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Moving to the cloud was only the first step in improving your business processes and improving communication. Next, you want to create an intranet. A single place where your employees (no matter where they are in the world) can access company information, documents, and tools. But where do you start?
A simple search for ‘how to create a successful intranet’ will lead you down a rabbit-hole. Soon enough, you’ll be looking through dozens of websites all outlining their tips for success. But how can you really know which platform and features are right for your business? What pitfalls and mistakes should you avoid during creation?
To help make this huge process simpler, contact JourneyTEAM. We’ve built dozens of intranets for our clients that have improved internal communication and helped employees get work done quicker. In this article, we’ve outlined a few intranet do’s and don’ts and provided a close-up look at Young Living’s intranet, which we helped build from the ground up.
An Intranets Real Purpose
Understanding what the real purpose behind an intranet is will help you create a more successful site.
Your intranet should be a place that employees can access from anywhere and from any device and have everything they need to do their job. This includes things like:
- Quick links
- Company news updates
- Documents, forms, or other paperwork
- Contact information
- Support videos
- Upcoming company events
- Employee recognition
A single site that contains all important company information helps to streamline workflows, improves collaboration, and boosts employee satisfaction. Whether someone needs to fill out onboarding forms, submit travel receipts, or double check the time and place of the company party, they can do so on the intranet.
What is and isn’t Part of Your Intranet
Because your intranet is going to contain a lot of information, it’s important to know what type of content is considered intranet content and what isn’t. We’ve found that most intranet-worthy content falls into one of the buckets below. Anything that can’t be grouped in one of these buckets doesn’t necessarily need to be included on your site.
- Organizational content and communication: This bucket can be split into two additional categories: company-approved content and non-company approved content. Official information from the company will include things like policy changes, documents, or forms. Non-approved content will be information shared on knowledge bases, communities, or forums.
- Collaboration: Collaborative groups include development teams, network operations, hosting teams as well as group chats, emails, and meetings.
- Ad-hoc conversations: Similar to the collaboration bucket, this bucket contains the information from group chats and emails, but it also contains information from meetings and screen sharing.
- Individual content: Finally, items like calendar information, share files, personal notebooks, and emails are put here.
At JourneyTEAM, there’s a question we like to ask our clients who have either just created an intranet or who are looking to improve their existing one to help determine how successful it is. We ask: “If a new hire was starting at your company tomorrow, could you send them a link to your intranet and confidently say that they would have everything they need to get work done and get a feel for your company’s culture?” Keep that question in mind as you begin creating your own intranet.
Your intranet should also:
Have a Unified Group Identity
Remember: one of the biggest purposes of your site is to help employees work together to accomplish business goals and objectives. Teams or employees who have an ‘us vs. them’ attitude will likely have the same mindset towards your intranet. Your site is a digital representation of the rest of your company and it should have a cohesive, supportive feel to it.
Increase Productivity and Communication
This is one of the biggest intranet ‘do’s’ and has been mentioned already. Whether an employee has been with your company for a week or a few years, they should know that if they need to find information about the company, access important links, files, or documents, or find contact information to use the intranet.
Because your intranet is the place where work gets done, it needs to be accessible from any device at any time–both in and out of the office. Whether an employee is working from the mobile phone while traveling or from their company-device in the office, they should have a single link that gives them complete access to the intranet.
Boosts Communication and Connectivity
Remember the purpose of your site: to help employees work together to get things done. You want to ensure your site encourages employees (despite the team they’re on) to communicate with each other the status of current projects or to discuss upcoming projects. Other teams can stay up-to-date on what’s happening with projects through a newsfeed or employee recognition posts.
No one likes to have to switch between multiple platforms to accomplish tasks. An intranet eliminates that need by providing a single platform for everything. From sharing and managing information to communicating important company or project updates, an intranet does it all.
Feels Like a Community
Another big indicator of a successful intranet is one that has a community-like feeling. Users should feel like they’re being supported in their role and that they’re working towards a common goal. We’ve found that some of the less successful intranets are those that have very little information on company culture, values, and purpose or this information is very difficult to find.
