10 Questions to Help Develop Your Intranet Strategy

Group of people sitting around planning an intranet

Modern intranets have become the go-to tool for engaging employees whilst helping businesses run more efficiently. Studies show that companies with engaged employees outperform those with disengaged employees by 200%.

This leaves the question, how do you engage employees? Ultimately it’s all down to the intranet development strategy you define and implement.

We’ve compiled the top ten questions you should be asking in your intranet strategy. These questions are all based on real life successes of Oak customers.

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What kind of problem will your intranet be solving?

When starting your intranet journey, it’s important to understand the problems you’re trying to solve. It’s easy to become distracted by functionality and miss the challenges your company is facing.

Here are some common problems and how an intranet can help.

Problem: Poor communication.

Top down communication is the least engaging method to communicate with employees.  Management miss out on great ideas for innovation when they ignore their workforce.

Solution: Encourage dialogue.

A modern intranet has customisable homepages to target specific audiences and encourage ideation, which allows employees to engage in dialogue. In addition to notifications and the ability to push company announcements.

Problem: Inaccurate information.

Not finding accurate and important information quickly causes productivity to drop, increases frustration and creates delays in getting tasks done. According to McKinsey, employees spend 1.8 hours every day searching and gathering information. On average, that’s 9.3 hours per week!

Solution: Content Captains.

Content Captains are representatives from different departments who moderate content. Having multiple Content Captains throughout a company ensures all content is accurate and fresh and that the right people have access to the information they need.

Problem: Collaboration barriers.

Trying to collaborate through email or single-task applications can be slow, inconvenient and frustrating. Nobody likes to have emails bouncing back and forth and clogging up their inbox.

Solution: Collaboration hubs.

Modern intranets, like Oak, have a Hub functionality connecting employees together for projects. Permissions can be granted for external users as well without opening access to the entire company intranet.

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How would employees benefit from the intranet?

Employees log in to their company intranet for basic needs such as:

  • Searching for information or contact details
  • Checking on payslips or schedules
  • Staying updated on company happenings
  • Booking a holiday, submitting an expense or filling out a form
  • Collaborating with colleagues on project Hubs

However, if you want your intranet to be the go-to place for everything, it’s essential your intranet ties into your core business processes and helps employees do the things they need to in a way that is convenient, familiar and efficient for them.

Forming a content strategy can help create a rich roadmap of what kind of content your employees are looking for. 

A content strategy should include:

Your overall intranet goals.What are you looking for your intranet to achieve and what type of content is needed to achieve them?  

Types of content. How will the content be used and how can it gain the most engagement? Will employees be more responsive to blog posts, videos or podcasts? Are they accessing the intranet through desktop or mobile devices?

Know your audience. Become familiar with the needs, wants and demographics of those who will be consuming the content.

Start on your content strategy by using group exercises and card sorting to see how employees search for information and content. The test group will sort content according to logical groupings, which will start the formation of your intranet information architecture using search terms to match expectations in navigation.

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What functionality is critical to your organisation?

All companies require different features, functions and tools critical to the success of their intranet. There are various functionalities your company may need. This could include:

  • Searching for information or contact details
  • Checking on payslips or schedules
  • Staying updated on company happenings
  • Booking a holiday, submitting an expense or filling out a form
  • Collaborating with colleagues on project Hubs

 

However, if you want your intranet to be the go-to place for a lot more, it’s essential your intranet ties into your core business processes and helps employees do the things they need to in a way that is convenient, familiar and efficient for them.

Forming a content strategy plan can help create a rich roadmap of what kind of content your employees are looking for. A content plan includes:

Mobility

Companies with frontline employees are likely looking to move away from instant messaging apps or email to a single place for their employees to securely chat and get the information they need.

Bain & Company found customer-facing employees are the least engaged, so it’s imperative they are made to feel connected to the company. Responsive content designed especially for mobile devices helps build an inclusive work culture as they can access payslips, schedules, updates, chat to managers and provide instant feedback to head office.

Integration

The average enterprise is working with about 464 separate applications, including a separate CMS, expense management, SharePoint, Slack, Trello and others, to help with customer interaction and connect with suppliers and employees. This can cause security problems as apps may not actually be sanctioned by IT.

