You can disagree with me on whether to call it an ‘intranet.’ You can disagree with me on what to put on the intranet. And you can disagree with me on who should own or fund the intranet.

But you cannot disagree with me that having an intranet – a central place for employees to become informed, consume relevant knowledge and connect with others – is a fundamental business need likely now, more than ever.

How else will you align and inform your hundreds or even thousands of distributed employees, if not with a well-designed and well stocked intranet? 

I know for some, the intranet brings to mind “old school” technology that was hard to navigate. The intranets you have in mind were likely badly designed and likely outdated. Basically, the intranet you have in mind was painful to use, irrelevant and frankly not useful.

But for those of you who run, manage, and use good intranets, you understand the value, clarity, and organization it brings to a business environment that is constantly changing and expanding.  There are even annual intranet competitions, put on by the Nielsen Norman Group for the last 20 years, which demonstrate the ongoing criticality of such platforms.

As someone who has been the recipient of a great intranet and as someone who has been at workplaces without one, I understand the power of a modern and intelligent ‘intranet’ as a means to both engage and enable employees.

The Guide to Building an Intelligent Workplace

What makes a great employee experience on the intranet?

The intranet is the company in its digital form.

Imagine being an employee. Perhaps you’re a new employee. Maybe you’re a virtual employee. You log into your computer to start work for the day. Where do you go? Where do you start?

A well organized workplace offers the intranet. Why? Because an intranet really is the company itself, just in a digital and sustainable form that can reach all employees simultaneously. The intranet provides a scalable way to keep employees aligned to the company’s mission and latest news or happenings. It is a gateway to connect employees to the broader organization. And it can be the starting point for creating and managing the overall employee experience because it is a central place for employees to engage.

The intranet should be well designed.

I am no design expert, but I think most of us know what a great design looks like. In UI / UX design it’s important to keep your end users in mind, i.e. your employees. A well-designed intranet is simple for employees to understand, has enough white space, and isn’t “busy” with too many links or inconsistent formatting. A great intranet has design consistency across pages. Why does this matter? A great design helps with user adoption. If employees like and can understand your sites, they’ll continue to return, which keeps them informed and engaged.

The intranet should have regularly updated content.

Having regularly updated content will keep employees coming back to see what’s new. And distribution of this content through the intranet helps to keep all employees informed and educated, centrally. If you’re stressed out about how to keep your content ‘fresh’, keep in mind that there are so many things that you could and likely should talk about on the intranet. There are things like a company press release, a company organizational change, a new product release, and new learning course announcements as an example. And there are different content formats for you to consider such as content in a web article, a blog, a discussion thread, a video, or perhaps a survey. The point is that there is much to be communicated, so you should have enough to keep your site fresh.

The intranet should act as a starting point for employees to find what they need and branch off to additional sites and content as needed.

Your intranet should be the “go-to” place to help employees navigate the company. Ideally, an employee shouldn’t have to go to numerous disparate locations to find what they need, especially if they are looking for common items such as HR or IT requests. Employees need simplicity and findability to help them consume relevant knowledge that will help them go about their day confidently. Whether that’s delivered through a well designed sitemap and menu options or through a unified search interface, providing an easy-to-use starting point and path for being self-sufficient will go a long way in developing enabled and even empowered employees.

The intranet should be managed by a council of functions / departments.

Admittedly, this is a new one for me. I had never really considered who owns the intranet until I started as the Product Marketing Manager for Coveo’s Workplace Solutions. But ownership matters and in reality, it’s a joint effort.

If we think of the intranet as the company in its digital form, then we can really understand that multiple departments make up a company. There are multiple functions like HR, Marketing, IT, Support, Sales, R&D, Legal, Operations, etc. For a company to be successful, there needs to be cohesion and collaboration across these departments. Some functions, of course, have more of a natural responsibility to manage or contribute to the intranet, but all functions should be enabled to participate on and within the intranet structure.

Where HR, IT, and Corporate Communications represent shared services that are more invested in creating enabled and proficient employees, the other departments have things to say and share as well. So it’s a joint effort and companies should form councils to ensure the site is dynamic and truly a digital representation of the company.

The intranet can and should be ‘intelligent.’

We are in the 21st century after all where AI and machine learning are being used to create personalized experiences everywhere. Why shouldn’t these advanced technologies be used to augment an employee’s experience through an intelligent intranet? An intelligent intranet knows who I am, what department I work in and based on my search & navigation history (i.e. my context), can tell me what related ‘people’ and ‘content’ resources I should consider next. For very large organizations, with many employees and knowledge articles, an intelligent intranet proactively suggests content based on other similar users, such as a relevant e-learning course, a helpful technical article, or a trending analyst report. Intranets are our gateway into an organization and if made more intelligent, help to make our work lives a little easier by feeding us relevant and personalized content based on our context.

If I haven’t convinced you, then consider this: In 2020, workers are still saying that they’re “underutilized and uninformed…and spend 26 days each year searching for information, knowledge and expertise.” How will you solve for this in a scalable and sustainable way?

Don’t underestimate the power of a modern and intelligent intranet. What are the qualities of the modern intranet of your dreams? Let us know on Twitter @Coveo.