Your intranet is failing you. Here are 5 ways to fix it.

Organizations launch intranets with the best intentions. Finally, they think, we’ll be able to create more engagement, and have one place for all internal resources! Fast forward three months, and the new intranet that was supposed to fix communication and collaboration issues has become a ghost town. The resources are outdated, announcements have slowed, and logins have taken a nosedive. So many intranets suffer the same fate that many organizations often abandon intranet projects altogether, opting instead for new Slack channels, mass emails, bulletin boards, and town hall meetings to try fostering connections and keeping teams engaged. “The reality is that the landscape is littered with failed technology deployments,” writes Charlene Li for the Harvard Business Review. “Research shows that less than half of the enterprise collaboration tools installed have many employees using them regularly.”

The odds are stacked against you, but there's still hope.

Organizations should demand more from their internal technology, and finally achieve a more connected and engaged workforce. We'll cover 5 ways to ensure your next internal technology project accomplishes your goals and advances your strategic initiatives.  

1. Make it mobile.

Then: Most intranets were built for people who spend their days in a centralized office on a desktop computer. For organizations where this working scenario isn’t the norm (think retail, transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing industries), this solution was never a good fit. Even if the majority of your organization performs their work on computers, a desktop-first intranet behind a corporate firewall is awful for employees who are often traveling or working remotely. 

Now: To ensure usage of any internal network, the first step is to engage people on the platforms and devices that they use most frequently. “Find a platform designed for mobile first,” writes Adrienne Chance for Forbes. “We learned through experience that simply having a mobile website isn’t enough.” Your intranet solution should be accessible from any device, and allow employees to engage on multiple channels. Logging in should be as simple as possible, ideally allowing a single sign-on option tied to their existing work accounts.

By providing a more streamlined way to access your intranet, you’ll increase your chances of real adoption by more of your employees.

2. Leverage your data.

Then: Legacy intranets often relied on users manually updating profiles, org charts, skills, and available documents. This created a vicious cycle for intranet advocates: no one used the intranet because data was outdated, and no one updated their data because no one used the intranet. Chasing people to add data to the intranet often fell to HR teams, who had hoped the intranet would create fewer follow-up issues, not more.

Now: HR data, as well as business and personal data, can all live within a single internal platform. Integrated internal networks “Eliminate siloed information, fostering collaboration across the business. And they reduce administrative overhead, increase productivity and ultimately save organizations money,” according to Forbes contributor Warren Perlman.

When organizations eliminate the need for employees or HR team to manually update internal networks, they instantly become more relevant and useful, solving the problems that keep so many people from utilizing internal technology.

Learn how Structural can help.

3. Focus on user experience.

Then: Legacy intranets were built with the organization’s, not employees’, needs in mind. That led to many leaders rolling out platforms that were difficult to use, with limited social engagement options that could enable communication and collaboration for individuals. As a result, leaders and employees had a poor user experience, finding few reasons to ever visit the platform for anything other than finding the company handbook or vacation policies.

Now: “Don’t underestimate the cost and time associated with creating job aids and training your workforce if the platform you select isn’t easy to use,” writes Chance. Rolling out a company-centric platform without thinking through what users want is a waste of time and resources. Get feedback from users before you deploy a system to make sure it will meet their needs. Make sure you optimize internal platforms to let users engage on the channels (like email, text, or chat) that they already are comfortable using.

Organizations that start asking what employees want from an internal network are more likely to see increased adoption when it’s time to launch. Make sure your users are on board with the system you select before you roll it out.

4. Prioritize search capabilities.

Then: Employees were typically instructed to consult their intranet when they had a problem or a question about an internal policy or colleague. The problem was, many legacy intranets had search capabilities that were next to useless when it came to finding people and resources.

Now: Search capabilities are critical for the success of an internal network. As organizations grow, they need better technology to accommodate more internal resources and employee data. The ability for employees to find exactly what (or whom) they’re looking for will be the difference between a successful internal platform and a failed intranet.

When choosing an internal network, be sure to test search capabilities before going live. You may need to make changes to the way documents are hosted to ensure better searchability, or you may need to work with your vendor to improve the search function if it’s not returning expected results.

5. Align technology with business objectives.

Then: Intranets were typically rolled out by HR teams with the hope that other departments would break down silos, utilize available resources, and help employees become more productive. While Human Resources may have valued employee engagement and collaboration enough to invest time and effort into an intranet, that didn’t always mean employees and leaders were on the same page. “Top executives often didn’t see collaboration and engagement as a good use of their time, employees quickly learned that they shouldn’t either,” writes Li.

Now: Internal technology can only be successful if it drives real business results. Not only do employees need to use the internal technology to be more productive, leaders also need to see how using the new tools will help them engage and retain talent. You’ll need to prove to leaders that technology will not only allow them to be more connected to their teams, but that they will also have better access to data and resources that can help them develop as leaders. Similarly, if employees know how the platform enables better collaboration and provides more engagement opportunities, you’ll likely sustain adoption throughout the employee lifecycle. By establishing business goals for your new technology early, your organization is more likely to see long-term impacts from your investment, and avoid wasted spend on technology that doesn’t align with organizational priorities.

Fixing intranet problems for good.

As Li explains, “Simply putting a technology platform in place won’t suffice” when it comes to your next internal network. You’ll need to align internal technology with user needs, channel preferences, and most of all, business priorities. With the right planning, user input, testing, and support, you can avoid rolling out another failed intranet. Instead, you’ll be able to implement a platform that will make employees and leaders more productive, informed, and engaged with your organization.

Not sure where to begin? Learn how Structural’s Employee Success Platform solves age-old intranet problems.