An Intranet is for life, not just for Christmas

Your Intranet is an investment, and I don’t just mean in monetary terms.  Of course, an organisation needs to spend its cash in order to buy one (nothing is free now a days…) but the main investment and cost to the organisation is the time it takes to design, build, and maintain it.  The benefits speak for themselves with countless articles and papers written about the improvements an Intranet can make to an organisation’s internal communications strategy, culture and engagement scores – however, is this all the investment it needs?

We all know that to keep colleagues visiting an Intranet the content needs to be fresh and relevant – this can range from publishing the latest news, to ensuring all policy documents have been uploaded, to having any forms colleagues need to complete easily accessible.  These tasks normally fall to a handful of colleagues across the organisation… the ‘experts’ if you like! They probably had some pretty comprehensive training during the run up to launch, however 5 years down the line they know what they need to know and everything else is a fuzzy memory.  These Intranet experts are then experts of their own tasks, as opposed to experts of the Intranet and before you know it, the Intranet stops evolving as people focus on what they know and learning about what they don’t seems daunting and time consuming. 

An Intranet platform is often easy to use and navigate around, however they’re incredibly clever and required to perform a lot of tasks to a high standard – as a result they’re packed full of applications and features that seamlessly link together.  We’re used to instantaneous, interactive and intuitive web pages and expect an Intranet to be the same; part of this expectation is for an Intranet to evolve with the times and as a result most platform providers constantly look at ways to build and improve on what they already offer.  The plus side of this continuous improvement is obvious – your Intranet package is sustainable; the latest version able to keep up with the demands of a modern organisation.  The downside is that it requires considerable time and effort to understand what each improvement means – whether this is a change to an existing application, or a brand-new feature.  If you don’t continue to learn what your Intranet can offer, how can you keep up with what your users need?

One of the best ways to keep up with demand and prevent your Intranet going stale is to regularly spend time learning about your Intranet’s latest improvements.  It may take some effort to fully understand a new feature, however it will be worth it.  Not only will you benefit from increased expert knowledge, but your Intranet will evolve with changes that are visible to its users – this can have nothing but a positive effect and could help to bring back or maintain your Intranet’s WOW factor.  So, although it may seem like a big investment to support and encourage continuous learning, you can help to futureproof your Intranet, protect your initial purchase and play a part in the development and growth of your colleagues by doing so.

Give the Gift of Time

As Valentine’s Day fast approaches we can expect to see the usual offers from companies about deals ‘for one day only’ and a plethora of articles on showing your customers and employees that you love them.  These acts of ‘love’ are all very well and good, but for me it’s turned Valentine’s Day into a bit of a cliché!

One of the greatest gifts we can give our co-workers is time.  Often our work life is so busy we never stop to actually think about the time we spend with people, and whether or not it adds meaningful value.  Often meetings and catch ups are a bit like a drive thru – super quick, highly transactional and often a bit unfulfilling!

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Valentine’s Day could serve as a useful reminder to really think about other people’s needs, how you value their inputs and how you get the most out of any time you spend together – for the benefit of your company of course!

We’ve listed a few ideas below, but the main thing is to be authentic

Make the best use of meeting time:

It’s easy to walk out of a meeting having no clue as to the purpose or outcome of the time you’ve just spent together!  So, if you’re organising a meeting make sure you:

  • Know what you are aiming to achieve.
  • Invite the right people who can give you the inputs you need.
  • Ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.
  • Summarise the outcomes and agreements at the end and then talk through the next steps.
  • Follow up!

Be respectful:

We are often so busy these simple behaviours can be forgotten and yet they can have a big impact on others

  • If you have a meeting, a catch-up or a one2one be on time.
  • Don’t pull out of a meeting at the last minute – give notice if you really can’t make it.
  • Finish on time, you may not have a meeting straight after but others might.
  • Consider the needs of remote workers – are they on the same time zone as you? Have you sent the information they will need in order to participate such as video conference or Skype details.
  • Are you considering different working patterns when you set the meeting time – not everyone works 9-5!

Listen well:

How many meetings and workshops have you attended but struggled to feel heard? It can be so frustrating and it is a huge blocker to engagement.

  • If it is your meeting, you invited the others for a reason and it is not to hear your own voice!
  • Encourage everyone to have a say and contribute their thoughts.
  • If you have remote workers on the phone make sure people in the room talk one at a time to allow them to hear the conversation clearly and follow what is being said. Give those who aren’t in the room frequent opportunities to speak up, and check in regularly during long meetings to ensure they feel involved.
  • Summarise the inputs and let people know how you will take them on board and build them into your activities or plans.

What happened again…?

Often an employee engagement survey generates a lot of noise before and during the survey field period but then one of two things happen… either everything goes quiet and the results never see the light of day, or the results are shared but then nothing happens. Either way, colleagues are left wondering ‘what’s happened?’ As a result, engagement levels normally drop, with colleagues losing respect and becoming cynical of their leaders who ask but never listen.

The advice is simple; Follow Up!

