frustrated woman on a computer
PHOTO: JESHOOTS.COM

According to the IntraTeam’s intranet survey, most organizations (about 40 percent) say they’re satisfied only to “some degree” with their system for the intranet/digital workplace. Fewer than 5 percent say they are "to a very large degree" satisfied. That is pretty sad but there is more we can do to spur adoption of the corporate intranet. 

Jill Hannemann, practice director for Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint Advisory Services at WithumSmith+Brown, P.C., wrote in CMSWire this week an intranet is a vital part of any digital workplace strategy. However, she added, “cumbersome, lackluster intranets or intranets with poor search tools are unfortunately still commonplace, pushing companies to undertake redesigns in an attempt to improve them. In some cases, users don't trust documents they find on their companies’ intranets.”

Why else do intranets fail, which can lead to a lack of confidence and low adoption in some organizations? We caught up with some experts and practitioners who shared their thoughts on the signals to look for to ensure you aren't leaving your workers from wanting more from their organization's  intranet.

Related Article: 6 Ways to Measure Your Intranet's Effectiveness

Poor UI That Isn't Intuitive

One of the key reasons why employees do not want to use a company intranet is improper tool design, according to Maja Biernacka, internal communication consultant, blogger and founder of bee DIFFERENT agency. “It is user-unfriendly, unintuitive or poorly organized,” she said. “A search engine does not work properly, the navigation is complicated, finding some useful information is difficult and time-consuming. All these elements do not encourage the use of this tool.” These issues make the goal of supporting employees and the efficient performance of their tasks nearly impossible. 

“The good intranet,” Biernacka said, “should be a bespoke solution for a company. The selection of its functionalities should be preceded by the analysis of the needs of the company and its users." Even a well-constructed intranet will not serve the company forever. Its implementation is not a single action, Biernacka said. It should be followed by careful maintenance and development, she added.

Failure to Get Employee Input and Feedback

The best internal communication solution is one that meets the expectations of the employees. Too often, organizations leave the employees out of the selection process and fail to consider their expectations. Soliciting that information would help create a list of functionalities the intranet should have. “Making a decision to buy a new intranet, we should have our employees’ perspective; not (just) ours, IT or internal communication departments, the board or intranet suppliers,” Biernacka said. “It is worth following the trends, but we should use them as inspirations. Always verify if our target group really wants to use them and needs them.” 

Related Article: Why Intranets Are Still Key Digital Workplace Networks

Lack of Executive Support, Governance

The two biggest reasons why most intranets fail is a lack of executive support — and the funding that comes with it — and governance, according to Toby Ward, chair of the Digital Workplace & Intranet Global Forum. “If you have true executive support, executives not only use it, but they fund it accordingly,” Ward said. “Governance is an extension of executive support, and represents the ownership and management model and structure, including policies. Without sufficient governance, the user experience and content will be too disjointed, confusing or just wrong.”

Lack of Budget

Without budgets it is hard to do a lot right, said Kurt Kragh Sørensen, digital workplace consultant and organizer of IntraTeam Event Copenhagen. Information management is left behind and then you do not have resources to police your retention policy. “Then you end up with a lot of garbage on your intranet and nobody can find anything,” Sørensen said.

Sørensen added that most intranets have the goal to communicate and share knowledge which is a real need but not necessarily something that is sexy to the top brass. “They [upper management] would much rather hear selling more, saving money, beating the competition, more efficient, attract and keep the best employees,” Sørensen added. But their aren't many intranets have these goals and without buy-in from top management, there are no real budgets for intranets/digital workplaces.

Related Article: What it Takes to Be a Modern Intranet Manager

Content Overload

You can have the best user interface and UX design in the world, but you need intranet content with substance. Content must resonate with your employees. Your employees can get discouraged from using an intranet that has inappropriate content. “If employees do not find the information that helps them solve their tasks and accomplish goals set by supervisors, we should not be surprised they do not want to get on the intranet,” Biernacka said. “If it is faster and easier for them to call another employee in another department and get the information they look for instead of searching for it on the intranet, this tool will be unused.”

Lack of Education and Promotion

The intranet can’t just be a set-it-and-forget-it process. Education about the possibilities of the tool, its content and functionalities is essential, according to Biernacka.  The promotion of this solution is of great importance as well. "Internal communication tools are like products that require advertising and encouragement to use them,” she said. “If employees do not know what the solution is for, what is inside and how it may support their work, they will avoid this tool and look for help elsewhere.” 

Some employees may even fear contact with new technologies because they lack the skill or at least think they do. “The employees may decide that it is better not to expose themselves to criticism and unpleasant feelings,” Biernacka added. The implementation of an intranet is only one-third of work to be done, she said, adding the other two equally important parts to be implemented are education and promotion. Webinars, meetings, an e-learning platform, tutorials or even printed materials may be helpful.