A lot of small and medium sized businesses (and even a few large ones) know that an intranet for employees is a great tool to interact with each other, download pay slips and check leave entitlements, among lots of other uses. Unfortunately, knowing an intranet is important does not always translate into a company having an intranet (at least not a good one), according to Peter Cooke from business IT consultancy OBS.

“Organisations need to be aware that users have changing needs and wants,” he said. “The intranet design needs to reflect that to ensure that employees, and the business, get the most from this valuable communications channel.”

Talk is cheap so we were happy to see that Cooke has cooked up five practical tips to help businesses achieve their intranet dreams:

  1. Enable engagement through social media and tailored information. Outside of the workplace employees are engaging in social media. They like, follow and subscribe to information that they feel has value. Organisations need to start thinking about how to improve intranet designs to reflect this shift in behaviour.

  2. Update the look and feel. If your favourite online store looked and felt like an outdated or tired intranet you wouldn’t be impressed. As massive consumers of information, our standards are continually raised by interactive websites. Intranets need to match these expectations and experiences. The design needs to be clean and refined without an explosion of information and content on every page.

  3. Have a good search tool. Search is a powerful tool but organisations need to be smart about it. We need to search first then refine, not the other way around. Users don’t want to type in a single term and be flooded by thousands of results. The intranet needs to return the results that are relevant and meaningful and then refine on these to so users can find or discover what they are looking for.

  4. Language has changed. The way people communicate in the workplace is more relaxed. It is less technical and academic and more casual and straight to the point. It’s a good idea to reflect this in intranet navigation, general page content and key landing pages.

  5. Know what your users are doing. If you don’t know what your users are doing, then you don’t know what isn’t working. Quantitative data provides power and insights into users’ behaviour. Find out what people are accessing most, what they are searching for, what is popular and what isn’t.

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