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7 insights every intranet manager needs to know

From virtual bulletin boards to serving as your digital headquarters, intranets have come a long way in a relatively short time. As the gatekeepers for the hub that keeps your workforce connected and informed, intranet managers have never been more crucial. But what does it take to execute this role successfully in the new world of work?

Intranet manager in meeting room

The evolution of the intranet manager

Even a few years ago, some wondered if a dedicated intranet manager was really necessary. With their lengthy development times and reliance on hard-coding, early intranets were firmly in the domain of IT.

Technological advancements would soon change the playing field. As processes for content management and information architecture simplified, communications teams began taking ownership of the intranet software.

While internal comms increasingly played a leading role, many enterprises continued to follow a hybrid approach to management that divided responsibility amongst different departments. The intranet itself was still relatively new, so some leaders were hesitant to dedicate a member of staff solely to intranet management until they could prove the value of their solution.

2020: a test for intranet managers

While intranets were already a valuable tool, COVID-19 has amplified their importance. As employees transitioned to remote work, the intranet became every team member’s single source of truth. Consequently, employee experience platforms rose to the top of leadership’s agenda, with nearly 70% of employees agreeing that C-level executives have become more involved in the digital workplace since COVID-19.

With the rise of the intranet came increased visibility for those in charge of managing it. Two-thirds of internal comms professionals believe leaders are looking to them more regularly for guidance and half noted improved engagement with colleagues.

For many, the need for an intranet manager is no longer in question. With hybrid offices and dispersed teams as hallmarks of the post-pandemic workplace, intranets, and the professionals who manage them, will continue to play an essential role. Instead, there’s a new question on the horizon: what does a future-proof approach to intranet management really look like?

7 best practices for intranet managers in the new world of work

While it’s clear that intranet management is a priority, best practices may be a little less obvious. To gain inspiration, we’ve tapped an expert from our own community, Celanese Corp. communications staffer Margie Dolch. As a key member of Celanese’s Employee Engagement team, Margie manages the Fortune 500 company’s intranet, ONE.

#1. Develop your North Star

There’s no doubt that news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic was a focus for most intranet managers throughout 2020. While communicating updates and policy changes is essential, that doesn’t mean that your content calendar and organizational policies should fall by the wayside. In fact, the need for cultural topics that align your colleagues with the business is often most pressing during moments of uncertainty.

“What we already had going into 2020 was a really strong content calendar. Our leadership determines that content at the beginning of every year to make sure that we are covering those big business and cultural topics,” Margie explains. “Even though we were obviously responding to the crisis last year, we also had really great partnerships with various business leaders and saw some of our strongest engagement from those campaigns.

#2. Use data to your advantage

Traditionally, many internal comms teams may have shied away from measurement. Only 43% of professionals report using data to lead their communications decisions. However, if you’re looking to future-proof your approach to intranet management, numbers should be a non-negotiable.

Margie recommends getting familiar with the basics first by exploring your intranet’s analytics dashboard. Take the time to learn what measures like pageviews actually mean, so that you can put these numbers into context. Once you feel more comfortable, start sharing analytics with your leadership team and using their feedback to establish KPIs and organizational priorities.

Leveraging your intranet’s analytics is one of the most impactful ways to demonstrate your ROI and secure future buy-in. “It makes me really proud that those metrics are something we can bring forward to show our leadership team the kind of success we’ve had, just like other groups have always been able to do,” Margie concludes.

Unily intranet analytics

#3. Replace silos with synergy

Whether your intranet is managed by a hybrid team or not, collaborating with IT is crucial. Oftentimes, bringing in your colleagues from IT ends up being mutually beneficial. They will develop a better understanding of the audience you serve while providing guidance on important decisions like enabling new features and improving your mobile experience.

For many, collaborating with IT was particularly essential during the transition to mass-scale remote work. When Celanese launched Microsoft Teams last year, Margie was quick to build upon the excitement around the change. “We were able to partner with our IT team, both from a communications support standpoint, and also by leveraging that feature to highlight throughout ONE,” she explains.

#4. Leverage your leadership

When it comes to driving enterprise-wide engagement and cultivating a sense of unity, don’t underestimate the value of leadership comms. Your colleagues are looking to senior executives to set the tone for corporate culture and lead by example, so incorporating their input is a sure-fire way to build momentum.

“Our partnership with our leadership really grew in 2020,” notes Margie. “They already saw the value of ONE, but they stepped up in a big way, especially our executives. They stepped up their communications and engagement with employees and we’re looking to continue to build on that in 2021.”

#5. Learn from your extended network

Intranet managers don’t work in isolation. In addition to collaborating with your colleagues in other departments, it can be advantageous to learn from your peers who perform similar roles at other organizations.

Turn to your extended network to swap best practices, discuss challenges, and get familiar with all that your intranet has to offer. “With something as sophisticated as what Unily offers, you’re going to want to lean on your community, not just internally, but also externally,” Margie explains.

Here at Unily, we’ve created Universe, a portal for our client community to exchange ideas and connect with their peers. “Universe is a great networking opportunity. I’ve been able to build some relationships from it and it gives intranet managers a place to feel connected with other people who are working through some of the same challenges,” she notes.

Universe intranet social

#6. Embrace a people-first approach

In an age where remote work reigns supreme, everyone is looking for an opportunity to come together. While your colleagues may not be seeing their peers at the office or catching up at the water cooler, your intranet can become their new point of connection and communication.

The more you can use your intranet as a tool to unite people, the higher your adoption and engagement levels are likely to soar. “People are starting to use our intranet to come together,” Margie explains. “A great example of this is on our Italy channel, where people were sharing recipes of what they were cooking at home. By the end of the year, they brought those recipes together to create a cookbook to support a local charity.”

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#7. Remember that launch day is only the beginning

A final piece of advice from Margie: your job doesn’t end the day your intranet launches. In fact, the debut of your employee experience platform is just the beginning. Your intranet needs to grow with your workforce and adapt as your use cases for it evolve.

Look for ways to leverage new features and help users along their journey. “Being an intranet manager is truly about maintaining the interest of your employees and engaging them on a regular basis so you’ve got to have change management and adoption always on your mind,” she says.

Group of people celebrating the launch of their Unily intranet

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Congratulations! You’ve invested in your shiny new intranet but this isn’t the end of a journey, it’s just the beginning.

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Are you ready to level up your intranet management strategy?

Whether you’re a veteran or a rookie, the role of the intranet manager is rapidly evolving. If you’re looking to future-proof your strategy to maximize engagement in the new world of work, get in touch with our digital workplace experts.

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