Do your staff Love or Hate your Intranet?

By Mark Jones

February 24, 2024


There’s a good chance your company’s intranet is likely failing your employees.

How do we know?

In a Collab365 webinar this week, Intranet expert Gerry Brimacombe really made me think about what it takes to make a successful Intranet and the problems so many Intranets suffer from.

As an aside, funnily enough, many of the points he raised were similar to what we often debate on the Collab365 Team around improving the Collab365 Academy. Afterall, the Collab365 Academy is a “private network” where our members have a desire to collaborate and really need to be able to find content easily. We’ve often discussed what’s working and how we can improve in the same was a large corporate would about their 10,000 staff-strong Intranet.

Before you carry on, if you scroll to the bottom, there’s a special announcement for Intranet Insights 2024.

Anyway, back to Intranets, what are some of the potential reasons why staff hate your Intranet?

  1. Outdated, cluttered interfaces – Think tiny fonts, messy layouts, and color schemes that went out of style with Windows 98. As Gerry explained, today’s staff expect sleek, intuitive designs on par with the latest consumer apps.
  2. Irrelevant, stale content – Seeing the same announcements month after month signals it’s time for an overhaul. Gerry advocated for dynamic content that engages users, like company news, culture articles, and industry perspectives.
  3. Fragmented information – Employees waste precious time digging through folders and subsites to find things. Gerry’s advice? Structure your intranet around user goals, not org chart. Apparently, as a workforce we can waste 25% of our time finding to find “stuff”.
  4. Lack of collaboration tools – Email alone can’t cut it. Your intranet should allow conversations, document co-editing, and managing projects.
  5. Not optimized for mobile – With remote work prevalent, a mobile-friendly intranet is mandatory. But pinching and zooming on a tiny screen frustrates users.
  6. Confusing IA – Unclear navigation that has users lost and confused needs fixing. Gerry stressed the importance of intuitive labels, menus, and taxonomies. This process needs to be thought through clearly and governed as on ongoing task.
  7. Inaccessible design – Your intranet must accommodate users of all abilities. Failing on accessibility is unacceptable, said Gerry.

The Costs of a Neglected Intranet

If this sounds all too familiar, your neglected Intranet is actively costing your organization. Siloed information inhibits collaboration. Poor mobility alienates remote employees. Outdated tools drag productivity.

But perhaps the greatest casualty is employee engagement. An unintuitive, uninspiring intranet that employees avoid using can’t unite your workforce.

The good news?

With strategic planning and employee-centered design, you can transform your intranet into something users love.

Follow these tips from Gerry’s playbook to create an intranet that exceeds expectations:

Listen to Your Employees

Get candid feedback on pain points through surveys, focus groups, and reviews of intranet analytics. Ask questions like:

  • How frequently do you use the intranet?
  • What content or functionality do you find most/least valuable?
  • What additional capabilities or information would improve your experience?
  • What would make the intranet easier and more enjoyable to use?

Gerry stressed that understanding employee needs and wants is step one.

Align with Strategic Objectives

A strong intranet supports company goals like improving communication, collaboration, and productivity. Gerry advised tying the intranet strategy tightly to overall business objectives.

For example, if strategic goals include reducing silos, set intranet objectives like making cross-departmental knowledge more discoverable.

Design for the User

Organize content, navigation, and features intuitively around how users will search for information and complete tasks. Gerry noted intranets designed around org structures or technology limitations confuse and frustrate users.

Show, Don’t Tell

Enhance advice with examples, like screenshots demonstrating mobile-friendly intranet designs. Share success stories of companies with intranets employees rave about.

Improve Findability

Help users instantly find what they need. Tactics include simplifying navigation, adding search bars, providing sitemaps, and using descriptive categories like “Training” over ambiguous labels like “Resources.”

Curate Engaging Content

Appoint cross-functional content owners to keep intranet content timely. Regularly feature new announcements, events, multimedia content, and employee spotlights.

Embed Collaboration

Integrate tools like messaging, document sharing and editing, and team workspaces that facilitate real-time collaboration. This transforms your intranet into a hub for teamwork.

Optimize for Mobile and Remote Workers

Prioritize a seamless mobile experience with readable text, clickable elements, and responsive design. Test on mobile devices to catch issues.

Accessible to All

Ensure your intranet complies with ADA and WCAG accessibility standards through design choices like color contrast, alt text, and ARIA roles.

Gather Regular Feedback

Continuously collect employee feedback through surveys and user testing. Analyze usage metrics. Keep enhancing the intranet to better meet user needs.

Facilitate Connections

Look beyond an information repository to a platform that cultivates community. Integrate employee profiles, groups around interests, and social features like activity streams.

A Modern Intranet Fuels Engagement

Rather than settle for a barebones intranet from the early 2000s, demand one tailored for today’s digital-first business landscape.

A well-designed intranet doesn’t just provide utilities – it inspires engagement, productivity, and a thriving culture. The time for change is now. Your employees are waiting.

Learn (much) More at Intranet Insights 2024

At the end of the Webinar, we announced that we’re going to be running a brand new conference in April called “Intranet Insights 2024”. As you can imagine, it’s going to be packed full of up-to-date strategies, techniques for building out an effective Intranet. It’s free so if you’d like to come pop your name on this form:

>> Join the waitlist for Intranet Insights 2024 (it’s free)

Mark Jones

About Mark Jones

My goal is to help 1000 Microsoft experts have more freedom by selling their skills, working from wherever they choose.

To achieve this, I want to help educate via these sites:

👉 Collab365 Summits - Massive virtual conferences for Microsoft products
👉 Collab365 Today - Aggregation site for the best community blogs
👉 Collab365 Community - Huge blog site including plenty of Microsoft content

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