Tried-and-true methods of getting employees to engage on your intranet

When intranet adoption tanks, communications, collaboration, and productivity suffer. But what’s the cause of low intranet adoption, and how can you reverse it? Here are the reasons your employees might be switching off and the answers you need to get engagement back on track.

Engaged employee

Common causes of low intranet adoption

A modern intranet is the answer to meeting your employees’ needs and providing an enriched employee experience. It has the potential to be the go-to hub for essential information and much, much more. It could be the prime meeting place for colleagues to come together to collaborate and share knowledge, or it could be the place employees go to learn about the company and access key systems. But none of that’s possible if employees aren’t using the intranet.

Enterprises with the best intranets see the benefits of having more engaged employees: McKinsey reports a 20-25% increase in productivity when teams are better connected using social technologies, and Gallup reports a 23% increase in profit when employees are engaged and happy. On the flipside, a bad intranet can harm engagement and prevent employees from accessing the tools and information they need to do their best work.

So, what causes employees to switch off from the intranet? Getting to the root of the cause of a problem is always the first step to overcoming it, and there can be several factors that might be affecting employees’ desire to engage.

#1. Sub-par UX

Coming in first, poor user experience is one of the most commonly cited reasons for low intranet adoption. Employees have grown used to high-quality digital experiences in their personal lives and expect that to translate in their professional lives too. We eat with our eyes, so if your intranet looks like a 90s relic, employees won’t be inspired to interact with all it has to offer.

#2. One-size-fits all

A lack of personalization leaves many intranet users overwhelmed with irrelevant information. The old days of one-size-fits-all intranets are long gone, and today providing employees with a uniquely curated experience is necessary to attract their attention.

#3. Findability

If users are struggling to find the information they need efficiently, the value of your intranet lags. Employees expect to be able to find information intuitively, just as they do on Google, so if your search capabilities are lacking, engagement slumps soon follow.

#4. No mobile access

Particularly for those enterprises with significant deskless workforces, a lack of mobile intranet access presents a big barrier to adoption. Increasingly employees, even those with desktop access, are demanding more flexibility in terms of how they access workplace tools. Providing a high-quality mobile app gives everyone more options for accessing the intranet, helping to drive engagement forward.

#5. Outdated content

Last but by no means least is outdated content. If employees can’t trust that the information they find on the intranet is accurate, why should they use it? Many people will switch off if they don’t think the topic or messaging is relevant to them, and outdated content can provide misleading information and perpetuate distrust.

Woman at computer using her company intranet with a coffee

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Your three-step strategy for reversing disengagement

The reasons above are a good place to start when it comes to figuring out the cause of your intranet engagement slump. But to really know what’s going on in the minds of your people, and to create a plan to get engagement back on track, here are the steps we think you should take:

Benchmark

The first step to reversing an intranet engagement slump is getting a clear picture of current performance. This means taking a microscope to your platform analytics and speaking to employees to build a complete picture of how the intranet is being perceived by the workforce. Starting with your analytics, try to identify which segments of the workforce are using the intranet most and least and for what purpose. Next, pull together focus groups from each of the identified segments and dig into what they want and need from the platform – how it’s delivering against those demands and what’s missing that’s leading them to switch off.

Reset

Now armed with a list of priorities for your intranet reboot, it’s time to reset expectations and devise a phased plan for improvement. You’ve likely identified common themes from your focus groups. Maybe every employee is telling you they struggle to find the information they need. In that case, you’ll know content governance and information architecture is where your attention needs to be. At this stage, it’s important to remind yourself of your original intranet vision, mission and value. It might be time to reset this in line with what your employees are telling you they need or what the business objectives are today. Having a clear north star will help you to decide where to put your efforts first. Depending on where you are in your intranet journey, starting out simple could be the way to go. However you start, define a clear set of goals for the next phase of intranet evolution and stack them against the metrics you collected in the benchmarking phase. What will success look like in terms of KPIs?

Experiment

The final phase is where the fun begins. It’s unlikely that you’re going to nail your intranet in the first take, but you have to start somewhere to be able to grow and improve it. The success of each organization's intranet is entirely dependent on its users, so getting comfortable with trying new approaches will help you find the right one for your enterprise. Remember, you’ve first got to fail to know how to succeed!

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Top tips for jumpstarting intranet engagement

Now we’ve covered the top reasons employees aren’t engaging with their intranet and the formula for reversing it, it’s time to look at what we can do to move the dial in the right direction. Here are our top tips for combatting tanking intranet engagement:

#1. Lean into personalization

To save employees from being subjected to irrelevant experiences that cause them to switch off, it’s time to embrace the full power of targeting and personalization. Modern intranets give you the power to create targeted experiences for different employee segments – it can be as granular as giving different departments a unique homepage experience or simply using content targeting to populate news feeds with stories relevant to a user's role, location, and interests.

Cathay Pacific

Automating some processes can help too: setting up a campaign timeline allows you to strategically plan and target internal communications and campaigns to get the appropriate content to the right people at the right time. Using a multi-channel approach also means you’re more likely to reach every type of user.