There are plenty of intranet features out there which can make knowing which ones to include difficult. At JourneyTEAM, we’ve created a list of what we feel are the most popular features that should be included on your site:
- Favorites: This allows users to ‘favorite’ specific pages, tools, or links that are accessible from the top menu bar at any time. Favorites allows users to more quickly access what they need to complete work.
- Personalization: How many times have you been scrolling through a website trying to find information that’s relevant to you? How frustrated did you become after searching for a few minutes and still not finding what you’re looking for? That’s where personalization comes in. This feature sorts through content and only shows users information that’s pertinent for them and allows them to create my recommendations, my save for later, my frequent sites, my documents and my links.
Management can access upper level material through a management portal to ensure sensitive or private information is kept secure.
- Names: The name of your intranet is just as important as any feature. You want it to be something that stands out, is memorable, and reflects the mission of your company. We highly recommend you stay away from bland, boring names like “SharePoint Intranet” or “Intranet”.
- Enterprise Search: Enterprise search is so much more than a simple search tool. It’s essentially an application that’s tailored to search through your data to find the information that users are looking for. Additionally, it can search through multiple sources simultaneously with one query.
Remember that because this is such a powerful tool, your content needs to be clean. You’ll want your content managers or developers to routinely look through archives and ensure everything is tagged appropriately and organized. If users are getting too big of a search query or the wrong results it’s because you have too much low-quality content.
- Scoped Search: This type of search limits a search to only certain content or a specific part of the website and displays the results in either a autocomplete or drop-down scope.
- Visual Sections: This feature utilizes background styles, layouts, and various fonts to guide users toward the information they’re looking for. Many companies use visual sections to highlight company values, news, or updates to help employees stay informed and up-to-date.
- Content Discovery: The whole point of your intranet is to help users quickly and easily find the information or tools they need. Another way to help users accomplish this is by implementing drawers and rails, which are small boxes that slide on and off the page. These boxes typically contain quick links, favorited content, data analytics, and more.
Keep in mind that as you’re choosing features, you need to choose ones that will improve the productivity and collaboration on your site. It’s vital that your site remains responsive and user-friendly or risk losing users.
As you’re designing your site, there’s a few common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. We’ll go into more detail about these below.
It’s important to find a good balance between having a secure site and an accessible one. While you want to safeguard sensitive company information, you’ll want to ensure users can still access it both in and out of the office and from either company, personal, or mobile devices.
Just an Archive
You’ll want to avoid your intranet turning into essentially a shared Google Drive that only contains company documents. It’s important to incorporate additional features that allow employees to collaborate, plan events, or get company updates. To ensure your site doesn’t turn into a Google Drive, have content owners look over your site regularly to organize or delete old, outdated, or irrelevant content.
An easy way to encourage people to use your internal site is to have a strong leadership presence. If employees know they can go online and send feedback or pose questions to leadership and get answers, they’re more likely to use the site. A good balance between bottom-up and top-down communication will boost productivity and increase overall employee satisfaction.
If a site isn’t user-friendly and it’s difficult to find information, users will rarely–or never–use the site. Features like search bars, breadcrumbs, a top menu bar, or drop-down menus should all be included in your intranet as they can help improve navigation.
Substandard, unhelpful content is another reason that intranets fail. Users expect information published on the intranet to be helpful and to help them get work done. If they can’t find what they need, they’ll turn to other sources to get it. Having content managers, writing templates, a strong editing process, and regular meetings will help to improve content quality.
Today’s users expect to find information quickly. If they can’t, many will use the search bar for help rather than scour through pages. However, if your search capabilities are substandard and don’t yield the results they need, users will turn to other sites and may not come back to the intranet.
How JourneyTEAM Turned Young Living’s Outdated Intranet into a Clean, Organized Site
When Young Living’s intranet wasn’t getting the response or use they wanted, they requested the help of JourneyTEAM. Gen Miner, Sr. Manager of Employee Experience, was tasked with improving the site. She described the site as being: “A place in the house where people just dumped their stuff, kind of like the junk room, and nobody cared about any of the content.”
