Are you following all the intranet best practices you could be? Today’s increasingly distributed workplace has become more reliant than ever on technology to keep employees engaged and connected. It comes as no surprise that company intranets are back in the spotlight for 2024.

But not as we’ve ever seen them before.

Traditional intranets no longer meet today’s high expectations for employee engagement, digital experience, and innovation. And if companies are to avoid the failure met by an estimated 90% of intranet projects, they need to rethink what actually matters in creating a trusted, well-adopted knowledge hub. According to Lionel Moizeau, product manager, Communications & Knowledge Platform, LumApps (a Coveo partner), companies with a strong employee experience are twice as likely to delight customers and exceed financial targets, and four times more likely to innovate effectively.

Off-the-shelf modern intranet platforms can breathe new life into your employee experience, but they don’t always provide what employees need the most – fast and relevant knowledge discovery. Whether you bring in a new tool or not, this should be a core part of your strategy.

The following intranet best practices will help you to focus on how to increase employee engagement and what really matters to employees before you decide to bring another SaaS application into the mix.

If employees can’t find what they’re looking for on your intranet, they will drop it like a hot potato. That’s because it simply can’t be trusted as a knowledge resource

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What Are the Most Important Functions of the Intranet?

Throughout this piece, we’ll walk through the questions you should ask yourself to create an intranet that employees will use. Ultimately, an intranet should give employees access to the most important information for them, on a single page, and by doing so, increase employee engagement.

Modern intranets include two essential elements:

  1. A comprehensive intranet search engine that indexes knowledge and information from all of your company data sources.
  2. A relevance engine that individually personalizes the content that each employee sees.

These two elements work in tandem to help create an engaged workforce by making the content on your intranet relevant and increasing adoption.

6 Best Practices To Build a Successful Intranet

Employees today are overwhelmed by information across multiple channels and often have to filter out what’s not applicable to them.

Successful employee intranet design does this filtering for them, serving only what’s relevant and encouraging each employee to carry out their best work – without the extra noise that leads only to frustration. Moizeau advises considering the “three E’s”: engagement, enablement, and empowerment. Each stage presents an opportunity to assess not just whether employees are using your intranet, but how — and establishing metrics to measure success by.

“The point is that as your progress from engagement to enablement to empowerment, we see growing value for the business and return on investment for the organization,” Moizeau says.

Here’s what you can do to create a more relevant, trusted company intranet to increase employee engagement.

1. Define an intranet strategy with measurable goals.

Your intranet delivers important strategic benefits, so it should have its own strategy that’s aligned with your business goals. Without a strategy, your intranet will lack direction and ultimately run out of steam.

Ask yourself the following questions to help guide your intranet strategy:

  • What value do your employees expect to get from your intranet? Knowledge discovery is usually top of the list, especially in the digital workplace. Think about the role a modern intranet has in onboarding, training and upskilling employees. Finding relevant information as quickly as possible is what really matters.
  • How will you keep your intranet agile and adaptable to business change? Consider how to make your intranet scalable and future-proof. This usually means adopting a flexible unified search index that updates automatically as your business grows, instead of relying on content migrations that require regular maintenance.
  • How will you deliver your intranet project? Your intranet roadmap should outline a phased approach to accomplishing your goals of increasing employee engagement through providing relevant information. Identify where you can make improvements right away, such as by replacing your search engine with a relevance engine, and then how you can scale these improvements across the enterprise by merging departmental knowledge bases, for example.

As with any project, being able to measure its success is paramount. Consider these intranet key performance indicators (KPIs) before you start delivering improvements:

  • Employee adoption. How many of your employees are using the platform, and how many visits per day do they make?
  • Time to access knowledge. Tracking successful search sessions will show you how effectively employees access knowledge and allow you to estimate productivity improvements.
  • Average click rank. This shows you how relevant your intranet search engine has become in the results it is delivering to employees.
  • Employee satisfaction. Create feedback surveys that you can use to find out how satisfied employees are with your new and improved intranet.

To track these intranet KPIs, you’ll need robust reporting for your intranet search engine and interactions with the content that’s proactively displayed to employees.

2. Consult your employees to understand what matters to them the most.

Your employees are the ones using your intranet, and they ultimately determine its success or failure. So it makes sense to involve them early in the planning process to make sure you’re delivering the right improvements to increase engagement.

Designing a modern intranet requires an understanding of how your employees work, what their information requirements are, and how they interact with the various applications used within your enterprise.

There are several ways to engage your employees in the planning of your intranet and obtain valuable feedback. You can conduct interviews with team leads, run company-wide surveys, host workshops, and invite people to test your improved intranet platform before it goes live. You can also review analytics to understand how your employees are using your existing intranet and where, exactly, improvements can be made.

Think about asking the following questions to get the most valuable feedback:

  • What is most important to you about a corporate intranet?
  • What do you like and dislike about our current intranet?
  • What information do you want to see?
  • What information do you not want to see?
  • What user experience improvements are likely to encourage you to use the intranet more?

Once you have this feedback, you can start designing your modern intranet.

