Having a useful intranet is an integral part of business for most enterprises today. However, intranet users often fail to take full advantage of all the intranet can offer. The key to getting the most from your intranet is to get users to engage.
Getting users involved with the intranet is easier than you might think. You simply need to make the intranet helpful for their work routine and provide them with practical tools that they will want to use. Here are ten ways to generate and sustain their interest:
1. Provide uninterrupted access
Easy access is essential to making the intranet appealing to users. If they cannot access it when they need to use it, they will shy away from it whenever possible. In order to make sure that the intranet will be easily accessible, take the time to evaluate and plan for effective strategies that take into account the intended users and their technological environment, particularly for mobile workers using home laptops, tablets and smartphones.
2. Validate user needs
Talk to users about why they would actually use the intranet before you decide on its design. Ask them targeted questions, including “What is the most important feature you would choose to have?” Listen to them carefully to catch important insights, such as “if only I could do this easier” or “I wish I could do this quicker.
Having these conversations with your users validates their actual needs and allows them to feel invested. Checking back with them again at the prototype stage to make sure intranet design fits their purposes can make a big difference in the usefulness of the end product.
3. Establish clear business goals
It is easier for users to invest in using the intranet if they understand why one is needed in the first place. Your business goals for the intranet should adhere to SMART criteria and be
- Specific: Have targeted goals that you define clearly in writing.
- Measurable: Be able to fix and track progress indicators for each goal.
- Attainable: Make sure that each goal is realistic and can be achieved.
- Relevant: Be sure that your goals are in line with team, department and company strategies.
- Timely: Allocate a reasonable amount of time to achieve each goal.
4. Target performance improvements
Your users will be more motivated to use the intranet if they can clearly see how it improves their ability to do their job. Make certain that your intranet supports
- Quality: The system should be in compliance with existing policies and procedures.
- Timing: The system needs to provide quick access to information and tools.
- Efficiency: The system should make your business processes easier.
- Communication: The system should support collaboration and engagement.
- Awareness: The system should provide users with relevant information.
5. Take small steps
Creating or updating your intranet should not be a monstrous project that never ends. Make users happy by solving one simple problem at a time.
For example, providing easy access to holiday and expense forms will make users return to the system frequently. Offering easily accessible information such as an employee absence schedule will also attract users and streamline administrative tasks. Once you have made the intranet useful and appealing on a day to day basis, it will be easier to begin integrating larger corporate messages and initiatives.
6. Provide intuitive navigation
Unlike many website visitors, intranet users come to the system for specific information, not to simply browse or explore content. It is crucial to provide quick and easy access to the necessary data and tools they are looking for through easy navigation, including:
- Main menu with task-based section links
- Personalized dashboard with configurable portlets
- Text search with auto-suggestions, results analysis and facets
7. Keep it simple
While today’s technology allows intranet systems and sites to include a vast array of colorful and appealing pictures, videos and designs, the purpose of your intranet is probably not to amuse and entertain.
The best strategy in designing your intranet is to use simple page layouts and interactive interface techniques that enhance user experience. The easier you make it for your users to complete the task they signed on to the intranet for, the more often they will use it.
8. Provide high quality content
Keeping information up-to-date and relevant sends users a message that management stays current with the intranet, so they should too. Current news, an updated calendar and any content currently being used for production or decision making should be present and easy to access. Designating a person to keep the intranet updated may be necessary in order to make certain that it is a viable, valuable tool on an ongoing basis.
9. Have the leadership participate in discussions
It is important for the management team to take the lead and spend time personally posting messages and participating in discussions. Intranets that simply publish announcements or instructions from the leadership team miss out on an opportunity to gain employee/member trust, develop relationships and receive honest feedback.
Discussion forums allow users to discuss topics that matter to them. They are a great way to demonstrate that the intranet is a place to make connections with colleagues. Social links and shared interests form a great basis for team building, and a stronger team will be a better team.
10. Offer technical support
Intranets tend to have a lot of data and features that can be challenging for some less technical users, especially in the beginning. You should always have a help link that opens an easy to understand user manual with simple step by step instructions, how to guides and training videos.
For those experiencing further problems, it is important to also provide a way to ask questions and get answers about using the intranet. For the most effective technical support, designate a team member as the go-to person for new users or those who are having difficulty in accessing and/or using the intranet.
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