You’ve streamlined workflows, increased visibility, improved communication, and strengthened data security all with your ERP. Yet, there’s still more improvement to be had. Now, you want to simplify on-boarding, boost employee recognition and reward, reinforce your company’s brand and values, and improve employee engagement by creating an intranet.
However, you know that creating an intranet is far more complex than it sounds. There are dozens of platforms to choose from, thousands of features available, and numerous pitfalls to avoid. So how do you do it? With the help of an experienced, professional team.
JourneyTEAM has created a number of internal sites for many customers and we’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. We’ll also give you a tour of Young Living’s intranet that our team helped to create.
Why Have an Intranet?
What’s the point? Why go through all the work to create this type of site? Let’s dive into this a little more.
The purpose of an intranet is to provide employees with a one-stop-shop for all company information. They should be able to log on and access contact information, important documents, quick links, organization charts, get company updates, and view upcoming events.
A single place where all this information is stored eliminates the need for employees to bounce between several different tools to access HR paperwork or financial information. They can find all of it on the intranet, which makes completing tasks so much easier.
The Four Buckets of an Intranet
With so much information and content being posted on your site, it can blur the lines between what is an intranet and what isn’t. At JourneyTEAM, we’ve learned that most intranet content can be organized into four different categories:
Individual content: This bucket will include smaller pieces of content like individual emails, share files, calendar items, and personal notebooks.
Ad-hoc conversations: Group chats, emails, and meetings and screen sharing content are included here.
Collaboration: Of course information from emails, instant messaging or chat are part of the collaboration bucket, but so are things like network operations, development teams, and hosting teams.
Company content and communication: This is the largest and most important intranet bucket as it will contain all company-approved information. This is only some of the content included here, but unofficial content from knowledge bases, communities, or calendar items will also be posted here. You’ll want to make it clear to users what is company-approved information and what isn’t.
At JourneyTEAM, we’ve looked at hundreds of different intranets and created dozens for numerous companies. We feel that there’s one significant sign that an intranet is successful: if a new hire is joining your organization, you could send them a link to your intranet and everything they would need to their job would be on this site. From onboarding paperwork to contact information for the rest of their team, they should have easy access to that and more on your intranet.
But what else should your intranet have? What should your site portray? Let’s take a look at what your intranet should do.
Have a Collective Group Identity
One of the things that causes an intranet to fail is segregation. If there seems to be an ‘us vs. them’ mentality among teams, it will carry over into your intranet. You want to ensure that your site is helping all teams work towards a common objective and that your site has a united, supportive feel to it.
We mentioned this previously, but increasing productivity and collaboration among your employees is one of the biggest things your intranet should do. Even if an employee hasn’t been with your company for very long, they should know that your intranet is the place you go to get work done.
Be Accessible from Anywhere
How many of your employees are only working at the office? Probably very few. Today’s workforce is working from virtually anywhere with a solid internet connection. That means your intranet needs to be easily accessible both in and out of the office. Employees should have a single link that takes them to your intranet and is accessible from any device.
Encourages a More Collaborative, Informed Workplace
No matter what team someone is on, they should be able to use the intranet to work with other teams. Everyone should be able to use the site to discuss current or future projects, work out problems, and meet objectives while the remainder of your organization is kept updated on their progress through employee recognition posts or news articles.
Your intranet should be a one-stop-shop for employees and leadership to collaborate, share and manage information, and accomplish tasks. With a single platform, the need to use multiple sites or tools is eliminated which streamlines work and boosts productivity.
Has a Community Feeling
One of the biggest indicators of a successful intranet is a community feeling. Employees should feel like they’re a part of a bigger group all working together to meet business goals. It’s important that when users log on, they’re able to find information about company values with ease.
The endless amount of features you can include on your site can make deciding which to include and which to not difficult. Here’s a few popular ones to help you decide:
Favorites: One way to encourage users to frequently visit the intranet is by giving them a way to access frequently used pages, tools, resources, or links more quickly. That’s exactly what the favorites feature does. Users can select certain resources to favorite and access them at any time from the navigation menu.
Personalization: Similar to favorites, personalization allows users to create things like my links, my save for later, my documents, my frequent sites, and my recommendations so they can get to content related to them more quickly. Additionally, this feature only shows content that’s applicable to the user. Other company information can be accessed from other sources like the news archive, the company blog, or team calendar.
For more sensitive information or resources, a management portal is a perfect solution. This allows higher-ups to access what they need using a secure login.
Names: When you’re naming your intranet, you’ll want to ensure it’s memorable and represents company values. So if you’re thinking about using “SharePoint Intranet”, go back to the drawing board.
Enterprise Search: This is a way for users to find the information they need by searching through multiple sources--whether that be databases, paper, or document management systems--all at once.
Even though this is a powerful search tool, it doesn’t mean that you can neglect your content. It’s important to make sure that every piece of content is appropriately tagged and organized so users are getting the right results.
Scoped Search: Instead of searching through everything, the scoped search looks only at specific parts of a website or certain content. A narrower search can help users find what they’re looking for more quickly as the results are displayed through either a drop-down or autocomplete scope.
Visual Sections: These help to guide users towards company values or other helpful information through background colors, fonts, and layouts. For example, some companies will group personalized content together in a drop-down menu with a different background than the homepage for faster access.
Drawers and Rails: for easier content discovery, consider implementing drawers and rails. Placing information and tools (quick links, documents, analytics, etc.) into boxes that slide in and out of the page ensures that users can access information at any time while browsing.
Now that you know what features and tools should be included on your site, let’s go over what shouldn’t be included. Moreover, we’ll talk about what your site shouldn’t be.
