An intranet is an integral part of an organisation’s comms output but are businesses focusing on the ability to get information out quickly rather than using the platform to engage and support its workforce?
Wedge Black is an independent intranet and internal communications specialist. Having managed intranets for global and regional companies, he champions the use of intranets that are for people rather than just content.
Here are his top tips to make your intranet more engaging:
1 – Create useful content
What is published needs to be useful. News and content can be fun, but must have a purpose. The best content is meaningful, inspires or directs action, and helps a person achieve their goals. Reference material needs careful planning in line with your content strategy.
2 – Make your content usable
Content becomes useable when it is available when needed. Reference material and records may well be available somewhere on your intranet, but they are not useful unless people can find and access them.
For instance, an expense procedure should be available at the point of need – when a person is submitting their expenses. It’s no good if the 15-page guidance sits in the central library while a person struggles with a confusing item within the expense system.
The expense system should offer contextual guidance at every stage or at least offer a link to the specific paragraph within the expense procedure.
3 – Involve the workforce
Intranets should be for people, not just content. People should be able to interact with colleagues and with content.
Adding comments and asking questions shouldn’t be reserved for the review process – things change all the time and the content owner should appreciate pointers from all quarters.
Communities can create and maintain content in a collaborative manner, or highlight what’s missing.
4 – Have a structured layout
Good communication follows a narrative. There’s room for a variety of voices and structure on an intranet, but consistent structure helps people scan-read and find the relevant points.
There are good practices to stick to, like using several sub-headings, plenty of paragraph breaks, and short sentences.
In general, people scan read until they find something salient; people expect important points directly underneath headings and sub-headings and contextual details further down.
It’s not possible to understand what is important to all people in all contexts, so there’s no such thing as the perfect page – only a great page for the relevant audience.
5 – Single-topic intranet pages are best
Concise intranet pages that solve one problem are easier to find, use, reference, and share than comprehensive 80 page PDFs.
Legal material may need to be document behemoths, but when a person has a question about their holiday entitlement, they shouldn’t have to wade through a contract.
A single-topic intranet page should provide the answer.
6 – Use real photos
An outright ban on clip-art, stolen icons, and all but the most beautiful relevant stock photographs will challenge the comms team and every intranet contributor to take real photos.
7 – Maintain and own your content
Out of date material must be removed and archived material needs marking as such.
Content contributors should be supported to put their audiences ahead of their needs and to maintain content for as long as appropriate.
One should be able to identify and contact owners of everything. If you publish something, you are responsible for it.