4 common culprits for intranet failure

Clunky, cluttered navigation, lack of training and neglecting user preferences will quickly sink your employee hub. 

Common intranet mistakes

Every company that launches an intranet does so with the best of intentions.

The planning stages are full of hopeful proclamations about streamlining internal messaging, boosting collaboration and increasing company connectivity. Unfortunately, intranets often fail to deliver on their promise to pump up productivity, engagement and communication.

According to a survey conducted by IntraTeam, just 40 percent of organizations are “somewhat satisfied” with their intranet system. Fewer than 5 percent of respondents reported being “very satisfied” with their company’s intranet.

Where do companies go wrong? Why is it so difficult to create an intranet that soars instead of bores?

Here are four common reasons intranets fail:

1. Not promoting the intranet, or not training employees prior to launch.

Many organizations make the mistake of having a “build it and they will come” attitude. This is an intranet kiss of death.

If you don’t communicate why your company is building an intranet—or if you fail to sufficiently educate employees on how to use it—you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Solution: Make a big deal about your new intranet. Produce an internal marketing campaign that makes all employees aware that “the intranet is coming.” Thoroughly explain what the system entails and which processes will change (if any).

Create videos, FAQ pages or screenshots that will help workers get up to speed.

Highlight what the benefits are for employees, and emphasize what’s in it for them if they participate. Make sure everyone knows how to log in, navigate, search and perform basic functions on the intranet. Ask questions and solicit feedback, and provide incentives for employees to get on board.

Securing pre-launch buy-in from employees and executives builds momentum and is vital to any intranet’s success.

2. Neglecting users’ needs and preferences.  

What’s the point of an intranet if it’s not user-friendly?

The goal is to make two-way communication easier and more transparent and to provide engaging content. Unfortunately, many intranets are built, designed and launched without one iota of employee input. Many other companies feel compelled to fill space with dry, soulless, impersonal corporate communications.

Solution: Intranets should be used as a tool to inspire employees. That’s difficult to do unless you ask for their opinions, insight and feedback.

Which sorts of content do they enjoy? What features would they like to see on the intranet?

Conduct surveys, gather information, and talk to people. Find out what your colleagues’ preferences are, and create an intranet that caters to those preferences.

After you launch, be sure to track analytics to see which pages, posts or sections are getting the most clicks.

3. Not making your intranet the central repository.

If your intranet is just one more communication channel—on top of many others—your employees might view it as a burden.

Intranets should be the primary hub of an organization’s most crucial, helpful and practical information. However, it shouldn’t be treated as a data landfill. If your intranet is full of cluttered, obsolete information that’s scattered, unorganized and hard to find, your intranet will quickly be abandoned.

It also shouldn’t be one of many. If you already do Slack, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Outlook and Yammer, your intranet doesn’t stand much chance of becoming your employees’ go-to hub.

Solution: Make sure your employees need your intranet to do their jobs. Change your company’s existing processes to make your intranet the central repository for all company assets, documentation and third-party systems.

4. Clunky site navigation.

What good is content if it’s hard to find?

Company intranets are often akin to convoluted mazes. If you present an overwhelming amount of information or options, you’ll drive people away. Your employees will go to great lengths to not use your intranet.

Solution: Keep your intranet tidy and concise. Aggressively remove old and outdated content, and delete items that might impede search functionality.

Consider design, too. Pare down your navigation to make searching simple. Group similar content together, use prominent links, and make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Simplifying navigation is a great first step toward getting employees involved and active on your intranet.

A version of this post first ran on the Pancentric Digital blog.

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