The humble intranet is the backbone of how many companies keep their workforce informed and ensure everything is running smoothly. Yet it's often an overlooked part of the business, viewed as little more than a place where company announcements can be made or policies reviewed.
But this attitude could actually be holding your company back. When done correctly, a good intranet can be one of the most useful resources your business has, especially for large enterprises and those where employees are dispersed throughout a building or beyond.
In today's environment, the intranet needs to be seen as the hub of your organization - a one-stop shop for communication and collaboration that brings your business together. So here are a few things you can do to build an intranet portal that really makes a difference.
1. Keep it fresh
Just like a public-facing website, an intranet needs to offer users compelling reasons to keep coming back, and this means regularly-updated content. If employees log on and see the same front page that's been in place for months - or even years - they're less likely to engage with it.
While there will be a lot of static content on your intranet, there are a few ways to ensure your homepage is dynamic. Keeping users up-to-date on the latest company events or achievements, posting job openings, or profiling different departments or individuals on a weekly basis are just some of the things you can do to keep things fresh.
2. Have an effective search function
People will usually be coming to the intranet with a specific goal in mind, so you need to make it as easy as possible for them to find what they're looking for. Nesting key pages under layers of subfolders and pages is sure to infuriate people, so a good search function is a must.
However, these tools often fall short of users' expectations. Information is often stored across multiple directories that intranet searches can't access properly, or results aren't precise enough to answer key questions. Therefore, taking the time to develop a strong search functionality that integrates with every part of a network and offers clear, relevant results, is one of the best things you can do to transform your intranet.
3. Put what people want, where they want it
Improving search is not the only thing you can do to ensure people can easily access the right information. Designing your homepage to prioritize the most important content can also boost efficiency and reduce frustration by ensuring people don't have to go hunting for key data.
Looking at which pages are the most popular and adding quick links or simple, uncluttered drop-down menus is a good start. But you can go further than this by encouraging people to personalize their intranet - the addition of a configurable 'my content' widget, for example, lets people add their most-used resources to their homepage.
4. Promote your people
Intranets need to be hubs for collaboration, and you can encourage this by ensuring your employees have all the information they need about their colleagues. Detailed profile pages that offer information on who your people are and what they do will be essential.
A bland staff directory with a list of job titles and phone numbers won't cut it. As well as explaining what projects they're attached to and any key accomplishments, encourage staff members to personalize their own pages with photos and interests - you can then highlight the best ones on your homepage to help people get to know one another.
5. Build a sense of community
Businesses are about more than the work they do, and making sure your intranet also operates as a hub for non-work content helps foster a sense of community and lets people feel engaged and connected to the business.
A regularly-updated calendar of events, social functions and team-building exercises should be just the start. Show off your employees' best photos, broadcast your team's achievements and run contests and challenges to get your people engaged.
6. Give it a personality
None of the above tips will be of much use if the intranet itself is still packaged in bland, corporate clothing. Take the time to liven it up with bright, vibrant colors, the use of images and interesting graphics or other visuals. You could even give it a name so people refer to it as something other than the generic 'intranet'.
Solicit feedback from your employees about what they'd like to see and make them part of the decision-making process to ensure you end up with a resource that people use because they love it, not because they have to.