An intranet serves as the backbone of many enterprises. As a private network for a business’s employees, the tool has long been used for communication, collaboration, storage of important resources, and much more. It is therefore central to any organization’s digitization and digital transformation, housing any number of tools necessary for keeping operations running smoothly and efficiently.
While the intranet is nothing new — in fact, it has been around for decades — it has evolved to become far more than a digital storage unit. Today, the platforms often include an abundance of dynamic features, helping them do their jobs and stay up to date with their organization’s goings on.
Why use an intranet?
Originally, intranets served as a system for storing information. Employees could access necessary tools, files, and documents via this centralized platform. But it has become more than that today, although, at its core, it remains a solid internal content management system (CMS).
Employees can join discussions via a secure, protected platform to access various materials, including programs, technologies and other tools, all customizable and fostering collaboration, innovation, and creativity.
What’s more, employees can readily access anything they need — no need to hunt around for that critical document or key system. They can even log in from home, provided they have the necessary credentials and some form of security, usually a VPN.
These are just a few of the reasons why businesses leverage an intranet. In addition to those, there are other benefits and features intranets offer:
• Seamless communication
• Access to colleague’s information via profiles, enabling networking
• Social features
• Access to internal news, including job postings
• Support for hybrid and remote work
Intranet best practices
1. Meet the needs of your employees
Intranets can offer any number of features, but they are meaningless if you don’t know what your employees truly need. With this in mind, the leading method of finding out how your intranet can best serve your workers is to ask them. Survey them on your current system, asking how they use it now and what improvement they might like to see.
Moreover, make sure your employees understand how to access and use all the tools housed in the intranet. Keep them informed about the information they can find within it, as well as any updates you have made.
2. Use a multifaceted approach
Augment your intranet with a range of content to better engage your colleagues. These resources should be appealing and valuable to employees. Depending on the needs of your organization, the content will, of course, vary, but it might include:
• Announcements and news
• User profiles of individual employees
• Audiovisual content, such as videos
• Articles authored by executives at your company
• Messaging systems and forums
• Awards and honors
• Tips and tricks
• Frequently asked questions
• A blog about or related to the company
3. Craft an excellent user experience
Your intranet should be easy to navigate, to start. It should be a system that allows employees to stay organized, so the platform must have an intuitive, easy-to-follow structure. Additionally, it should offer an excellent overall user experience. That includes an attractive layout, a user-friendly design, and an appealing interface. It should also be secure and high-performance.
Equally important, information and tools should be readily available and immediately apparent — employees don’t want to spend too much time hunting around. Include search functionality that is up to date.
4. Be transparent
An intranet can help give your workforce a voice. Enable employees to have discussions and share information via the intranet. Additionally, share critical information about the company. The platform can serve as a vehicle for asking questions and voicing concerns. The company’s leadership can keep their workers informed about the company’s goings-on, schedules, hiccups, and also any other issues that could affect them. Transparency is key.
5. Make it accessible
Increasingly, we recognize the importance of accessibility, particularly in the digital space. Your intranet is no different, so you must ensure that your entire workforce can use this platform effectively, regardless of the differences.
You cannot dismiss certain aspects of accessible design because you are unaware of particular impairments or disabilities on your team. You simply may not know — many differences are not immediately apparent — and the intranet needs to be accessible for and inclusive of any workers that may come in the future. Commit to adding features to your intranet like:
• Alt tags — text alternatives that describe images and other visual content
• Closed captioning
• Responsive design
• Color contrast
• Clear navigational structure
• Headings and ample spacing
6. Track performance using an intranet
Finally, don’t forget to track analytics and KPIs — even your intranet contains valuable data! So, you can measure factors like employee usage, frequently downloaded tools and resources, and the amount of time employees spend on different pages. Look at communications within the platform, and assess critical figures. This information will allow you to make improvements and strategize accordingly.
The present and future of intranets
The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the landscape of business operations. Intranets have proven critical to the functioning of organizations, facilitating collaboration even when employees aren’t sharing a physical workspace. They have expanded across sectors, from healthcare to finance, education to marketing, and beyond.
In the future, we will see intranets that further enhance user experience (UX) and expand reach, connecting employees worldwide for a comprehensive, collaborative workforce. There will be a higher level of customization and personalization, ensuring that the platforms put employees first.