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Building an intranet for more engagement and accessibility

Your intranet is up and running, but no one is looking? It's high time to set up an intranet with a system! Low engagement rates and low reach are among the most common complaints after an intranet launch. Here you will find ways out of the engagement valley.

Patrik Kolligs, Managing Director of Kronsteg GmbH

Patrik Kolligs

COO of Kronsteg GmbH

Do you know the design principle that form follows function? This means that the design - the structure, if you will - is derived from the purpose of something.

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

Unfortunately, however, intranet construction is often guided by completely different maxims, such as the use of existing licences and budget issues, etc. The result is intranets with a limited number of users. The result is intranets with disappointing usage and interaction rates.

This guide shows how to build an intranet so that employees ...

  • can find information easily, 
  • enjoy reading content, 
  • interact with it,
  • and share their own know-how, insights and anecdotes

Not quite there yet? Here you can read how to establish an Intranet.

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 digitalise internal communication and collaboration - from strategy to tool selection to 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 organisation. Both user needs and company interests must be taken into account. This is particularly exciting when different user groups are to be addressed - for example, the office workers in the head office and the warehouse workers in the production plant.

And that is exactly what few companies succeed in doing: In practice, an intranet reaches on average only 50% of the 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.

Build an intranet in 7 steps

When setting up an intranet, these steps are crucial:

1. Analyse 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

Process flow for setting up the intranet

To ensure that the efforts to set up an intranet do not come to nothing, the project should be well planned. We recommend the tried and tested Plan, Do, Check, Act process with the following steps:

1. Analyse 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 organisation. You have probably already elicited these. 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, which functions and, above all, which use cases you want to implement in a new or better way in the future. Have several users asked for an employee directory? Or is a polling tool for employee surveys, a smartphone app or the search function for documents insufficient? 

4. Building the intranet

Depending on what the previous steps have revealed, various things may make sense here: from integrating additional internal communication tools to adapting the intranet structure to revising the internal communication strategy. Three possible steps can be found in the next chapter. 

5. Test and roll out

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

6. Train and support 

Under certain circumstances, the intranet set-up should be accompanied by training so that employees do not feel overwhelmed. In our view, it has proven useful to set up a communication channel for queries in addition to training - for example, via 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 adding new features and integrations to the intranet. So once you get here, it's back to square one.

With our three tips for intranet building, you can make sure your intranet works better than most other companies'.

Tip 1: Build intranet for maximum interaction

Actually, it's obvious: what interests people externally, they also find exciting on the intranet. For your internal communication this means: videos and photos instead of PDFs, crisp texts instead of press release-style messages.

Fortunately, the social component is playing an increasingly important role in intranet development and most companies opt for tools that allow comments, likes and mentions ("tags") from the outset. It is only the implementation that regularly fails.

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

Intranet set-up with the right content

  • Write entertaining content that is 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 2: Intranet building via personal content

Speaking of content that people want to read... In large companies, even groups that actually have nothing to do with work have proven successful. For example, there is a dating portal on the Deutsche Bahn intranet. Experience has also shown that recipe or sports groups lead to a lively exchange of ideas.

Why should you motivate your employees to become active in groups on private interests - possibly even during working hours? Because it is simply 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 build their intranet

ROSSMANN employees are interested in ROSSMANN - not only in the company, but also in the owner family. "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 3: Build a mobile intranet to boost engagement

People spend an average of three hours a day on their smartphones. And a large part of smartphone use is to pass the time. If your intranet is not geared towards mobile use, you are missing a huge opportunity here.

Chances are, your intranet can't match the radiance 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: the non-desk workers.

Non-desk workers - for example 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 Kira Kebekus puts it: "Employees are the drivers of our innovation.

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 therefore the first priority.

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

Do you already know the intranet for your pocket?

Flip is the intranet for companies with many operational employees. Chat, newsfeed, duty rosters, time recording and much more merge into a digital workplace for everyone without a PC: interactive like a social intranet, simple like a messenger app and secure like a password safe. On the private smartphone as well as on the company PC.

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