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While your CRM is busy pulling in information from your social media platforms, customer service calls, website, and email communication into a single location, your employees are just as busy bouncing between different tools to get work done. You want to make your employees’ jobs easier by creating a single place for them to access company tools and documents and communicate with other teams. Essentially, you want to create an intranet.
You’ve read dozens of case studies and talked to enough vendors to know that an internal website will significantly benefit your business; however, you don’t know where to start. What’s the right platform? Which features do you need? How do you ensure your site is a success?
At JourneyTEAM, we’ve worked with a number of clients in different industries to create a successful intranet. To help you do the same, we’ve compiled a list of intranet do’s and don’ts and provided an inside look at the intranet we created for Young Living, one of the top essential oil sellers worldwide.
Why an Intranet?
That’s the first question we need to answer before we go any further.
At its most basic level, an intranet is an internal site where your employees can go to access resources needed to complete tasks. This includes:
- Company documents or forms
- Quick links
- Support videos
- Contact information
- Organizational charts
- News articles and company updates
- Employee recognition
One of the biggest benefits of an intranet is that it simplifies things for your employees. The site should have everything they need to get work done and be accessible from any device. Whether that’s collaborating with colleagues, accessing documents, or viewing upcoming projects, your employees should be able to do it all from your internal site.
Organizing Your Intranet
Even if you’re running a small start up, there’s going to be a lot of content posted on your internal site. But are there some things that shouldn’t be posted? What type of content is considered intranet worthy and what isn’t?
Most intranet content can be organized into four different buckets. Anything that doesn’t fit may not need to go on your site. These buckets are:
- Company content and communication: This is going to include official announcements from higher-ups, company-wide events, or policy changes. However, because your intranet is a place for employees to communicate with each other, users may stumble upon information that’s not corporate-approved like a post on a knowledge base or community site. You’ll want to make it clear to employees what is company-approved content and what isn’t.
- Collaboration: While chat and email are part of the collaboration, we’ve also included hosting teams, network operations, and development teams. No matter what team someone is on, they should be able to easily communicate with other colleagues using resources like Power BI workspaces, mailboxes, or calendars.
- Ad-hoc conversations: Think of things like chats, screen sharing, group emails, or meetings.
- Individual content: Finally, things like personal notebooks, emails, calendar items, and share files should all be included on your site.
There’s one sign that we at JourneyTEAM have determined that all well-built intranets have. Should you have someone new starting with your company tomorrow, everything they would need to complete tasks and communicates with colleagues could be done from your intranet.
That’s just one of the things that go into building a strong intranet. Below is a list of other tools and resources that your internal site should have:
United Group Identity
It’s important that your intranet portrays a united, focused organization with team members who are working together to achieve common business goals. If your organization has an ‘us vs. them’ mindset, success will be much harder, if not impossible, to achieve.
Enhance Productivity and Collaboration
We’ve mentioned this already, but we’ll say it again: it’s important that your employees know that your intranet is a place they can go to complete work. It should be general knowledge that if you have questions, want to communicate with colleagues, or need to access company files or documents, you go to the intranet.
Your employees should be able to access your intranet both in and out of the office using a single link. If it’s too difficult to access your site outside of the office or isn’t mobile-friendly, users are less likely to use it.
Creates a Workplace that is Informed and Collaborative
Remember, your site is the place where team members, no matter which one they come from, come to get things done. Employees should be able to communicate with colleagues about new or upcoming projects, discuss existing tasks, and work out problems. Team members can also stay informed about what’s going on with news articles or employee recognition.
Rather than having to bounce between multiple platforms to send information, chat with colleagues, or access quick links, employees can do it all from one platform. This helps to boost productivity and overall employee satisfaction.
Fosters a Feeling of Community
Your users should feel like they’re a part of a larger group that’s working together to accomplish tasks when using your intranet. It’s important that users are able to find information regarding company values, purpose, and mission easily on the site.
The number of features available for your intranet are endless. However, there are some that users expect to be on your site such as:
- Favorites: The favorites feature allows users to ‘favorite’ their most used pages, tools, or links so they can access content more quickly. The SharePoint platform has a particularly good favorites feature as users can follow pages, save items, and flag content that can later be accessed from a menu bar at any time.
- Personalization: This feature ensures that users are only seeing information that’s pertinent to them rather than scrolling through a ton of irrelevant content. You can easily personalize content by creating my recommendations, my frequent sites, my documents, my save for later, and my links. Should users want to search for additional content, they can do so in document archives or the company blog.
For management, consider using a management portal to store sensitive company or colleague information that’s only accessible to certain individuals.
- Names: A title like “SharePoint Intranet” is boring, impersonal, and reveals nothing about your company values. Your intranet name should give users an idea of what’s important to you as an organization and be memorable.
- Enterprise Search: This refers to a way for designated users to search for information or retrieve content from a number of different sources. This type of search allows users to more quickly find what they need and increases overall customer satisfaction
Because this type of search function is searching through multiple sources, it’s important that all content be kept clean and organized. Content managers should regularly look through archives and remove any outdated or irrelevant information to ensure users can quickly find what they’re looking for. One of the biggest reasons a user will get a large search query or unrelated content is because of an excess of low-quality content.
- Scoped Search: Rather than looking through multiple sources, scoped search restricts the search to single, specific parts of the website or content. Most users will see search results through a drop-down menu or autocomplete scope.