Utilizing the Microsoft SharePoint platform, we were able to “clean out the junk drawer” and turn it into a site where employees could find answers to questions, communicate with each other, and get important company updates.
Before we did any design work, Gen and her team wanted to come up with a name that accurately reflected the purpose of the site. In the end, the site was named ‘The Source’. “We wanted people to know that if you came to The Source, you’re going to find the right stuff. And if you didn’t find it in The Source, it’s gossip,” Gen said. It was important to Young Living that all content and information posted within The Source was true and accurate to ensure employees had a single place to go for company-approved communication.
Once a name had been picked, we began discussing additional objectives and goals of the site. One of the big objectives was that users be able to quickly find important company information or updates using visuals. “We had our banner which allowed for people to have a visual view right away of everything,” Gen said. To add to the visuals, we created a “Need to Know” section that highlighted important company updates or information for users.
These were just some of the features that we included on Young Living’s intranet. We also included:
- Tool drawer where employees could link their favorite tools or resources.
- News and events page where users could be notified of upcoming events or view past ones.
- Speakerphone, which is similar to a Facebook or Instagram notification, alerts users to any new information.
- ‘My Hub’ where users can access all information relating to their career, including their perks and benefits.
- FAQ page that’s searchable by keyword to help users more quickly find answers to their questions.
- Employee recognition that highlights work anniversaries, employee birthdays, or achievements.
- Feedback feature where employees can leave feedback on the site anywhere on the site that higher-ups will be notified of and can respond to.
- Company calendar that includes company events as well as personal.
- A newsfeed that features trending or popular topics.
- Employee directory with colleagues’ contact information.
- A “like” button that can be used to ‘like’ documents, updates, or photos.
- Quizzes and polls that management or higher-ups can use to gather feedback or to ensure employees are properly understanding information.
- Twitter stream that showcases company and customer tweets.
- Photo gallery where employees or management cost post pictures from the latest company event or of Young Living’s products being used.
While there are a number of features on The Source, many of them included on the homepage, the site is easy-to-use and even allows users to jump to outside resources with ease.
We asked Gen what it was like to undertake such a large project and she emphasized the importance of getting expert help when needed.
“Oftentimes, a person in this role doesn’t understand the value and need
of good knowledge management,” she said. “You have to be willing to fight
and to show your ROI and ask for help if you need it. If you’re not experienced
with SharePoint, find someone who can help you like JourneyTEAM.”
“It’s a lot of work,” she continued. “You can’t just create a SharePoint site and say: ‘ok, you did a good job.’ You have to have a team to sustain it and manage it going forward.” To ensure that Gen was set up for success, we let her team take the lead. She told us in what areas she needed help and we were able to provide the exact support she needed. Our team focused on some of the project management aspects and the creation of the site while Gen’s team stayed focused on testing and communication.
One way that Gen hyped up the new site was by creating an employee giveaway if they did a few simple tasks on the intranet. “You had to complete 10 steps,” Gen said. “One step was to find a picture of zebra, email it to so-and-so, comment on the CEO’s blog, find this in search, use this, etc. By the time they walked through the 10 steps, they touched all the features of what the intranet does. We exposed them to what was possible.” We reached out to Gen a few months after the site launched and she reported that employee usage of the site is high and that employees love the new features and capabilities.
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Article by: Dave Bollard – Head of Marketing | 801-436-6636
JourneyTEAM is an award-winning consulting firm with proven technology and measurable results. They take Microsoft products; Dynamics 365, SharePoint intranet, Office 365, Azure, CRM, GP, NAV, SL, AX, and modify them to work for you. The team has expert level, Microsoft Gold certified consultants that dive deep into the dynamics of your organization and solve complex issues. They have solutions for sales, marketing, productivity, collaboration, analytics, accounting, security and more. www.journeyteam.com