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If employees spend more time on the intranet, is it a good or bad thing?

An argument can be made for both sides of the fence. For example, more time spent on the intranet may mean people can't find what they want and spend a lot of time browsing around or searching. Or perhaps the system is so slow it takes forever to log-on and download a document. (Jonathan Philips, from the team at Intranetizen, gives a nice description of this dilemma in his article, "It’s not about the outputs, it’s about the outcomes").

Are intranets a waste of time?

Well known intranet thought leader, Gerry McGovern also notes in his article, "How to measure the success of your intranet,"

I've been working with intranets since 1997. I have observed behaviour and seen feedback from thousands of employees from all over the world. The number one complaint, by a huge margin, that employees have of their intranets is: "It's a WASTE OF TIME!"

Gerry then goes on to say, "Focus on your employees' time. Be relentless in seeking to save it. If you do you will create a great intranet. It's as simple and as difficult as that."

Based on these statements, it's tempting to think that getting your employees to spend even MORE time on the intranet may not be the most effective strategy. 

On the other hand...

On the other hand, logic would seem to say that if people are spending time using a particular tool, there must be something of value there.

So what do the intranet end users from the 100 organizations who have completed the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) web based benchmark say?

The following scatter chart shows the relationship between the two WIC survey questions "How much time in total do you spend on the intranet each day on average?" and "I would rate the value of the intranet as?".

The number of minutes end users spend per day on the intranet is shown on the vertical axis and a score between 0 (low) to 4 (highest) for the value of the intranet is shown on the horizontal axis. The trend line and the R-Squared value provide an estimation of the strength of the relationship (where 0= no relationship 1=perfect relationship) between the two lists.

Time & Value

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As can be seen from the trend line, there is clearly a relationship that shows that:

"The more valuable an intranet, the more time employees will spend using it"

So how can we encourage employees to spend more time on the intranet? The following diagram shows the relationship between the questions:

"How much time in total would you spend on the intranet each day on average?" and questions about using the intranet for interactive tasks such as completing on-line forms, participating in discussion forums and collaborating on-line.

Time & Interactivity

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The relationship between time spent and intranet interactivity is even stronger than the previous diagram.

"To encourage staff to use the intranet more, help facilitate more on-line interaction"

Below are the relationships between other variables that could possibly affect the amount of time spent on the intranet.

Time & Finding Information

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It seems there is virtually no relationship between the amount of time staff spend on the intranet and the quality of the search and navigation.

Time & Page Load Speed

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Similarly page loading speed has no impact on how much time end users spend on the intranet.

Based on the data above, a suggested strategy to deliver a more valuable intranet would be to provide services (and training), such as online forms and collaboration tools, that will encourage your employees to visit the intranet more often and stay longer.

What is your experience? If employees are spending more time on the intranet, does this make it more valuable?

Editor's Note: Check out Andrew's 50 Ways to a Better Intranet and 30 More Ways to a Better Intranet.