Here’s a question: What is either an amazing tool that informs your employees and creates massive efficiencies, or that… thing… nobody ever uses? Historically speaking, corporate intranets tend to be the often-ignored digital property – like the stereotypical middle child. Exciting B2B and B2C digital projects may bask in the limelight while a neglected intranet gathers dust in the corner.
But recent years have shown companies increasing their digital-first employee communication. Gone are the frustrating days of the intranet as a data-dump file storage. Companies are seeking ways to facilitate employee engagement while improving productivity. Through first-class digital experiences, the modern intranet provides a place for employees to connect with each other in a social environment.
Here are five best practices and trends to help spur important conversations around intranet management and improvements in the new year.
Your intranet is the digital manifestation of your organization, so as employees’ needs change, it’s not only acceptable but essential that the intranet does too. Managing your intranet with a mindset of constant evolution will help guide the process. This work also benefits from sourcing user feedback, defining an oversight team with clear roles, and outlining a product roadmap to guide an iterative approach.
You can help ensure success—and that employees continue to use the platform — by identifying and working toward clear goals. This process is best managed by a collaborative team that regularly measures progress towards demonstrative KPIs and gathers feedback from intranet users.
Intranet accessibility refers to factors such as design, usability, and access to full functionality regardless of an employee’s physical location. As our digital media time is increasingly spent on mobile devices, accessibility continues to gain importance. For example, through a responsive grid-based design framework, intranet site elements will resize to fit to any device screen. And through cloud service integrations, employees are empowered to utilize the intranet’s functionality both on the go and from their desks.
In addition to improving the ease of creating content, viewing resources, and ensuring cross-platform security, it’s important to determine how to present the intranet to your frontline staff (e.g. those in shops and factories) who may not have ready access to corporate networks or mobile devices. Can shared devices be accessed easily? Are pages printable? What about alternate forms of authentication? Asking these questions upfront helps to eliminate potential pitfalls at launch.
We checked. There’s no rule mandating a corporate intranet has to be basic and dull! Since many intranets are heavy on documents and content, successful designs tend to focus on simplicity, cutting out clutter and distractions to help employees narrow in on relevant information. Incorporating compelling rich media (images, gifs, videos, in-line files, etc.) while utilizing a clean design with white space and flat elements presents an engaging and less overwhelming user interface.
Card-based layouts – similar to the design direction of many popular social media sites – help to create digestible blocks of information. These blocks structure content and rich media in an organized and easy to follow format, and adapt well to responsive design.
Just as any successful website knows its users, a good intranet keeps your employees’ needs top of mind. From initial ideation through ongoing maintenance and evolution, usability testing and feedback should inform your intranet’s features and functionality.
A good place to start? Make your employees’ jobs easier: Implement functionality for a powerful enterprise search, show personalized content, or add customizable widgets in the intranet interface. But without user research, there’s no certain way to know which features are most important to your team.
Communications & IT Connection
Quite frequently, corporate intranets start as a communications team initiative, but then get passed over to IT to develop in a silo. Connecting your communications and IT teams and keeping all parties included throughout the iterative development, testing, and launch process will go a long way towards creating a product that your employees will love.
With a dedicated and cohesive intranet team, your organization will also be better equipped to identify creative solutions to complex technology, content and communication rollout challenges.