Designing an award-winning intranet: 6 key takeaways

As the first company to win four best intranet awards from the Nielsen Norman Group this year, we invited two of our award-winning clients to join us for an hour-long webinar, where they discussed how to design an award-winning employee experience platform. Here are the 6 key takeaways from the session.

Employees working together to design an award winning intranet

What does it take to be a best-in-class intranet?

This year’s Nielsen Norman Group best intranets of 2021 Guide featured four Unily client projects – Johnson & Johnson, Baker Hughes, Cathay Pacific, and Commonwealth Care Alliance. Each was recognized for developing best-in-class intranet solutions that demonstrate an innovative use of technology and design to enhance employee experience.

We invited Baker Hughes and Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA) to join us on a webinar to showcase their award-winning intranet design and explain how they went about designing and creating the world’s best intranets.

Arrigo Monti, Global Growth Strategy Senior Analyst at Baker Hughes, and Abi Santmyer, Vice President of Internal Communications at CCA, joined Matthew Boyd, Unily’s product evangelist, to compare, contrast and discuss their intranet designs. The webinar covered the project backgrounds, team structures, the initial design phase, challenges, and the stand-out features of their award-winning intranets.


Designing an award-winning intranet

Take an exclusive look at the world's best intranets of 2021 as selected by Nielsen Norman Group. As the first company to win four best intranet awards, discover what it takes to design an award-winning employee experience platform and get your questions answered by the teams that make it happen.

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A brief introduction to the winning enterprises

Baker Hughes and CCA are two great examples of how intranet technology can be designed and adapted to suit very different needs and aims. For Baker Hughes, its intranet’s main goal is to connect the 56k workers the company employees across 120 countries. But for CCA, the not-for-profit community-based healthcare organization with 1.5k employees – many of whom operate in the field – its intranet aim is to ensure on-demand accessibility from anywhere.

Baker Hughes

Baker Hughes is an energy technology company that provides solutions for energy and industrial customers worldwide. It is one of the world's largest oil field services companies.

"Baker Hughes went through many changes of brand in recent years, and in 2019 we launched a new identity, purpose, and brand, both in the market and internally. Because of the different changes, we actually had three intranets originally, so you can imagine the challenges. We needed a system that would help us build a sense of belonging within the company, that would engage and connect the whole workforce – including the 30% of workers in the field – and that would be a single source of truth for all resources, information, and platforms in the company. Essentially, we needed a way to consolidate the three platforms into one single one-stop shop."

Arrigo Monti - Baker Hughes

Commonwealth Care Alliance

Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA) is a not-for-profit, community-based healthcare organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of people with significant needs by innovating, coordinating and providing the highest quality, individualized care.

"Our previous intranet was a basic Sharepoint ‘Frankensite’ – it had basically taken on different aspects over the years and had become a resource dumping ground with no room to expand. It had limited functionality, no clear content ownership, it was unresponsive, had one-way communication, no functional search or tagging – it just wasn’t serving the needs of our employees, and we found they were actively avoiding the site unless it was absolutely necessary."

Abi Santmyer - Commonwealth Care Alliance

'Commonwealth Care Alliance: Launching an award-winning healthcare intranet' case study flat pages

Case Study

Commonwealth Care Alliance: Launching an award-winning healthcare intranet

People are at the heart of Commonwealth Care Alliance’s mission. More than 40k members turn to the not-for-profit organization for their healthcare needs. By launching an intranet that is accessible on-demand from anywhere, Commonwealth Care Alliance has created a winning experience for their people that has earned international award recognition from the Nielsen Norman Group.

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6 intranet design takeaways to help you design an award-winning solution

When it comes to choosing a new intranet solution, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. With the vast array of options on the market, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is you’re looking for, and which solution would best suit your organization. There were many interesting insights and pieces of advice shared in the hour-long webinar, so we’ve pulled out the top four takeaways you should know when designing an award-winning intranet software solution.

#1. Understand your employee’s needs

At its core, your intranet needs to be able to serve your employee’s daily needs, enabling them to efficiently complete their daily tasks and workload.

"We put the user and their needs at the center of the intranet. We wanted a solution that could give freedom to the user, where they can decide what content they want to see, rather than having communicators pushing content they are uninterested in in front of them. We were drawn to Unily due to its personalization features, which allow specific topics of interest to be chosen, meaning every employee gets their own unique experience."

Arrigo Monti - Baker Hughes

"We wanted to make sure that the user interface was friendly, as we have a varied demographic and so varied levels of user comfort with technology."

Abi Santmyer - Commonwealth Care Alliance

#2. Think about cross-functionality within teams

Every user and team will be interacting with the intranet for different reasons, and so when designing your intranet, it’s important to take into account the notion of how each team within the company will utilize it. When it comes to planning your intranet, HR, IT, leadership, and internal communicators all need to come together.

"The key thing is cross-functionality. It can be done by a single function, but in our case, we had three functions working together and collaborating seamlessly, as well as corporate affairs. We had IT helping with the technical aspects, the commercial excellence team bringing the digital excellence expertise, and two communications managers to help develop the top-level pages and content."

