Building an intranet site is about far more than a feature checklist. It is about creating a sense of community and engaging employees through a process of constant communication.  Approaching your intranet deployment with a strong communication strategy has proven successful to achieve these goals. Here are a few that have led to the most successful intranet deployments:

Engage Employees Through Knowing Your Audience

Personally, my favorite user feedback is: “this worked exactly how I thought it would”. Hearing these words means we have successfully anticipated their requirements and empowered them to accomplish their goal with as little obstruction as possible. So how can you hope to get this reaction? Good site design.  Good intranet site design comes from an understanding of a user’s goals and their methods of achieving them.

Obviously it is impractical to interview every one of your co-workers to get specific feedback on each aspect of the intranet, but a process of persona building through targeted interviews and surveying can be extremely helpful. Let’s take a very simple scenario, such as locating content in a document management repository.

Present a selection of users with this scenario and you will likely find that they go about solving it in different manners, including browsing through a navigation structure, keyword searching, or tag searching from a similar document.  This process is about empathizing with your users, trying to understand how they see the world and then creating reference personas that reflect the most common methods of accomplishing the goal. Creating accurate and empathetic personas can help you to create an intranet that your co-workers will actually enjoy using and engaging.

Educate for Employee Engagement

The very purpose of an intranet is to enhance corporate communication and yet most of us, intranet manager and intranet employees, still hear the gut wrenching question from co-workers: “what is the intranet?”. Education is key to the success of your implementation. Different employees learn through different forums, so it is important to ensure that you have a range of consumable material. Documenting tutorial material is time consuming to build and maintain, but it is critical to improving a user’s experience with the intranet site.

Seek smart tools that can help reduce the workload of maintaining this important resource, such as our recently released tutorial builder that helps clients develop recorded in-page tutorials that act as interactive guides through the intranet site to explain and explore site concepts and tasks.  The small, fully-customized nature of this tutorial tool is an ideal method of communicating minor or significant site changes to users.

Find the Nightmare Unengaged Employee

Internal metrics and statistics are very useful but you need to make sure you have a more holistic understanding of your site’s usage. Have you considered whether there are any other ways of accomplishing the task outside of the intranet? Make sure you monitor these as well.  Are users resorting to other communications methods (email, telephone) to accomplish goals that they should be achieving on your intranet site?

Low traffic may not always be indicative of site avoidance, but it’s generally not a good sign. Take the time to interview these users who are avoiding engaging with the site and work on addressing their concerns. Employee perceptions play a huge role in the success of your intranet. Once the feeling that the intranet is stale or poorly designed has taken root in the corporate culture, it is extremely difficult to shift.

Change Quickly, Change Often to Engage

A good intranet implementation is never done. Most large intranet projects rarely get off the ground all at once and it can be months, even years, before all the planned functionality has been deployed (usually just in time for the next major platform upgrade). As an intranet manager, it’s too easy to get tunnel vision, and become narrowly focused on getting the next phase completed.

Budget time in your deployment schedule to do follow ups after each phase of the deployment. Talk with and survey your users, both engaged and unengaged employees, to confirm the changes are being positively received. If they aren’t, take steps to address the complaints now rather than leaving them to fester until the entire implementation is complete.

Help People Help Themselves Engage

Delegate, delegate, delegate! Invest and build a collaboration platform that empowers users to manage their own spaces and content and solve their own challenges. It may be satisfying to continually have users coming to you with request, but your site will grow faster and will foster more employee engagement if you provide them a framework that empowers and gives them freedom.

Pay attention to workflows and security models when evaluating intranet software to ensure that you have oversight and accountability systems that are sufficient to get manager buy-in without getting in the way of your employees doing what they do best: building your intranet for you.

Have your own employee engagement success story from your successful intranet deployment? We would love to hear about them. Please comment directly on this post.