7 min read

Building an intranet for more engagement and accessibility

So your intranet is up and running, but no one's using it? It's time to set up an intranet with a strategy! Low engagement rates and limited reach are some of the most common complaints after an intranet launch. This article will show you how to get out of the engagement valley.

Do you know the design principle that form follows function? This means the design of an object should be based on its purpose—and not the other way around.

For most companies, the purpose of an intranet is a combination of accessibility, exchange of knowledge, and promotion of employee engagement and motivation.

Unfortunately, however, the design of the intranet is often guided by completely different objectives, such as adhering to existing licenses and budget issues. The result is an intranet that their workforce hardly uses.

If you're hoping to avoid that unwanted fate, this guide will show you how to build an intranet so that employees:

  • Can find information easily
  • Enjoy reading content 
  • Interact with it
  • Share their own know-how, insights, and anecdotes

If you haven't gotten there yet, be sure to read how to establish an Intranet first.

Patrick Kolligs, COO Kronsteg GmbH, in a withe shirt next to a whiteboard

The author: Patrik Kolligs, business psychologist and founder of Kronsteg

The intranet agency Kronsteg helps medium-sized and large companies to digitalize internal communication and collaboration—from strategy to tool selection and implementation. Founder and COO Patrik Kolligs is a business psychologist, change management specialist, and expert for the digital workplace in the competence network of the Ministry of Economics.

Building an intranet: what is the goal?

"Intranet set-up" describes the process of setting up and configuring an intranet for an organization. Both user needs and company interests must be taken into account. This is particularly exciting when addressing different user groups, such as the office workers in the head office and the frontline workers in the production plant.

And that's exactly what many companies fail to do. In practice, an intranet reaches, on average, only 50% of employees. The goal of intranet development is to reach more people and encourage interaction in order to justify the investment in the intranet in the long run.

How to build an intranet in 7 steps

When setting up an intranet, these steps are crucial:

1. Analyze the status quo through KPIs and user interviews

2. Define the goals of the intranet

3. Identify missing content and functions

4. Build the intranet

5. Test and roll out

6. Train and support

7. Improve and update

The process flow for setting up the intranet

The project should be well planned to ensure your efforts to set up an intranet aren't wasted. We recommend the tried-and-tested 'Plan, Do, Check, Act' process with the following steps:

1. Analyze the status quo through KPIs and user interviews

Get a picture of the current situation by collecting figures on the current use of the intranet tool(s). Most solutions offer integrated KPI tracking of key metrics.

2. Define the goals of the intranet

Identify the needs and requirements of the different user groups within the organization. You probably already know these but clarify whether anything has changed or in which areas the current solution needs to improve. The inventory in step one can help to uncover weaknesses. 

3. Identify missing content and functions

Determine which types of content have been missing so far, plus which functions and, above all, which use cases you want to implement in a new or better way in the future. Have several people asked for an employee directory? Or have there been complaints about a polling tool for employee surveys, a smartphone app, or a document search function?

4. Building the intranet

Depending on what the previous steps have revealed, a few things may make sense here: from integrating additional internal communication tools and adapting the intranet structure to revising the internal communication strategy. In the next section, we'll share three possible steps you can take.

5. Test and roll out

Test the new features for functionality and user-friendliness before releasing them to all the employees. The fact is that you only have one chance to introduce new functionality. Adoption will fail if staff are confused or overwhelmed the first time they use it. 

6. Train and support 

Under certain circumstances, the intranet set-up should be accompanied by training so employees don't feel overwhelmed. In our view, it has proven useful to set up a communication channel for queries in addition to training, such as a Slack or Teams channel, or ideally, on the intranet itself.

7. Improve and update

Intranet building is an iterative process and requires regular maintenance, security updates, bug fixes, and new features and integrations. So once you get here, it's back to square one.

Read on to see our three tips for intranet building to ensure your intranet works better than most other companies.

