Your intranet: a communications channel or a digital workplace?

By Emperor
16 Apr 2021

As one of the most important channels in a company’s communications arsenal, making sure your intranet has a defined role and is fit for purpose is essential. 

A year ago, when the world suddenly shifted to working from home within the space of a week, companies found themselves asking a myriad of questions; have we got the right digital channels to communicate with our employees? How can we encourage a culture of collaboration, open communication, trust and shared knowledge whilst working remotely? How many communications channels do we need to provide?

One of the most important channels and digital tools in a company’s arsenal is its intranet. When considering whether your intranet needs an upgrade or refresh, or indeed just work harder for you, it’s important to think about these five points:

Give your channels a purpose
Know your audience and their needs
Don’t ignore data from the current platform
Make the intranet part of your culture
Define ownership
Give your channels a purpose 

What role do your internal communications channels play? The answer will be unique to every organisation. Whether the role of the intranet is a source of truth for employees through sharing regular business news, or if it is a place for everyone to come together to engage, converse and share photos, that needs to be defined. Do you want a one-way communication platform, or two-way channel for dialogue?

Once you’ve defined the role of the intranet, you then need to identify how you want it to be used versus other communications channels that you offer, such as email and tools like Zoom, Teams, Slack, Notejoy, Yammer and Viva (Microsoft’s latest digital employee engagement platform). It’s important that each channel serves a different purpose, so employees know how to use each one effectively (and don’t resort to WhatsApp).

It’s also important to be mindful of your employees’ digital wellbeing: look to reduce ‘screen fatigue’, information overwhelm and burnout, manage the amount of channels used, and offer training to employees on how to use each one. For example, how to manage those pesky notifications.

Know your audience and their needs 

For some employees, the intranet is a business-critical tool to carry out their role. For others, it’s a place to go for business updates and read interesting articles from across the company. Some employees will visit the intranet on their desktops, others on the go on their mobiles or tablets. 

That’s why holding focus groups and interviewing different functional teams and leaders is vital to understanding how they use the intranet in line with their role. These audience insights will guide what functionality you need to prioritise in order for the intranet to be an inclusive business tool for all.

Don’t ignore data from the current platform

When redeveloping an intranet, it can be tempting to have a complete reset; to rip up the old work and start again. However, a lot can be learnt from the current platform and how your users are interacting with it. 

Beyond the qualitative feedback gathered from speaking to your employees, quantitative data through analytics can help to build a wider picture. Data takes the emotion out of stakeholder insights and allows you to look at the facts, such as how long users are spending on the intranet, what pages they are viewing most and what devices they are using.

Connecting these findings to a thorough content analysis, user experience review, technical investigation and stakeholder feedback will create a holistic view of the intranet and how to improve it. This overarching view is key to creating new objectives for the platform and allows you to evolve it over time. 

Make the intranet part of your culture 

The intranet should be a window into the culture of your company. It’s easy to focus on significant content, but it’s equally as important to feature content that reminds employees of why they choose to work at your company in the first place. Such as, stories about your purpose, values, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability programmes and celebrating teams. These go a long way to engaging your people and making them feel proud to work there.

Finding ways to weave in your values is another way to do this. If innovation is a core value, you can include a place for employees to submit innovative ideas on your site. Likewise, if recognition is important, you can create a feed to call people out for a job well done.

Define ownership 

Setting up strong governance structures, teams and processes is imperative to ensure there is clear responsibility and ownership. Without governance, it’s easy for intranet sites to turn into ginormous dumping grounds of outdated and irrelevant content. Establish clear roles and responsibilities for content owners, developers and the team responsible for the strategic direction of the intranet, and best practice guidelines for content creation and archiving.

Whether you’re an enthusiastic daily user or begrudgingly infrequent visitor, the intranet serves an essential purpose. When designed with your employees’ needs front and centre, it can be a powerful business tool that not only helps employees be more productive and efficient in their role, but also more informed, engaged and heard.

If you would like to discuss your internal communications needs, from an insight in understanding how your employees currently engage with your intranet to support with designing and building it, we’re passionate about making communications work better. We’d love to help. Get in touch with darryl.mead@emperor.works.

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