The secret to a great intranet launch is not just informing employees about the new intranet, but helping them build an emotional connection with it early.
I’ve compiled 25 real-world ideas to propel your intranet from a foreign piece of software to a vital, necessary tool. I’ve grouped the ideas to correspond with the stages of an intranet launch.
Include employees from the start
The more involved employees feel in the intranet process, the more ownership they’ll take in the intranet’s success.
1. Involve key employees in product evaluation.
Include employees in early discussions about the intranet, and understand how the new intranet can help them. ThoughtFarmer‘s article “15 ways to engage users in launching a social intranet” offers tips on including employees in product evaluation.
2. Get employees to participate in intranet research.
Employee feedback is essential to designing a useful intranet. Get employees to participate in card sorting and task-testing activities for your new intranet. Not only will you end up with an intranet that’s much easier for employees to navigate, you’ll show employees you value their input.
Build hype with pre-launch intranet teasers
Offering a sneak peek of the new intranet can relieve wariness and spark excitement. Creativity and fun go a long way.
3. Run an intranet naming competition.
What’s in an intranet’s name? Well, if the CEO or marketing director comes up with it, not much. But if you let employees suggest and vote on intranet names, your site’s moniker will be full of excitement and engagement. Check out Stephen Schillerwein’s list of real intranet names.
Oxfam America held a naming contest to come up with its intranet’s name, “Padare”:
4. Send out postcard teasers.
Several weeks before launching Oxfam America’s new intranet, I distributed postcards to every Oxfam America employee. The postcards said, “Take me home with you!” in big, bold letters, and included:
- A copy of the new intranet’s navigation.
- The intranet’s vision statement.
- The URL for home access.
- Simple instructions for logging in.
- The intranet’s help email address.
5. Share fun facts from employee profiles.
Penn State had one of the most inventive intranet launch plans. One part of the launch: a series of posters that shared little-known tidbits about Penn State employees. These posters sparked interest in the intranet’s employee profiles.
6. Distribute intranet welcome packages.
In this increasingly digital age, hard-copy materials can go further than they used to. Another piece of Penn State’s outstanding intranet launch was welcome packages, which a team of volunteers assembled and delivered. The welcome packages included:
- A booklet introducing the intranet.
- An agenda for launch day.
- A thumb drive with special documents each employee needed.
Create a wow factor
If you want employees to have a good first impression of the intranet, the intranet should be interesting and useful from the start. Employees expect enterprise applications to be horrible software that isn’t user-friendly. Surprise them with an intranet that’s inviting and engaging.
7. Give your intranet a strong visual identity.
Splio‘s fun intranet brand started with a clever name and design that tied into the company’s culture and extended to every page of the intranet, including the log-in screen.
8. Help super users create example profiles.
Getting a few more engaged users to fill out their profiles, you’ll achieve two things:
1. You’ll provide recognition to a group of highly motivated users.
2. You’ll help other users see what’s possible.
Use influencers to promote the new intranet for you. (You’ll do less work, and the intranet will gain more credibility!) Also try to get a few tech-savvy executives to fill out their profiles.
9. Pre-populate employee profile photos.
If you have a database of security badge photos or something similar, consider uploading them to users’ profiles in advance. Replacing blank profiles with real photos makes the people directory come to life on day one.
10. Set up major groups and locations in advance.
If your new intranet is a social intranet, you’ll likely have group pages for each major department and company location. By adding employees to the proper group pages ahead of time, you can:
- Reduce the effort required for users to fill in their profiles.
- Ensure the people directory shows rich data and connections.
- Enable personalized news delivery based on group membership.
11. Build a contributor community in advance.
If you’ve engaged your intranet stakeholders and power users while designing and building the intranet, this step will happen naturally. The key is to get your content owners, news authors and group owners involved before the launch. See this article on how to manage intranet contributors for long-term success for tips and guides.
Make your launch day visible, fun and exciting
12. Create a launch video.
One of my firm’s clients, LPK, launched its intranet with this entertaining video designed to mimic a movie trailer. Your launch video doesn’t have to be so fancy. Ellen van Aken compiled a list of 50 intranet launch and promotion videos for more inspiration.
