6 ways Kroger built an employee-centered intranet

Replacing an old intranet that didn’t work for anyone, the retail giant built a useful tool for its 460,000 employees.

Intranet lessons from Kroger

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

Imagine communicating with half a million supermarket employees in 35 states, ranging from food safety experts to teenage grocery baggers.

Their preferred means of accessing your information include desktops, laptops, mobile phones and the Xbox at Mom and Dad’s house.

That’s the quandary that Kroger—one of the world’s largest retailers—found itself in as it set out to replace its outdated intranet. (Kroger’s also has an internal storytelling platform.)

In “Drive engagement with an intranet that puts your employees front and center,” Erin Lickliter, Kroger’s head of associate communications and engagement, tells how the supermarket and retail chain designed and launched a site that unites a disparate workforce.

“We have more than doubled the visits to our sites,” Lickliter says. “We believe that is because we have delivered our associates what they asked for.”

Employees are scattered across numerous physical locations. Ninety percent of them work in grocery stores, and 60% are part-time. They often hold other jobs, meaning they receive communications from more than one employer.

In age and other demographics they vary widely. In some states youths as young as 14 can work, often bagging groceries at Kroger. The company’s eldest employee was 99 years old.

Here’s how Kroger came up with a new intranet to reach them all:

1. Audit first.

Kroger’s old intranet, BarneyWeb, dated to 1997 (it was named after Bernard “Barney” Kroger, who founded the company in 1883). It was a document repository containing thousands of documents. It answered questions such how stores should run produce and meat departments, and how manufacturing plants should produce the safest food. The navigation, however, was difficult.

“It is just folders and folders and folders of stuff,” Lickliter says. “It could take you eight to 10 clicks to get to the document that you need. Our associates were like, ‘What the heck? It is impossible for us to find anything.’”

An employee-focused website, Greatpeople.me, was an excellent storytelling and video platform, but it wasn’t the place for documents that people needed to do their jobs.

Kroger surveyed its staff as a part of a major audit. It revealed that only 18% of associates could quickly find the information they need. Only 17% agreed that Kroger’s site was modern and up to date. This dismal data helped sell leadership on the need for a multiyear revamp.

2. Customize the intranet.

Comms partnered closely with the tech team using Agile software for the design. This allowed for rapid and continual updates over the two years it took to build the site—and another year for a rolling launch.

Kroger’s team developed a new intranet called FEED, choosing a design that was clean, bright and cheerful. The goal was to make something that suits everyone’s needs, from the HR team to the folks slicing chuck steak in the meat department. Everyone uses the intranet differently, Lickliter says.

When employees log in, the system identifies where they work, so workers see news and information relevant to their specific location.

“You think about the teenagers that work for us,” Lickliter says. “They can open it on their Xbox or things like that and access the site.”

3. Give them what they want.

Kroger employees often ask what’s happening in the industry with other retailers such as Amazon, Walmart and Target. So Kroger communicators put industry news right on the homepage.

4. Offer essential information and tools.

Want your employees to visit your intranet? Make it a necessity. Kroger has a dashboard for store managers, so they can get to their store metrics easily. Employees have to go to the site to find out their work schedule.

“If you want to get people to your intranet, put something out there that they absolutely need,” Lickliter says, “because that is a great way to drive traffic. Then it is your responsibility, once they are there, to have really great, engaging content to keep them there learning about the company.”

Teams throughout the company hold daily huddles, so as soon as associates log in, they see the topic for that day’s huddle.

5. Made it easy for content authors to use.

Those who are uploading content for Kroger don’t have to know HTML or learn a complicated back-end system.

“You just toggle to ‘author’ mode, and you can start to either cut and paste, upload documents, or type in whatever content you want to have,” Lickliter says.

6. Fix the search engine.

Search was a problem under the old system, Lickliter says. “If you typed in something, you were really lucky if the right thing even came close to what it was,” she says.

Now Google powers a far more effective search function. It doesn’t end there, however. Kroger trains content managers in naming documents, using keywords and identifying topic areas.

“We continue to train and reeducate our content managers so that our associates have the best experience possible,” Lickliter says.

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COMMENT

4 Responses to “6 ways Kroger built an employee-centered intranet”

    KELLY BINGHAM says:

    This is great information. Since Kroger has so many part-time and hourly workers, how did you avoid labor law issues with associates accessing the intranet from home, particularly if you required logging in to view one’s work schedule? We are launching an intranet, and our labor lawyers have suggested making the intranet optional to avoid hourly workers expecting to be paid for time perusing the intranet from home or personal devices.

      Robby Brumberg says:

      Great question, Kelly. I’ll reach out to someone at Kroger and try to track down that information for you.

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