutions, Rob Dumigan put together a blueprint of what customers love about Workvivo’s Social Intranet. Check out his 9 minute, 57 second video below.
6. Make It Social!
Do you know why 99% of legacy intranets started collecting dust off the shelf just weeks after a tremendous amount of people and money resources were placed into its launch? Adoption was (and is for the traditional tools miraculously still around) always a problem. Because they were top-down broadcasting tools only. They never facilitated bottom-up communication, where a bi-directional flow of comms could amplify all the good things happening in the organization.
The workforce is only getting younger, and they expect a familiar consumer like experience where they can like, comment, share, and do all of the things they do when they’re kicking back on their phone enjoying some downtime over the weekend like sending videos and listening to podcasts. They don’t want to use old clunky intranets. They just won’t buy into platforms that don’t create a good user experience.
This is why social intranets are key. The social, consumer grade experience results in an experience that employees naturally engage with. That means they’re not only able to facilitate the top-down communication you’d expect from an intranet, but they enable a more democratized, flat approach where siloes and barriers are completely broken down.
Before you know it, this social essence results in employees (that you never would have imagined being an ambassador for your company) shouting from the rooftops on all the good things happening in your organization. Simply because they’re using the platform because they want to, and not because they have to. That feeling of being involved, engaged, and empowered is invaluable and one of the biggest challenges companies around the globe are tackling today; and one solution is to give them a place to not only engage with their fellow employees, but engage with their company as a whole.
Lastly, by choosing a platform built for the 2020s of work and not the late 1990s and early 2000s, your CEO and senior leadership team are going to thank you. Know why? Because they want a direct line of communication to every employee without the friction of having to jump through hoops to get a message across. With no barriers, they get authentic interaction that paints a true reflection of their company’s working environment.
Social first intrants are the future of internal communications. Everything else is doomed to shake across the desert like a tumbleweed you see in the movies.
7. Choose an Intranet That’s Mobile-Friendly
Being mobile-friendly is no longer optional; it has now become a necessity. In 2020, over half of global website traffic came from mobile devices. People aren’t tied to their desks anymore; especially since it’s looking like we’re going to have an office-office and a home-office in the new world of hybrid work. If you want your intranet to be used everyday, meet your employees where they’re at and make sure they can access it on their phones and tablets.
Just like social media, you can access Workvivo using an Android or iOS app. Rather than just a mobile version of an intranet designed for desktop, the Workvivo app is truly mobile-first. Your employees will be able to chat with their colleagues and view important announcements at any time, anywhere.
8. Aim for Secure and Scalable Communications
Intranet Privacy and Security Best Practices
Every intranet should have a secure design to protect valuable company data. Besides having the right security staff and support on hand, there are certain precautions you can (and should) take when choosing your corporate intranet software.
In the past, some professionals saw cloud-based software as riskier than on-premise software. But, these assumptions are now changing as technology evolves. Research from Deloitte has shown that over one-third of CIOs list “enhancing security” as one of their main reasons for choosing cloud software.
Workvivo is ISO27001 and SOC2 certified. We always track our security position, and have conducted extensive testing to make sure our software is safe. Safety and scalability are top priorities for us.
Choosing a social intranet is also a smart decision for privacy reasons. Using conventional social media channels for workplace communication creates a thorny mess of privacy implications. Since many employees have personal information on their social media, they may be hesitant to share this information with their colleagues. Keeping communications within the intranet helps employees set a boundary between work and home. This will make them feel more comfortable and encourage them to participate more.
9. Measure Employee Engagement
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have access to the data you need to measure your intranet’s performance.
The world of HR is becoming increasingly data-driven. If you’re an HR manager, you’d probably like to be able to measure engagement and demonstrate the ROI of your investments to senior leadership. You’d also like to know how employees are using your intranet, so you can determine which processes in your company are working well and which could use improvement.
The only way to measure the effectiveness of your intranet is with data and analytics. These insights should be built directly into your intranet software.
With an intranet built for today’s working world, you can truly measure employee engagement and hold everything you do around your employee experience accountable to making an impact.
Workvivo makes it easy to see who is using your intranet the most, when they’re using it, and what they’re doing. You’ll also be able to easily identify trends, like an overall uptick or drop-off in engagement.
On The Lookout For A New Intranet?
Level up your internal communication with a social intranet like Workvivo.
You can experience it in seconds through our interactive, click-through product tour here.