Arrigo Monti - Baker Hughes

"We had a solid team for what we were doing. Our digital transformation team was made up of four people and the product owner. We also had senior leadership buy-in, which proved to be critically helpful. With our technology partners, we had more than just tech support – there was creativity and ideation on the content side of things, as well as the employee experience side of things."

Abi Santmyer - Commonwealth Care Alliance

Employee working remotely from an employee experience platform


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#3. Continually request feedback along the way

It’s critically important to be constantly listening to employee and user feedback throughout the design process.

"We actually hired a third party to work with us to design the intranet, and they split our employees into focus groups for people that represented the different needs for what they needed from the intranet. The third party was not just beneficial for their expertise and to aggregate the responses, but also to give our employees the ability to be honest and feel listened to. What would they want their dream internet to be?"

Abi Santmyer - Commonwealth Care Alliance

"MyBakerHughes was born from its users. We listened as much as possible to their needs to design a solution that fit, and so a huge body of work was conducted at the onset of the project. We interviewed ten leaders from the company up to AVP level, 50 users from different functions and roles, including remote and non-remote workers, and then 5000 employees on a global scale. With this feedback, we wrote a whitepaper that detailed exactly what our employees wanted from an intranet, and we frequently got feedback from users on formatting of the new platform so that we made sure to keep the features that they likes, and changed those they didn’t."

Arrigo Monti - Baker Hughes

#4. Take into account the future of your organization

As well as making sure the intranet is valuable for users, it also needs to be evergreen to the organization. Employees aren’t the only ones that are constantly growing – businesses evolve yearly, and so your intranet needs to be able to expand and develop in line with it.

"First and foremost, our workplace intranet needs to evolve, grow and change with the company as we are evolving quickly. This was one of the biggest setbacks from our previous intranets and is one of the reasons why they became so outdated."

Arrigo Monti - Baker Hughes

"I wanted an intranet that could grow with us. We took a phased approach with Unily – it was a solid out-of-the-box solution that could be a solid offering once we went live. We had the Frankensite before, so we needed something that could transition over time and continue to develop as we do."

Abi Santmyer - Commonwealth Care Alliance

Cathay Pacific: Launching an award-winning mobile intranet' case study flat pages

Case Study

Cathay Pacific: Launching an award-winning mobile intranet

Built on a passion for flight and a commitment to achieving the unthinkable, Cathay Pacific has secured its status as a leading airline for more than 75 years. To connect its workforce of 26k+ employees who are mobile by design, Cathay Pacific launched a redesigned employee experience platform that has earned a spot among Nielsen Norman Group's best intranets.

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#5. Take the time to consider the homepage

The intranet homepage is the first thing employees will see when they log in, and so when designing your award-winning intranet, it’s important to consider exactly what your employees will want to see and use on a daily basis.

"The feature that was most requested through the interviews and surveys was simple and easy-to-use navigation, so we kept this front of mind when designing our intranet. On our homepage, employees can easily access the key resources they use on a day-to-day basis at the top menu. Company updates, career compensation and benefits, daily managements, and IT and HR help and FAQs are all easily accessible from this top menu."

Arrigo Monti - Baker Hughes

"Design-wise, a priority for us was having a custom experience for each user, so we made sure that people understand and are able to customize the different applications that they access on a daily basis. This is different from field employees to office workers, so it was critical they were able to get the experience they need. Also, we need to make sure the look and feel of the intranet translates well across all devices."

Abi Santmyer - Commonwealth Care Alliance

#6. Keep your frontline connected – don’t forget about the mobile experience

With not all workers being based in an office, it’s essential to ensure that those on the frontline and out in the field get the same experience when using the intranet as those that are desk-based. A mobile intranet application can assist with this and drive engagement and collaboration, particularly when the mobile application offers a consumer-grade experience in terms of interface and interaction.

"Our mobile application really speaks to our focus on the roadmap – we weren’t reaching our engagement goals at all with townhalls and emails, so now we have the opportunity to engage employees with real-time information through the mobile app. The knowledge hub is the source of truth for all the tools they need. It’s all bucketed in one area that is regularly updated. The content is rich, having not just text but also video content. We have a news home that is kept freshly updated, meaning those field workers that would have used to have waited to log onto a computer at the end of the day can now access it from anywhere at any time, meaning they are able to do their work more efficiently."

Abi Santmyer - Commonwealth Care Alliance

Discover Unily's new mobile app experience

For too long the apps and tools we use at work pale in comparison to the experiences we see in the consumer app market. 2021 marks the year Unily levels the playing field, bringing consumer-grade innovations to the enterprise and making engaging employee experiences more accessible than ever before. Find out how our mobile app update can transform engagement from head office to frontline.

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Are you ready to design an award-winning intranet with us?

If you are thinking about overhauling your current intranet or designing an initial intranet for your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more and see how we can help.

Get started. Get your free demo.

Reinvent your intranet for the employee experience era.

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