Tip one: design your intranet for maximum interaction

This might seem obvious, but it's often overlooked - what people find interesting externally, they'll also find interesting on the intranet. So for your internal communication, opt for videos and photos instead of PDFs and concise notes instead of press release-style messages.

The social component is playing an increasingly important role in intranet development, and fortunately, most companies choose tools that allow comments, likes, and mentions ("tags") from the outset. It's just the implementation of these features that regularly fail.

Even though the intranet of choice could theoretically be used like other social media, management communication consists of long texts, uploaded PDFs titled "Management Report Week 43" or PowerPoint presentations.

How to use engaging content to boost interest in your intranet

  • Write entertaining content that's easy to grasp
  • Include trending topics such as sustainability and diversity
  • Ask questions that will increase engagement
  • Use surveys, if possible in your tool
  • Pepper your leadership communications with personal anecdotes and images
  • Respond to comments to encourage sharing on the intranet

Tip two: have fun with personal content

Speaking of content people want to read - in large companies, even groups with nothing to do with work can be a big hit. For example, there's a dating portal on the Deutsche Bahn intranet. In my experience, recipe or sports groups can lead to a lively exchange of ideas too.

Why should you motivate your employees to be active in groups on private interests, possibly even during working hours? Because let's face it: it's more interesting than your company news. And if employees are inspired by a vegan cheesecake recipe on the intranet, they might also take a look at the sales figures for Q2.

Balancing stories and business: how Rossmann and elasto built their intranet

ROSSMANN employees are interested in ROSSMANN, not only in the company, but also in the personal lives of the people who work for it. "We have noticed that our employees particularly value content that is close to them," says Franziska Metz, head of internal corporate communications at the drugstore chain.

Ellen Scheibl, head of communications at elasto, a producer of advertising material, describes a tightrope walk between private content and professional information:

"Companies have to find a balance between stories and business. But we have noticed: People feel more a part of the company when they get regular private insights."

Tip three: build a mobile intranet to boost engagement

People spend an average of three hours a day on their smartphones, and a large part of phone use is to pass the time. You're missing a huge opportunity if your intranet is not geared toward mobile use.

Chances are, your intranet can't match the popularity of TikTok. But if you implement tips one and two, your employees will have a good reason to open the intranet app from time to time.

In addition, with a mobile intranet, you reach a group of employees that is all too often—and to the great disadvantage of companies—overlooked: frontline workers.

Frontline workers—such as those in production, warehousing, or logistics— are closer to processes and customers than office workers. This allows them to share ideas and suggestions for improvement that no one else notices.

"Whoever suppresses exchange also suppresses ideas"

"The workforce needs to feel that their feedback is being implemented," says Kira Kebekus, Head of Innovations at EUROPART, Europe's leading partner for commercial vehicle workshops.

Since April 2021, when the company introduced an employee app, employees have submitted more than 200 suggestions for improvement—including many ideas that save time, costs and energy, or reduce packaging waste.

The decisive factor: EUROPART has now implemented almost all of the ideas. Companies that take their employees' ideas seriously gain a competitive advantage. Or as Kebekus puts it: "Employees are the drivers of our innovation."

How EUROPART built a mobile intranet

Conclusion: build an intuitive intranet that captivates people

First and foremost, an intranet should help employees in their work. The development of functions that map job-related use cases is the first priority.

But those who stop there will probably have to struggle with low intranet usage. This is because the pull effect of the "Monthly Executive Update" is pretty limited.

Personal content, high user-friendliness, and the possibility of mobile use, on the other hand, have proven to be important pull factors. They ensure that employees enjoy visiting the intranet and interacting with each other and the company.

Need an easy-to-use mobile intranet that your frontline employees will love?

Flip is the intranet for companies with many operational employees. Chat, newsfeed, duty rosters, time tracking, and much more merge into a digital workspace for everyone without a computer. It's interactive like a social intranet, simple like a messaging app, and secure like a password safe—on personal smartphones as well as on the company PCs.

Discover the Flip employee app

Read often