An intranet brings all these applications together into one location, ensuring better control and security over business data.

Engagement

74% of employees are willing to just walk off their jobs due to low engagement, by choosing an intranet with more social functionality it can help create a stronger emotional connection between employees and their work. Which could keep them from leaving.

Intranet social technology features, such as hubs, homepages, or blog posts, empower staff by allowing them to contribute and become more involved with other employees and stay updated with company happenings. They are able to like, share, and comment, enabling a two-way communication and dialogue instead of a top-to-bottom monologue.

There are only a few examples, but it’s critical to discover what functionality your organisation needs. Start with focus groups and get input from different departments. It should come as no surprise that the critical functionality should relate back to the key problems you initially set out to solve.

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What do your employees need?

What do your employees need?

  • Accurate information?
  • Mobile access?
  • Better communication?
  • Or streamlined collaboration tools?

 

Starting to see a pattern?
What your employees need should be aligning with your answers from the previous questions of this guide. It’s your employees who determine the success of an intranet, not management.

If you’re finding a different answer here than your previous answers, re-evaluate. Get employees involved as focus groups and take a different approach.

A retail company of 200 head-office staff and 3500 front-line employees launched their intranet. After some time, they realised engagement was waning.

After a content audit, they found out that, not only was content not updated on a regular basis, but it was all primarily targeted at head-office employees and did not resonate or add any value to their branch employees. They were forced to reassess the content as this was a fundamental error that needed to be resolved before making any new changes.

Following a workshop, test groups and follow up discussion, they revamped the homepages to be more dynamic. They included shared blog posts from employees around the business, targeted content relevant to different stores with customer reviews, fashion RSS feeds, weather and traffic applets, and interactive sales target analytics.

Engagement soared as the company listened to what their employees needed and followed through with the recommendations.

Keep in mind: Your employees determine the success of an intranet. Not management.

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Where will employees be most engaged?

Employees are looking for emotional fulfilment.

They want to feel engaged, valued and connected at work. Feeling connected helps employees mental wellness and makes them happy, which can increase productivity by up to 25% . An intranet helps by creating a central digital location where employees can interact with one another and be part of the company dialogue.

Great levels of engagement usually happens within homepages, timelines, Hubs and blog posts, as these areas encourage people to directly interact with relevant and interesting content.

For instance, a social intranet feature called Hubs creates individual interest groups employees can join to meet like-minded colleagues. Hubs grow organically and once a diverse range of Hubs sprout up, employees flock to become more involved.

Hubs can also be used in business practices for projects. In this context, Hubs allow teams to meet, share and work together on projects that span departments.

Companies with active and engaging intranets have at least a month’s worth of prepped content, an active RSS feed, a link to the companies Twitter feed, and frequent internal competitions or trivia games. Even something as simple as adding a “Quote of the Day” to your intranet homepage can increase daily logins.

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Where can it go wrong?

There are always challenges in planning an intranet. Here are several reasons an intranet may fail:

Dialogue is discouraged.

Make sure your permissions within the intranet are not locked so tight that employees are unable to contribute. The McKinsey Global Institute says that when using a collaborative intranet, a company’s productivity can increase by 20-25%, as employees are more connected, which increases work happiness.

It doesn’t meet employee needs.

Select focus groups consisting of different departments and roles in the early development of your planning, so you know employees will get the most out of the intranet.

There isn’t any trust.

If leadership doesn’t trust their workforce, then this is a work culture issue that must be addressed. Trust your employees will be accountable for their actions on the intranet.

Inaccurate, old data.

An intranet is a central place for relevant information. Employees should have confidence that the information they are reading is current and accurate.

Difficult to use.

Make sure your intranet taxonomy, information architecture and sitemap are logical and clean before launch. If employees are unable to find what they need, they won’t use the intranet.

Content lacks quality.

It is vital employees understand why there is a new intranet and how important it is for the success of the organisation.

Update employees throughout the process, include them in the excitement of the launch and ask for their continued feedback.

The good news is that if you’re able to identify the possibilities of how it can all go wrong in the early stages of your intranet planning, you’ll be prepared for what may come.