- Visual Sections: Another way to more easily organize information is through visual sections. Using different fonts, colors, and background images, you can point users towards the information they’re looking for and highlight company values. We’ve seen many organizations utilize this to great success.
- Content Discovery: One easy way to help users find what they’re looking for is by utilizing drawers and rails. These are small boxes that contain quick links, documents, or other frequently used tools that slide in and out of the page for faster access.
Whether your intranet is crammed full of a number of useful features or only has the bare essentials, it’s crucial that your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and responsive.
Designing an intranet is a huge undertaking and there are many common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid to make sure that your site is successful. We’ll review those below.
While wanting to keep your intranet secure is good, it’s important not to sacrifice security for accessibility. You’ll want to make sure that employees can access your site from anywhere (including on mobile or personal devices) so long as they have a good intranet connection.
Keeping all relevant company information in one spot is great, but your intranet shouldn’t only be a document repository. Intranets that don’t have additional features or a way to communicate with other colleagues, users are significantly less likely to use it. Make sure that you have content owners or managers who are regularly looking through content and getting rid of anything that’s not being used.
No Leadership Presence
One of the best ways to increase user activity on your intranet is to keep executives or upper management involved on the site. All employees should feel comfortable commenting on posts or sending feedback and leadership should be actively responding to questions or concerns. With everyone communicating and collaborating on projects, productivity increases as does team member satisfaction.
Users expect sites to have good navigation. Any information or content that takes too long to find increases user frustration and more often than not, results in users navigating away. As you’re designing your site, incorporate things like search bars, drop-down menus, and breadcrumbs. Each of these will help users find what they need more easily.
Even with a large amount of content published on your intranet, if it’s low-quality, it’s useless. Every piece of content going on your site should be carefully reviewed and edited by editors or content managers to ensure it’s correct, relevant, and helpful. To reduce the amount of bad content, consider implementing company-approved templates, an editing process, and having regular training.
Having a search bar on your site is a must, but you’ll want to make sure that your search bar has strong capabilities. If a user enters a search for something and it still doesn’t pop up, they’ll search for it somewhere else.
How JourneyTEAM Helped Young Living Build a Successful Intranet
Prior to working with JourneyTEAM, Young Living’s internal website wasn’t owned or maintained by anyone. Gen Miner, Sr. Manager of Employee Experience who was tasked with improving the site, described the site as: “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.”
Knowing this was going to be a huge task, Gen looked to our team for help. Together, we turned a disorganized junk drawer into a coordinated, informative, and organized site using the Microsoft SharePoint platform.
Before the creation of the site began, Gen wanted to choose a name for the site that accurately represented what the site was all about. After some brainstorming, Gen picked: ‘The Source’. She stated: “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 also described how the name was tied to their product standards and the pride the company takes in their sourcing standards.
As we started designing the site, Gen stressed the importance of clear visuals. “We had our banner which allowed for people to have a visual view right away of everything,” she said. However, Gen wanted to create more visuals, so we incorporated a “Need to Know” section that highlighted the latest company updates, announcements, or other important information.
These were just two of the features we included in Young Living’s site. The site also features:
- News, updates, and events from both a company and customer side.
- ‘My Hub’ that includes all information relating to an employee’s career such as perks or benefits.
- Searchable FAQ list that allows users to quickly find answers to questions.
- Speakerphone notification (similar to a Facebook notification) that alerts users to any new or urgent information.
- Tool drawer that users can use to jump to their most frequently used links or tools.
- Feedback feature where users can leave comments or questions throughout the site which management can then respond to.
- Trending topics that are included in a user’s newsfeed.
- Calendar information that includes events from both a company and customer side of things and is integrated with Outlook.
- Like button that allows users to ‘like’ updates, comments, or topics.
- Quizzes and polls where users can share opinions or for management to ensure employees are seeing and properly understanding information.
- Picture gallery that features pictures from company events or from employees using the company’s products.
- Twitter stream where all tweets relating to the company can be seen.
- Filterable employee directory to help users more quickly find contact information.
Although there are a number of features included on the site (many of them on the homepage alone), any time an employee needs to jump to another site, it’s done with ease.
When Gen was asked about taking on this task, she stressed the importance of asking for help when needed. “Oftentimes, a person in this role doesn’t understand the value and need of good knowledge management. You have to be willing to fight and to show your ROI and ask for help if you need. If you’re not experienced with SharePoint, find someone who can help you like JourneyTEAM.”
She went on to say: “It’s a lot of work. 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.” Rather than taking over the entire design and maintenance of the site, JourneyTEAM let Gen tell us what kind of support she needed which we then provided. Her biggest needs lay in the creation of the site and in some of the project management, which we managed. Gen and her team focused on promoting the site and ensuring that all features and aspects were working correctly.
When the site launched, Gen created a giveaway that employees could enter if they completed certain tasks on the new intranet. “You had to complete 10 steps,” she said. “One step was to find a picture of a 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.”
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Get Started Creating Your Perfect Intranet with JourneyTEAM
Whether you’re just getting started with your intranet or have specific areas on your site you’re looking to improve, let JourneyTEAM know. We’re committed to providing whatever level of support you need for however long. Contact us today to learn how we’ve helped dozens of clients create a world-class intranet and how we can help you too.
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