13. Run an intranet scavenger hunt.
Nigel Williams, former intranet manager at Romec, led a treasure hunt as part of Romec’s intranet launch. The competition, designed to build employees’ familiarity with the new intranet, offered an excellent prize—a trip to New York City!
14. Connect with virtual employees through video conferences.
For organizations with offices around the globe, an intranet launch is the perfect opportunity to bring people together.
I did a lot of crazy things to plan, launch and manage the social intranet when I worked at Oxfam America. One of those crazy things was to hold eight video conferences in an 18-hour period—one with each office. It wasn’t easy (and I didn’t get much sleep), but it got employees on the same page with the new intranet, and showed that it was a global resource.
15. Hold a “No-Meeting Day.”
Penn State held a “No-Meeting Day” so all employees could spend time exploring the new intranet. Office workers’ distaste for excessive meetings fueled excitement for “No-Meeting Day,” and the new intranet.
16. Host an intranet drop-in lounge (with snacks).
Informal “get-to-know-you” sessions in office conference rooms help employees ask questions and learn about the new intranet in a non-intimidating environment. Plus, if you provide cookies or pizza, you’ll likely attract a big crowd. You might also set up a photo booth to encourage employees to post photos on the intranet’s employee directory.
17. Put your intranet on the big screen.
Put the new intranet everywhere, including on the big screens of the TV at the reception desk and the kitchen screen. Put it on the small screen in the elevator. Show off the intranet everywhere. Call it an “integrated multimedia campaign” if you like big words and want to impress your executives.
Keep the momentum going after launch day
18. Open a kudos section to all employees.
A secret: Employee recognition has a big effect on worker satisfaction, especially if it’s sincere and spontaneous. Farm Bureau Bank’s shout-out section lets any employee contribute new posts, allows commenting on every post and sits in the global navigation. This is empowering for both those offering kind words and the recipients.
19. Make the intranet available from home.
At Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), many employees work part-time and don’t sit in front of a computer. MEC made its intranet accessible from home computers, and saw a great increase in traffic. By offering both critical information and a place for staff to connect personally, MEC gave the site powerful pull.
20. Encourage employees to upload their own profile photos.
If you let people edit their profiles and use personal headshots, they’ll feel more invested in the intranet. You’ll see people’s personalities come through. As long as you have clear guidelines, people will post appropriate photos. (I suggest a “no pictures of cats” policy to start.)
21. Write employee-centered news.
What’s the most popular news on intranets? News about employees. I’ve heard anecdotes from many companies about how employees flock to stories about their co-workers. This news is relatable, human and interesting.
Have your internal communications team post regular news about employees, and sell the company’s brand narrative in these stories.
22. Have a photo-of-the-day contest.
One company has a huge backlog of photos because so many employees love the photo-of-the-day. It puts employees in the spotlight, and highlights their creativity. If this is something your employees would enjoy, why not use it to lure more eyes to the intranet?
23. Make timesheet software accessible through the intranet.
Every employee cares about getting paid. At the same time LPK launched its intranet, it also launched a new online timesheet. LPK made the timesheet readily accessible from the intranet, which helped attract consistent traffic.
24. Provide a killer app.
You could also call this tip “solve a critical business problem.” In many companies, the “killer app” is a rich people directory that’s searchable by keyword, sortable by location and department, and accessible on mobile phones. The key: Figure out the killer app for your employees. Research their work and their needs to find out.
25. Send email newsletters.
By sending a weekly email with links to popular news stories, you find people where they spend much of their time—their inboxes. People can easily scan the news digests and follow links to the stories that interest them.
These 25 ideas represent just a tiny sample of what’s possible. You can find inspiration in advertising, marketing and even business and history books.
I hope this list provides a spark of inspiration. The next step is to combine your creativity with your company’s culture to find the ideas that will work best for your intranet launch. Good luck!
Ephraim Freed is a communicator and self-proclaimed intranet nerd. He is the communications manager for the Digital Workplace Group, and contributing writer and professional services consultant for ThoughtFarmer, the social intranet software company. This article is from ThoughtFarmer’s forthcoming eBook, “Intranets 101: The Practical and Hands-on Guide to Launching an Intranet Project,” and has been republished with permission.