Because your site contains important information that employees need to get their job done, it’s important that employees can access it both in and out of the office. Make sure that your intranet is accessible so long as users are connected to the internet.
Only a Document Archive
Having important company documents on your intranet is important; however, your site shouldn’t just be a document archive. It’s important to have additional features that help team members get things done. To ensure your site doesn’t turn into this, you’ll want to have content owners routinely going through information and getting rid of any unnecessary documents.
Unused by Executives or Higher Ups
How can your entire organization stay productive or feel united if executives or managers aren’t involved on the site? It’s important to have a strong leadership presence and lower level employees should feel comfortable sending feedback or sharing concerns. With equal communication on all sides, work is streamlined and productivity rises.
Some of the worst sites are those that have poor navigation. Users expect information to be easy to find; if it’s not, frustration rises and most will abandon the site. As you’re designing your intranet, you’ll want to make sure that the features you include don’t decrease user-friendliness. Including features like breadcrumbs, drop-down menus, and search bars help boost navigation.
Another huge hindrance to a company intranet is low-quality content. If users are frequently running into content that’s irrelevant or outdated, users will turn to other sites to find what they’re looking for. To keep content quality high, make sure that your writing or editing teams or content managers are frequently reviewing content and removing anything that’s outdated. You should also consider using content templates, holding training regularly, and having a thorough editing process.
Poor Search Capabilities
While a search bar is a great feature to have on your intranet, it can decrease the performance of your site if it has poor search capabilities. Users expect the content they need to be included in the search results. If it’s not, they’ll look for it elsewhere.
How Young Living Created a World Class Intranet with JourneyTEAM
Before working with JourneyTEAM, Young Living, a top-seller in essential oils, was frustrated with their internal site. It wasn’t regularly maintained or managed by anyone and was very disorganized. Gen Miner, Sr. Manager of Employee Experience, was tasked with improving the site, but knew it was going to be a huge project. It was then that she turned to us for help.
Using Microsoft SharePoint as our platform, we turned what Gen described as “a junk room where people just dumped their stuff” into a clean, organized site that kept everyone connected and informed.
Before we began designing the site, we met with Gen to discuss the objectives of Young Living’s internal site. One of her top priorities is that the name reflect the purpose and goals of the company. Several names were suggested but the name that stuck was “The Source”. “We wanted people to know that if you came to The Source, you’re going to find the right stuff. And if you didn’t find it in The Source, it’s gossip,” Gen stated.
In addition to the name, another big objective for the site was that it had clear visuals that quickly directed users to information they needed. Gen said: “We had our banner which allowed for people to have a visual view right away of everything.” Gen’s team wanted to add further visuals to the site, so we created a “Need to Know” section that showcased the most important information for employees.
Additional features of Young Living’s site include:
FAQ list that users can search through to find answers to questions or to learn more about the company.
‘My Hub’ that includes all information relating to a user’s job like perks or benefits.
News page where users can view important company events.
Feedback feature that employees can use to leave questions, comments, or concerns anywhere on the site. Management is notified of all feedback and can easily respond to it.
Tool drawer of a user’s favorite tools that can be accessed with one click.
Speakerphone that notifies users of new or urgent information. We designed this feature to be similar to a Facebook notification.
Popular or trending topics that will appear in employee’s newsfeed for faster access.
Employee recognition where colleagues can celebrate each other’s achievements.
Calendar information to help employees keep track of company events or deadlines.
Photo gallery of employees using Young Living products or from company events.
Quizzes and employee polls to help management gather employee feedback and ensure information is being consumed and understood.
Like button which allows employees to send feedback in a familiar way.
Twitter stream that showcases tweets from Young Living and customers.
Searchable employee directory that includes all contact information for Young Living employees.
In the end, we were able to create a seamless, integrated site where users could leave feedback, find information, and complete work quickly. Even when users had to jump to tools or resources outside of The Source, they could do so with ease.
When Gen looked back on redesigning the site, she mentioned how important it was for someone in the role to ask for help when needed. “Oftentimes, a person in this role doesn’t understand the value and need of good knowledge management. You have to be willing to fight and to show your ROI and ask for help if you need. If you’re not experienced with SharePoint, find someone who can help you like JourneyTEAM.”
“It’s a lot of work,” she further stated. “You can’t just create a SharePoint site and say: ‘ok, you did a good job.’ You have to have a team to sustain it and manage it going forward.” Gen recognized that there were some aspects of designing the site that her and her team needed support with, which included some project management and web design. She communicated those to JourneyTEAM and we handled those while Gen stayed focused on promoting the site and testing new features prior to launch.
When the site launched, employees had the chance to enter a giveaway if they completed a list of intranet tasks. “You had to complete 10 steps,” Gen said. “One step was to find a picture of a zebra, email it to so-and-so, comment on the CEO’s blog, find this in search, use this, etc. By the time they walked through the 10 steps, they touched all the features of what the intranet does. We exposed them to what was possible.” Gen reported back to us that usage is high and that employees love the new site.
Whether you’re a small business that’s looking to create your own internal site or a large business looking to improve your existing site, JourneyTEAM can help. We’ve worked with several clients, each with their own specific needs, to create a site that’s perfect for them. Contact your JourneyTEAM representative to learn more.
Dave Bollard - Chief Marketing Officer | 801-436-6636
JourneyTEAM is an award-winning consulting firm with proven technology and measurable results. They take Microsoft products; Dynamics 365, SharePoint intranet, Office 365, Azure, CRM, GP, NAV, SL, AX, and modify them to work for you. The team has expert level, Microsoft Gold certified consultants that dive deep into the dynamics of your organization and solve complex issues. They have solutions for sales, marketing, productivity, collaboration, analytics, accounting, security and more. www.journeyteam.com
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