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Why Your Employees Hate Your Intranet
August 18, 2014 |

During consultations or sales discussions with enterprise clients, I often hear the need for an intranet downplayed because someone will say “we invested a lot of effort and money in our  intranet and no one uses it.” Rarely do these companies take the time to reflect on why the intranet gets no love and if they might be contributing to the problem.

In this blog post, I have outlined some of the common mistakes companies make that actually drive their employees away from their intranet and how to fix these problems and love your intranet again!

1. A Cluttered Landing Page

Too often companies want to make a portal experience targeted to everyone; the concept of one-stop-shopping.  My answer to that is always to borrow from President Lincoln’s sentiment and respond “You can target content for all of the people some of the time, you can target content for some of the people all of the time - but you cannot target content for all of the people all of the time.”

The landing page of your intranet is the same as a well manicured lawn and freshly painted house before you list; it contributes to curb appeal and makes the audience want to explore further.  Avoid being the neighborhood hoarder house by cluttering your landing page with too much information; no one wants to buy the hoarder house.

Fight the urge to display everything at once; choosing the most critical content can feel like choosing your favorite child but it will be worth the effort. Treat your landing page as a boardwalk; it’s expensive to build hotels there so chose only the most critical content for display. Provide well thought out navigation to lead them to other content.

2.You Can’t Find The Content You're Looking For

I have interviewed many content contributors that complain they get tired of uploading an important piece of content just to turn around and field emails, phone calls, and walk-ups asking “can you please send me the latest policy on…”

The problem is not necessarily employees unwilling to use the intranet, it might be their ability to easily locate the content. Bill English describes two-sides of content accessibility by introducing the concept of “put-ability” and “find-ability.” Give equal thought to where you place your content and how easy it is for the intended audience to locate it. Ask yourself some simple questions:

  1. Did I hide my content in plain sight by burying it among too much other content? (Once again revisiting the concept of too much clutter.)
  2. Does the content live with similar content? (Just because one group might create it does not mean it has to live in that group’s intranet site.)
  3. Do I have a well developed taxonomy in place to have it efficiently appear in search? (Will it get lost among 1000 other search results?)

If you have taken care to make sure your content is easy to locate you might also want to consider teaching your audience to fish.  If you are asked for a file do not provide the file; point them back to the intranet. Most times I won’t even provide a link and will opt to have them get used to the experience of going to the intranet for all content; the idea being that I want them to go through the gift shop on the way to their destination.

3. Old or Stale Content

Few things will affect adoption or engagement as much as old or out-dated content.  Your audience has to trust that if they go to the intranet it will have the most recent content. Content refers to any point of engagement not just files; think of discussion boards, blogs, events, announcements, and even navigation links. I often get requests to build out a blog so an executive has the opportunity to engage with employees. I always follow-up with two questions:

  1. Will the blog always be present or will it only appear when the executive has written something?
  2. How often do you expect the executive to provide content?

(Same logic applies to discussion boards with activity that is several weeks or more old.  All this tells your audience is “there is nothing to see here.”)

4. No Frills Design

It is often said “it is what is on the inside that counts” - but then there’s Joan Rivers getting another plastic surgery. Companies are often tempted to roll out an intranet with out of the box styling, gambling on the pure awesomeness of the content to drive engagement.  I have seen plenty of successful intranets launch with out-of-the-box styling and I’ve seen almost as many struggle because of lack of design and lack of “wow.”

It all depends on knowing your audience and the culture of the business. Is this a group that responds to a well styled site? Will engagement and adoption be driven first by the look of the site? Don’t spend all the time and effort planning out your intranet and coming up with content strategy just to stumble because “it doesn’t look pretty.”

These four common mistakes can easily be remedied by asking yourself the questions that I have outlined. The bottom line is that your internal company portal should not vary much from your customer facing site in that they both should have the same goal: communicate its purpose as clearly and efficiently as possible. To find out more about intranets and social collaboration, register for our webinar next week "Your Employees Hate Your Intranet...But They Don’t Have to!" and check out our blog series on the social collaboration playing field.


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