Despite the growing popularity of intranets among management teams trying to improve corporate communication, most remain ghost towns, seldom visited by employees.
This doesn’t have to be the case for yours.
Keys to Success
1.) Useful. An intranet, like any site or product, should be built based on the needs of customers. I’ve seen far too many intranets that were built according to a corporate mandate rather than employees’ needs. The result is that the sites get almost no traffic.
Before you start building (or revising) your intranet, create a cross-functional SWAT team that includes employees from all departments. This team will help guide you in creating a truly useful intranet and produce buy-in from each department that will be very handy when you launch the intranet and try to gain adoption.
Some features for an intranet that your employees might actually find useful are:
- Online system to manage the 401(k) program
- Suggestion box for product enhancements
- Online training courses (check out Headlight)
- Human resources and tax forms to download
- Company newsletter
- Directory of internal business documents and templates (e.g., marketing plans)
- Product bug tracking system
- Company directory (e.g., phone numbers and email addresses)
- Competitive information
2.) Interactive. An intranet, when done well, is a community site. In the design of your intranet, be sure to create tools for your employees to post information and comments.
As with a good community site, the intranet should enable discussions and convey information. Simply adding a bulletin board to the site will have little impact.
3.) Dynamic. If your intranet is interactive, it should already be dynamic, but it never hurts to add more dynamic information to the site. The more often information changes on the site, the more times your employees will want to visit it.
4.) Focused. A successful intranet focuses on trying to meet employees’ work-related needs — nothing more. The worst thing you can do is to attempt to turn your intranet into a catch-all destination. Your site will not replace Amazon.com, Yahoo, or any of your employees’ other favorite online destinations.
Tips for Driving Traffic
1.) Syndicated content. Syndicated content is probably the cheapest and most effective way to add dynamic information to your site. Services such as iSyndicate, ScreamingMedia, and MediaXpress can provide you with constantly updating content for your intranet for under $1,000 per month. (iSyndicate even offers a free service.)
If you add content to your intranet, make sure that it is relevant. News and weather updates seldom drive traffic to an intranet (employees already have favorite places to go for this information). Try providing industry news, such as headlines on your competition and general articles about the space.
2.) Employee photos. Adding photos of your employees is the most effective way to drive traffic to the site immediately after launch. People love to look at themselves and will make it a high priority to see their mugs on the site. If possible, allow employees to swap the photos or add additional photos to make this feature even more popular.
3.) Employee bios. Let your employees post their bios on the intranet. It is great for employee egos, adds creative content, and helps build employee ownership for the site. To encourage quality bios, send out some examples of cool bios when you launch the feature.
4.) Conference room scheduling. For most companies, conference room space is one of the hottest commodities. By moving conference room scheduling to your intranet, you will guarantee that a significant number of employees will visit the intranet at least once per week to schedule a room or see where a meeting is being held.
5.) Email. Email is a great tool for driving traffic and building communities. Try one of the following:
- Create a company newsletter with the first paragraph of a story in the newsletter and the whole story a link away on the intranet.
- Send out highlights from discussions occurring on the intranet, and encourage employees to join in the thread.
- Send out announcements of new features added to the intranet.
6.) Contests. Everyone loves contests (with the exception of cynical types such as myself), especially if there is a really cool prize for the winner (e.g., a trip to Hawaii or extra PTO). Try one of these:
- When the intranet is in beta, offer a prize for the employee who reports the most bugs.
- Provide a prize for the best suggestion for new features for the intranet.
- To encourage people to write their bios or post photos, try offering a prize for the best bio or photo submitted.
7.) New hires. Convert them while they are still green. Have your human resources team focus part of an employee’s first day on visiting and using the intranet. A few ideas are:
- Post information about the company on the site.
- Display the company organization chart on the site.
- Have new employees submit their bios and photos.
- Give them welcome gifts with the URL posted on them (e.g., mousepads).
- Make the site the default on their browsers.
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