By understanding why your intranet may fail, you can make sure it won’t happen to yours.

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How to encourage employee intranet buy-in?

An internal comms manager role is challenging.

You’re usually working towards goals that better the workplace for employees, but it’s often an uphill battle as people tend to be resistant to change. This is especially true when it comes to implementing an intranet and trying to get employee buy-in.

 

Work culture is the personality of an organisation, it sets the behaviour of employees and the general mood of the company, whether it’s formal, casual, sociable or rigid. When an intranet is introduced to the company, it should match the company’s personality, as employees are more willing to adopt something new when it’s familiar to them. If employees are down to earth and casual but the intranet launches without any opportunities for interaction, then there’s going to be a mismatch.

 

Know your culture, be realistic and launch an intranet that matches those using it.

 

If there is a wish to change the work culture, the intranet is a great platform to do so, but is only successful when done carefully. You can use the intranet to introduce new cultural behaviours over time, provided you have the full support of everyone in the management team.

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How will you determine intranet success?

After determining your goals for your company intranet, now is the time to decide how success will look like.

Also known as ROI. You’ll have two types of ROI; soft and hard. The soft is about the intangible benefits to your employees, the hard ROI is about the hard numbers.

Soft ROI

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee engagement
  • Collaboration and productivity
  • Employee reach

Hard ROI

  • Turnover rates
  • Time spent searching
  • Login numbers and usage time
  • Amount of content generated
  • Reduced business costs
  • Increase in sales

It’s important to have multiple goals and see how they tie-in together. For example, hard ROI only shows a part of the story and shouldn’t be the only metric you’re looking at to determine success.

 Once you have a set of success parameters, you can repeat the reporting process and make comparisons with future results to show trends and ultimately measure the success of your intranet over time.

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Who is your intranet team?

It’s vital when setting out on your journey that you have in place the correct team to not only deliver the project, but also to provide the ongoing governance that your intranet will need.

 

Every intranet relies on accurate information, otherwise it quickly becomes useless and unreliable. For instance, when uploading employee information from an AD system, it’s not unusual to have simple typos which can take more time to fix. An intranet team would be able to comb through the uploaded data and be certain it’s accurate.

 

Depending on the size of the organisation, the intranet team can branch into smaller, more department-focussed teams for content management.

Roles within an intranet team may include:

  • Administrator; to manage permissions, sign-offs, content moderation, information indexing, and more.
  • Analyst; to observe and moderate analytic data, track KPIs, and identify intranet content trends.
  • Content writer or Content Captains; to engage employees with compelling content.
  • Technical writer; to write and moderate documentation and technical information.
  • Designer; to maintain branding guidelines set by your company. A position that can be fulfilled by the Content Captains as well.

 

Don’t underestimate the effort required in constantly feeding your intranet with new and engaging content once it’s launched. Your intranet team will ensure the intranet is getting fresh new content, archiving old content, and moderating information.

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How about some advice from fellow organisations?

For this last part, we’ve polled our own customers who have implemented successful intranets. Here’s what they say:

“Ensure everyone understands why.”

Employees are more likely to use the company intranet if they understand the reasons behind it.

“You can’t communicate too much.”

A successful intranet implementation has excellent communication from the very beginning.

“Mobile is a game changer!”

A mobile-first strategy sees high engagement, especially for frontline employees, as they are immediately connected to the company.

“Make provisions to transfer knowledge.”

Document all project information to ensure a clean hand-off to future intranet teams.

“It needs to support the work culture.”

Make sure the language of the intranet reflects the audience reading it or there will be a huge disconnect.

“Collect feedback, then get more, and more.”

Organise focus groups from all over the company and collect feedback throughout the intranet journey.

“This isn’t a project you launch and forget about, it needs ongoing accountability.”

Done right, your company intranet is a living platform and needs to be moderated to keep it fun for everyone.

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

The best way to prevent intranet failure is to prepare for it.

“Getting buy-in early really helps grease the wheels.”

Keep employees in the loop with them in mind at all times, and let them know it.

“Accountability is crucial.”

Define roles and responsibilities for continued intranet governance.

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