Creating an Engaging Intranet

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Are you thinking about investing in a new Intranet? Consider this basic question: Why do we need an Intranet? The common and sound answer we hear from our clients is that they need a central place for employees to communicate, collaborate and share information. Regardless of your situation, it's critical you answer this question first, as the design and technology must be built to support the business needs, and not vice versa.

Some company leaders might ask, is our company even big enough for an Intranet? Typically, there’s not a certain threshold for size, but the bigger a company is, the more important a centralized location for content and communication becomes. After you’ve decided why and when to build your Intranet – you’ll need to create an engagement strategy that covers your primary audience, as well as establish metrics to gauge the level of your success.

Involve others from every part of the business

Consider first where the idea for the Intranet is coming from: leadership, or an internal department such as marketing or IT? If it’s not the former, first consider how to get the ear of leadership. They need to buy in early and understand the broader vision for the why, what and how.

Establish a community of practice with different departments and people that represent your target audience. Having a voice helps people feel ownership and pride, and also can create evangelists that will promote the Intranet within your company. Continue utilizing this group even after launch. They will serve as a continuous sounding board for enhancements and improvements.

Focus on goals and objectives

Work with leadership and community members to find out what success looks like for them. Build their ideas into the project plan’s goals and objectives. Perhaps a couple of your goals are to send less email to your employees or avoid sharing documents via email. Whatever they are, be sure your objectives align with how you’ll accomplish them through the Intranet build out.

Fresh content

Think early and often about who will be responsible for creating content on a consistent basis. Without a commitment to keep information fresh, users will begin to view your Intranet as an outdated repository. Consider how you can utilize social capabilities to crowd source your content, and build new and exciting topics.

Plan to consolidate and retire old systems as well. If users can continue getting important information from an old source, they will avoid making a change, and stunt the adoption of your new Intranet.

Brand it

The overall Intranet design should complement the company’s external brand and culture. Keeping colors, logos, fonts and established styles is important for reinforcing the Intranet as a key component of your organization.

Don’t just flip the switch

Plan for a “go live” date with a communication plan. Employees need to know when you’re going to flip the switch on the new Intranet site, and when the old one will be retired. Give them time to warm up to the change, and ensure they’re not surprised or caught off guard when the new Intranet is launched.  In addition, look at redirecting primary content on your old Intranet to a new location with the same URL. This will lessen user frustration by allowing old bookmarks to continue to function.

Keep it interactive and alive

During the build out consider how the Intranet will be a living, breathing entity that engages and connects staff. How can you help people connect, engage, provide ideas, and adopt this tool as a part of their daily routine? Consider polls, user spotlights, social feeds, leadership microblogs, photo galleries and human interest stories to create daily interest.

Easy updates

Publishing and updating content should be easy. Can some of the owner/author responsibilities be shared among the work community? When the business can truly own and manage its content, roadblocks are removed, and users feel empowered to make changes.

Measure and celebrate success

During project planning, you asked the team, “What does success look like?” Now that you have these measurements in place, consider comparing usage on your new Intranet to the old one, or looking at visitor traffic on a monthly basis to ensure adoption doesn’t fall off over time. Whatever your team decides to do, be sure to stop and celebrate success along the way for a job well done.

Matt Jimison is the Allegient LLC director, platform solutions.

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