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#2. Give search a google-grade makeover

As mentioned earlier, if employees can’t find what they need easily, they will stop going to the intranet for answers. Improving the intranet search function and making it the most convenient and useful tool for employees will ensure they keep coming back. Modern platforms should allow you to connect your information repositories so employees can search for information across multiple systems from one place. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has a great example of this. After interviewing their employees, several personas expressed the need for a better search function for access to resources relevant to their roles. Love’s worked with Unily to develop a cognitive search bot called “Ask Love’s”. It’s now a much more sophisticated tool that provides tailored, accurate answers based on the user’s job and department.

Employee using his company's digital workplace search experience

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#3. Integrate, integrate, integrate

When the intranet is at its best, it’s the heart of the digital workplace. That means it’s the single point of access to all the tools and systems that employees rely on. If you can achieve this, you’re guaranteed to see more users stopping by to access the systems they need and, hopefully, finding other useful nuggets along the way. Digital friction caused by multiple siloed systems is becoming a leading cause of employee frustration, and solving this with your intranet can deliver untold value. 68% of employees say they toggle between apps up to 10 times an hour at work, and waste around an hour a day switching between those apps.

Search

Integrating all the systems employees need in one logical launchpad on the intranet removes this friction and helps employees reach higher levels of productivity. In fact, Unily customer Shell calculated a productivity saving of $41m as a result of employees being able to access information and complete tasks faster via a fully integrated intranet.

#4. Don’t overlook design

There’s nothing worse than looking at an ugly, text-heavy page – it's no wonder that employees aren’t motivated to interact with an outdated intranet. Thanks to modern advancements, the intranet now has the ability to be transformed from something dull, to something visually appealing and captivating. At Estee Lauder Companies the intranet was designed to look like a magazine. It’s aesthetically pleasing, on-brand, and multi-sensory to attract people in the same way a glossy magazine does.

"We’re a prestige beauty company so the design had to be super elegant, and the UX had to be really strong too. The solution had to be as beautiful to look at as it was to interact with."

Kerry O’Donnell - Executive Director at Estee Lauder Companies.
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As a result, the intranet has become a place that employees are drawn to and want to immerse themselves in. Thinking about your brand guidelines, comparing your intranet to your external webpage, embracing visual elements, and reducing noise from your pages gives employees the consumer-grade experience they deserve.

#5. Embrace multi-media formats

Employees will often switch off and disengage when there are streams of text to read. Audiences generally respond to more visual content and immersive experiences. Video content in particular is increasingly engaging audiences – employees today are 75% more likely to watch a video than read text. Switching up some of your written content for video content is a foolproof way to increase engagement on the intranet. At Zaxby, the in-house video team create regular newsletter video content, as well as biweekly video updates from the senior leadership, which they share on their “ZTV” space.

"Previous to ZNET our execs were silent. They had no way of communicating to corporate or the licensees. This bred mistrust because we felt we didn’t have any idea what was going on. ZTV has provided a single channel with multiple segments of communications. Our Communications department – now our Culture and Communications department – create targeted content that allows our team members to see what they want and what they feel is important to them."

Josh Bailey - Lead Systems Architect at Zaxby

'Zaxby’s unites retail franchises and corporate employees with an intranet' case study flat pages

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#6. Give employees a voice

Internal comms is not a one-way street. Employees will engage when they have a voice and a platform to express their opinions and thoughts. Front-end content creation gives employees the opportunity to share posts, videos, and stories with colleagues on the intranet, without having to fiddle about with any CMS. It often becomes a snowball effect – once some people start sharing, more will follow suit to get involved in the conversation.

"We know that everyone wants that sense of belonging and to be part of the tribe."

Chris Andrew - Strategy Director at Cadburn Hope
Form

Enabling social communities and Employee Resource Groups (ERG) channels on the intranet are other great ways for people to express themselves and find their tribe of like-minded people within the company. Interactive and recognition methods also help improve peer-to-peer positivity, as well as engagement on the intranet.

#7. Get governance right

Outdated, old, and irrelevant content clogs up your intranet and doesn’t add any value for your employees. Therefore, content governance is important to make sure all information is up-to-date, fresh, and relevant. Making use of features like Audit Trails, Repository List View, and a Publishing Calendar can help you keep an overview of all the content being published on the intranet. To ease the burden and streamline the process of managing content further, platform administrators and contents owners can make use of an automated Content Review Cycle, that removes the manual burden of keeping content current by flagging content in need of review as time goes on.

Team leader managing her company intranet software

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Create an intranet that gives employees value

If you’re feeling like your employees aren’t engaged with your intranet and internal communications, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at where your intranet could be adding more value. Following these steps can help you reverse disengagement and create an intranet that provides enough value for your employees that it becomes their first port of call.

Discover more about how Unily’s award-winning employee experience platform and team of digital experience experts can help you create the intranet of dreams today.

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