3. Unify content from across the enterprise.

If employees can’t find what they’re looking for on your intranet, they will drop it like a hot potato. That’s because it simply can’t be trusted as a knowledge resource – and employees will decide they’ve no option but to continue searching within other platforms to find what they need.

Breaking down your knowledge silos requires a robust intranet search engine – a relevance engine – that indexes knowledge from all of your enterprise data sources and makes it discoverable within a single, unified search interface on your intranet.

This is the most important enhancement you can make to your intranet. Not only does it connect your existing platforms to deliver a more comprehensive knowledge discovery experience to your employees. It also saves your company time and resources in intranet maintenance. That’s because a unified index automatically includes new files and documents as they are created, wherever they are stored. As your company grows and new documents are created, they are immediately made searchable within your intranet search engine.

Without a unified index, you are left having to constantly maintain and update your intranet content, often migrating new knowledge from other platforms. This lack of agility comes at a cost to both your development and knowledge management teams, and it decreases employee engagement. It’s the main problem with most off-the-shelf intranet platforms that lack powerful enterprise search functionality.

A unified index automatically includes new files and documents as they are created, wherever they are stored.

4. Personalize the experience for each employee.

Personalization is what sets a winning modern intranet apart from a misfiring one. It’s how you provide a truly relevant experience to each employee, making them feel more understood, engaged, and empowered with every interaction.

Of course, personalization is far from straightforward in today’s distributed workplace. How do you personalize the employee experience in an enterprise comprising many roles, departments, locations and even languages?

Most enterprises don’t — instead ending up with multiple departmental or location-based knowledge hubs. But this approach only reinforces the costly impact of knowledge silos, while doing the bare minimum to filter out that noise for employees.

That’s why the world’s most innovative organizations leverage machine learning to deliver real, one-to-one personalization within the digital workplace. This works in a company intranet by automatically tailoring recommended search queries, search results, and proactive recommendations to each employee, based on what the technology knows about them.

You can build this type of personalization into your intranet search engine from day one using Coveo. And to deliver a truly next-generation employee experience, you proactively can display personalized content on your existing intranet site by deploying Coveo’s headless components.

Choosing which content to display on your intranet dashboard will depend on the unique attributes that apply to your employees. Think about the various ways in which your employees’ needs differ from each other, using attributes such as:

  • Location
  • Department
  • Role
  • Tenure
  • Project
  • Product line or market

Once you understand the types of personalized content that are most important to your employees, you can start to build an effective intranet dashboard that serves all of these in one spot. This ensures that your new employees see onboarding content, your human resources team sees human resources-specific training content, and your employees in the United States aren’t shown company policies that apply only to Europe.

This type of personalization decreases the time it takes for employees to access knowledge and helps them stay productive and reach proficiency faster.

For Dell, a company known for digital workplace innovation, personalizing its intranet with Coveo led to an increase in employee satisfaction from 23% to more than 60%.

5. Serve a balance of curated and personalized content.

Of course, intranet design success is not all about search.

Delivering company news and announcements within your intranet solution keeps employees aligned and connected to your company’s business goals and core values. But because employees don’t tend to use intranets primarily for consuming that information, it can be a challenge to drive adoption of intranets that are too heavy on top-down communications.

The most successful intranets are able to find the right balance between personalized and curated content. That’s because delivering critical internal communication at the executive level to your employees helps to strengthen your company culture by making employees feel informed and part of a community or family.

Think about how you’ll serve announcements and brand-driven content within the components you install on each employee’s intranet dashboard. Coveo’s components even allow you to display a mix of both within a single component, by simply applying higher ranking values to pieces of promoted content.

If your intranet design can drive up intranet adoption by personalizing the experience using the techniques above, you’ll have established an active channel on which you can successfully engage your employees with important top-down communications too. Achieving this is one of the biggest challenges with company intranets – and the reason many companies are still distributing company news by email.

balance between curated & personalized content as one of intranet best practices

6. Use analytics to improve the employee experience.

Although machine learning optimizes your intranet search engine automatically over time, some ongoing analysis is still required if you want to deliver the best company intranet experience for engaged employees.

That’s because some of the content your employees are searching for might not actually exist yet anywhere in your organization.

By leveraging intranet search analytics, you quickly can identify where your employees are getting stuck in their search for information. Content owners then can work to plug these gaps and increase the likelihood of a successful search session.

The impact of intranet analytics on your employee experience extends far beyond your intranet platform. By understanding what matters to your employees at each step of their journey, your human resources team can build better onboarding and upskilling programs and serve employees better at their most important moments.

This is an example of the key role your intranet can play in increasing employee engagement, employee collaboration and employee satisfaction.

Why are Intranets Important for Modern Businesses?

According to a 2021 E&Y report, 78% of human resource leaders believe that employee experience will be one of the most important factors impacting firms’ ability to deliver on business objectives. Intranets are a linchpin to building an effective and connected workforce, especially in a hybrid or remote environment.

Now is your opportunity to create a tool that unifies your business. Don’t let your intranet languish in obscurity. Ready to see Coveo in action? Check out how Coveo helped Dell create an intranet that boosted their ESAT scores 37 points in just 12 months.

From Expectation to Experience
How Dell’s Intranet ESAT Score Climbed 37 Points in 12 Months