intranets, employee enagement, social business The adage “build it and they will come” has never rung true for intranets. Many intranets built with the best intentions fall into disuse for lack of employee engagement. But it does not need to be that way.

Intranets can be the vibrant social hub for organizations, particularly in today’s business world where many organizations need to collaborate across national and international locations. With the rise of telecommuting and an increasingly remote workforce, and with the omnipresence of social networking tools changing employee expectations, the intranet has never been a more important tool. Your business intranet should be the central community that informs and engages employees, while automating key business processes.

So the question is not whether to invest in an intranet, it is, how can you increase employee engagement within your intranet? While every organization has unique requirements, the following best practices can improve any enterprise intranet.

Measure It and They Will Come

If you are not measuring your intranet usage and defining a set of relevant KPIs (key performance indicators), you simply will not improve the intranet experience. While analytics and measurement alone will not improve your intranet, they will provide you the visibility to understand the current usage and to track your progress as you roll out new content and services.

Some key metrics to track include:

  • Percentage of employees visiting the intranet weekly
  • Total number of visits
  • Duration of visits
  • Devices accessing the intranet
  • Most popular pages and documents

Editor's Note: Also read: How Analytics Can Support Intranet Management

Engage Outside the Walled Garden

You should not only expect employees to come to the intranet; you should make the intranet come to the employee. By syndicating information and notifying users, you can encourage more participation in the intranet.

Email notification and activity roll-ups are a great way to reach out to employees. By allowing employees to follow different topics, work areas, or documents, and then sending a notification when these items are updated or changed, employees become much more engaged. You can also generate activity roll-ups sent weekly by email. Similar to the email you may receive from LinkedIn and other social networks, these weekly roll-ups communicate what is new and relevant to the employee in the intranet.

Enterprise Search

Intranets demand utility. People come to the intranet to find information or to execute a business process. While information architecture and design are critical to making information discoverable, search is a key tool that employees use to find information in the enterprise. 

Intranet search should provide the following capabilities:

  • Search web content and documents showing relevant keyword matches and highlighting text
  • Federated search across external databases, file systems, and websites
  • Filtered search results based on employee access level and permissions
  • Faceted search to narrow and expand search results based category, content type, age, and other metadata

Gamification and Leader Boards

Who are your intranet heroes? Which people deliver the most expertise and contribute the most often? Gamification provides strategies to allow users to earn points or badges for their intranet activity. Leader boards provide positive feedback for employees that gain the most points, or contribute most frequently. Beyond social analytics, gamification also allows organizations to surface subject matter experts across the organization and expand internal knowledge management by capturing those employee insights within the intranet application.

Social Networking and Activity Streams

Social networking isn't just for Facebook and Twitter anymore. Social networking within the enterprise allows employees to follow their colleagues, subject matter experts, working groups, and topical interest areas. Providing a “News Feed” stream within an employee’s personal view or working group in the intranet allows people to easily stay up-to-date with new information and connect with their peers. From simple status updates, to presence indicators, to document and content updates, social activity streams are one of the most powerful ways to drive user engagement in a modern intranet.

Business Tools and Processes

The best intranets are applications for streamlining business processes. From standard services like PTO (person time off) requests, to travel and expenses reimbursement, to more complex business workflows and project management, the more actionable business processes you put in the intranet, the more ROI and overall engagement the intranet will deliver.

Automating business processes at the most basic level means getting rid of paper forms and static PDFs and moving to web-based forms processing. If you already have software tools for managing business processes, then the intranet can act as a portal providing secure access to external applications and single sign-on capabilities.

Editor's Note: Read New Thinking: Reducing Tool Time of Knowledge Workers

Mobile Access

Mobile is not a feature, it is a mandate. Every successful intranet should have mobile access. Intranet time is often the “time between time,” or those moments when an employee is not engaged in a project but may be waiting for a meeting to begin, commuting, or visiting client locations. Mobile provides ubiquitous access to the intranet and allows employees access at the moments they are most inclined to “check the intranet.”

Mobile access can be delivered in a few ways. The intranet can be developed using a responsive web framework like Bootstrap, which will allow the design to collapse around a set of breakpoints to fit a smartphone or tablet form factor. You can also create a more application-like adaptive mobile display that uses an alternative set of web templates for mobile and provides device detection that can leverage the on-device capabilities of the phone, such as a camera or GPS.

In my experience, the best mobile strategy for an intranet is a hybrid approach. That is, using responsive design to provide a fallback mobile experience and then enhancing key tasks and capabilities using adaptive approaches.

Employee Engagement = Intranet Interaction

The most common mistake organizations make in rolling out intranet solutions is treating the intranet like another website. Intranets are not websites, they are applications.

The most engaging intranets provide a mix of modern social networking, activity streaming, and gamification capabilities, alongside powerful business processing, document management, and enterprise search applications.

When planning your next intranet, or the next generation of your current intranet, look beyond traditional content management tools for more comprehensive community and collaboration platforms. The right software package should provide the security and capabilities required to make your intranet a success, engaging employees deeper than ever before and unleashing your corporate knowledge to employees worldwide.

Editor's Note: Another great article from David -- Web CMS Trends in 2013: Multi-Touch, Cloud, Social CRM

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