Getting your internal communication right is integral to success, so, here are eight top tips for how to communicate your new intranet effectively, ensuring you bring, not drag, your employees along for the ride.
1. Involve employee voice
Before deciding on your platform, your supplier or your wish list of intranet requirements, ask your employees what they want from their intranet. Not only does it ensure they feel included in the process and that their opinions matter, but they will have an incredibly useful insight into what they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. It’s also a good idea to speak to other areas of the business and find out what else is going on that might impact your intranet project, positively or negatively, and start joining the dots. For example, if the business is considering Office 365, it might cause more problems later to build your intranet on an entirely different platform.
2. Link to the strategy
A new intranet is a big investment of time and money, so people need to understand why it’s a business priority. Ensure you clearly explain to employees how an effective intranet will help you achieve your business strategy. For example, if you want to enable greater collaboration across the business, to provide a better customer service that will in turn increase profits, an intranet with collaboration capabilities makes a lot of sense. And if you’re not able to articulate how it links to the strategy, I’d suggest going back to the drawing board and ensuring there is complete clarity on why this new tool is required.
3. Paint a picture of the future
Through your communications, tell a story that paints a picture of the future once the intranet is in place. Help people visualise the benefits it will bring and the difference it will make to them as an individual. Answer the ‘what’s in it for me’ question early on and get people excited and engaged from the get go.
4. Find champions
Trust can be a big issue in organisations, and there is often an element of scepticism of anything that’s seen to be a corporate initiative. However, people are more likely to trust the people they work alongside every day. So, it’s important to find employee champions who are genuinely excited by the new technology and the benefits it can bring, and will promote it to their colleagues. But, authenticity is important – forcing people to be champions will never work, and don’t forget that those who do volunteer are doing this on top of a day job, so make sure they feel valued and rewarded.
5. Gain leadership buy-in
As with any behavioural change, people need to see there is support from the top. If leaders don’t care or see the value in it, why should they? Treat leadership as a separate audience that needs specific comms to help them understand why the new intranet is important, how it will support the business and the part they play in making it a success.
And give them all the support they need. If your new intranet has blogging functionality, it may seem like a no brainer to you for your senior leaders to share their insights, but for them it can be terrifying and put them in a vulnerable position. Start gradually, encourage them to be themselves, train them on the technology, suggest content ideas, and most importantly, ask them how you can best support them.
6. Consider a pilot
This is especially relevant if you’re implementing a collaborative tool. Pilots allow you to iron out any issues as well as populate the tool ahead of the rest of the organisation coming on board. It helps new people understand intuitively how it works, what sort of content and conversation goes where. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be supported with training and guides, but signing up to an empty tool can put people off straight away, and first impressions really matter.
7. Hire a community manager
Once your new intranet is up and running, success will depend on having a dedicated community manager. Having comms and IT try to do this on top of their day jobs is unlikely to work. Rolling out a new technology and new way of working requires change in culture and behaviour. Understanding that and helping people get to grips with new technology is imperative. A community manager will support, facilitate, join dots, train and curate. It’s a full-time job – underestimate that at your peril.
8. Aim for a long wow
When launching an intranet, the last thing you want is a big bang launch and then nothing else happens for months. Often referred to as ‘the long wow’, keep people’s interest by rolling out new functionality over a period of time, running competitions, ask people for feedback and act on it, and ensure content is fresh, up to date, relevant, and engaging.
These top tips focus on the positioning and engagement aspects of rolling out a new intranet, but don’t forget to also have some fun and bring some creativity into your project. There’s lots of inspiration out there – attend conferences and read our case studies to find out what others have done, speak to us on how we can help support your intranet project, but above all, listen to your employees. You can have the most strategic, creative, state of the art intranet, but if it’s not what your employees want, it’s irrelevant.
Helen Deverell is communications consultant with more than ten years of experience working in various in-house and agency communication roles before setting up Helen Deverell Communications in 2016. Helen blogs about communication on her website and is an active member of the communication community by volunteering as a committee member for CIPR Inside and the Institute of Internal Communication.
You can find Helen at: www.helendeverellcommunications.com/blog