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Best practices to up your intranet game

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve more than likely heard about today’s changing business landscape. Whether you consider it a “Great Resignation” or a “Great Reshuffle,” one thing is certain: How companies attract top talent is vastly different than it was pre-pandemic.

But what about retaining current employees? There’s a hefty price tag attached to the process of recruiting, hiring, and training new staff — in fact, research by the Center for American Progress shows that it costs 20% of a front-line employee’s salary to replace them. For many organizations, repeating that cycle is not sustainable.

The Value of Internal Communications

When you get to the heart of it, companies with above-average employee retention rates prioritize building trust with internal stakeholders through clear, effective, and purposeful communication. While developing an internal communications program may seem like something you can push off until things “slow down,” we’re here to offer a friendly nudge. (Because really, when do things ever truly slow down?)

There are several tactics that can level up your organization’s internal communications game, and depending on your company’s size and resources, some might make more sense than others. One tactic that we find works for organizations across many industries is the company intranet.

The Skinny on Intranets

Does your company need an intranet? The short answer is “it depends.”

We know staffing woes may be throwing a wrench into your organization’s plans, but we also can’t undersell the value that intranets bring. Yes, they require an investment of time and money, but they offer a slew of benefits, including:

  • A centralized location for news, timely updates, and event reminders;

  • The ability to reach all levels of employees wherever they have computer or kiosk access;

  • An opportunity to reinforce the organization’s mission, vision, and brand promises; and

  • A more efficient and visible way to publish — and repurpose — content.

Employees today expect their organization to communicate authentically and often (at least weekly, according to Harvard Business Review), and that’s where intranets can make their mark. Take our recent projects with several large manufacturing companies, for example.

Building Intranets that Work

Throughout the past year, we’ve partnered with local and national manufacturing companies to build intranets that work for both office staff and front-line employees. A few common themes bubbled up, and topping these organizations’ wish lists were to create hubs that featured company news and information, as well as leverage engaging multimedia content that highlighted their standout staff members and unique company cultures.

Our strategic approach to developing intranets that checked all those boxes began with technology reviews for each organization. Although not glamorous, this discovery time was key to helping us develop more thoughtful wireframes (i.e., the layouts for each site).

It can be easy for an intranet to be turned into a file cabinet of sorts — a dumping ground for policies and forms from all kinds of departments. That’s not necessarily a best practice (shocking, right?), so our team partnered closely with each client’s marketing, HR, and IT folks to develop spaces like news carousels and recognition sections, as well as standards about how those areas should be used. The goal? To support the employee work experience and document clear processes to maintain the integrity of the sites.

In the months leading up to the site launches, we worked with the intranet teams on everything from migrating and crafting content to creating comprehensive launch plans that generated employee engagement and excitement. We also used editorial calendars to plan and develop intranet content for launch day and beyond. (Pro tip: Editorial calendars are lifesavers for communicators in all types of industries; if your company doesn’t have one yet, move that near the top of your to-do list.)

What We Learned: Five Takeaways for a Best-in-Class Intranet

Whether you’re developing a new intranet or giving an existing one a facelift, we’ve got you covered with some best practices to consider.

  1. Keep your strategy in mind. While this may seem like a no-brainer, organizations often forget to consider how their internal communications efforts fit into both their overall company strategy and their communications strategy.

  2. Understand how your employees will access the site. Not all jobs are created equally. If your company boasts a hybrid workforce of both office and front-line employees, be sure to make the intranet accessible and equitable for all. For example, the manufacturing companies we worked with made kiosks available to staff without regular computer access and our team helped ensure seamless user experiences on all types of devices. It’s crucial to reach team members where they’re at so they feel important and valued.

  3. Ask employees what they want to see and read. Intranets present a prime opportunity for organizations to deliver clear and consistent (and on-brand!) messaging to their stakeholders. However, make an effort to ask employees about the type of content they’re looking for, too. From employee recognition to stories that inspire to simple quick links, listening to staff can be a boon to your company’s employee engagement efforts.

  4. Serve up dynamic content. Is it benefits open enrollment time? Do you have some pictures of employees making a difference in the community? Put them on the intranet! People love to see how companies live their values to positively impact others. It’s also not possible to overcommunicate important HR and benefits information, and making that content easily accessible on the intranet builds trust with employees. For inspiration, turn to our work with these recent clients to develop creative wireframes that included designated areas for news, upcoming events, employee recognition, quick links, and more.

  5. Establish clear roles and responsibilities. An effective intranet is a true partnership between a company’s communications, HR, and IT functions. Taking the time to proactively identify content experts and determine who is responsible for reviewing and publishing information on the site can reduce headaches down the road.

Still not sold on the intranet — or wondering where to start? Lean into our expertise. Our team of seasoned communications pros is ready to jump in. If you need help getting the ball rolling, drop us a line. We love crossing items off your to-do list!


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