If employees don’t see, hear or read about anything that provides evidence that follow up has happened then they will assume it has not taken place – even if it has. Don’t expect them to remember what was agreed, every time an action is taken as a result of a particular consultation – flag it. Each time a deliverable happens, or a decision is made – communicate it and point out that it was the result of that consultation. As a result, you will see that colleague engagement will increase

It’s time to invest in Engagement

It’s a no-brainer that Engagement is invaluable to your business.  Sorry if you think differently, but you’re not seeing the whole picture… and how do I know this?  Stats.  There are countless studies out there which all point to the fact that Engagement is important, and for multiple reasons.  From increased productivity, happier colleagues, higher retention, increased profits and customer satisfaction, any organisation that doesn’t take engagement seriously will soon fall short and lose any competitive edge they once may have had.  Don’t just talk about Engagement, actually do something about it….  It’s important to invest in Engagement and this may mean putting your hands in your pockets, but it really means taking your time to get things right and preparing yourself for the journey.  There isn’t an overnight fix I’m afraid, but the benefits of taking it seriously far outweigh the effort it takes to get things started!

Often people put this off as they find engagement hard to quantify.  What actually drives engagement? I will cover this in another blog!

Implementing Intranet Governance

Internal communications and engagement

Governance can imply control, but we like to think about governance in a different way. For us it is about setting up a framework to ensure your Intranet retains a clear purpose and is supported and nurtured for the long term. Without governance, it is easy for Intranets to lose their way and fall out of touch with business and colleague needs.

Implement your Intranet governance through three important groups – each has a different role to play in keeping your Intranet relevant, useful and valuable.

Steering Group
This is your senior oversight committee who will define the purpose and primary areas of
focus for your Intranet. These colleagues are responsible for ensuring the Intranet continually meets the needs of the business, securing sufficient funding and resources to ensure its continued management and, in the case of developing a new Intranet, they will have project oversight.
This group should generally include:
• An executive level sponsor
• One or more colleague representatives
• Heads of critical services key to Intranet delivery such as IT
• The primary responsible person who ‘owns’ the channel. Some organisations include an employee or user representative on their steering group too.

Once an Intranet is established, a meeting every 6 months is probably sufficient to keep everything running smoothly.

Working Group
Made up of all (or some) of the content area owners or their representatives, super users and the channel owner, this group will ensure the Intranet delivers great content and a great user experience. Meeting every month or two they will focus on sharing best practice and ideas, as well as implementing Oak features as a result of feedback from users. This can help drive a consistent quality experience and ensure content areas continue to feel supported and valued beyond launch. If the Working Group feels that a major change is needed, or has an issue they cannot resolve themselves they can raise it to the steering group.

Super Users
These colleagues act as the key guardians of the site and should be pro-active in their role beyond launch. Usually they will be the active drivers of the Working Group and will report to the Steering Group.
This suggested approach is simple and fairly light-touch, but it works. You can build on or adapt it to suit your business and we are happy to advise on alternative approaches.

Oak & Google Drive

The Oak guys have been working hard on improving their Intranet’s ability to integrate with Google Drive.  This may not be relevant to you depending on where and how your company stores their content, however for those who currently use Google Drive you will notice a couple of significant changes that will make your life a lot easier.  The main improvement is that you can now integrate your ‘Team Drives’ and not just your personal one, giving you the ability to access and share more meaningful content.

There are a couple of steps you and your Intranet System Administrators need to do in order to activate this feature within your Oak Intranet, but once set up you will be able to access your Google Drive via the Share menu and it will be appear as an option through the picker window.  This improvement will make the process of selecting data a lot smoother and easier, and what’s more Oak have nearly finished another development which will allow you to search for content within your Google Drive via Oak’s search function!

Oak’s Improved Timeline

Oak logo

The timeline applet within a homepage was already pretty awesome, but the team at Oak have listened to feedback and have made one significant change which allows you to personalise a user’s experience even more.  Previously, you could stipulate where the timeline would pull its information from by selecting one or multiple source areas.  If you didn’t select the homepage area, or selected more than one source area, a user would not be able to post within the applet.  They could see all the posts from the selected area(s) but couldn’t contribute… Believe it or not, this was intentional, but it didn’t always result in the best user experience.  Thanks to social media, we’re used to contributing instantly and as a result, Oak have added a feature to the timeline applet which allows users to post regardless of the area source, which will hopefully encourage more collaboration and interaction within the Intranet space.  However, the applet allows you to choose whether to allow this and it’s automatically toggled to ‘off’ so any areas within your Intranet that currently feature the timeline applet won’t change unless you actively go in and amend them.

Top 6 reasons intranets fail



  1. Ownership is not clear

It’s a bit of IT and a bit of HR….or marketing…or Internal Comms (if you have that function and many medium-sized businesses with intranets don’t) isn’t it?  Often when an intranet platform was procured with bright-eyed excitement and ground-breaking plans the longer term plan around who would actually own and nurture the site gets forgotten.  A whole lot of love and effort is poured into the build and launch sometimes but a year or two down the line and not much more has been added, updated or changed and now the cool kids have all jumped on Yammer or have created What’s App groups.

And whose job is it anyway?  IT don’t want it, they may have procured it and set it up but they shouldn’t be responsible for adding pages or changing content.

HR would do it, when they get a minute and then when they do no-one can remember how to create a page…..

Marketing are too busy with the latest campaign….

And so it goes on.  Yes I’m exaggerating a little for effect but not that much actually.

  1. Too many controls

When the site was being set up someone somewhere had the great idea to add some social elements.  You know to build community and collaboration.  But someone else somewhere more senior was worried people might say stuff they shouldn’t.  And who will administrate that?  Plus we need to make sure no-one else can access it so we need a secure login process. So when you do remember your log in and decide to post a comment in the forum to share ideas on how to improve the customer experience you have to wait a week for Linda in HR to sign off your post…or your comment.  So you don’t bother.

  1. It was a tick in the box

The intranet was the result of…..well because we should have an intranet.  No-one really sat down and looked at how the intranet should support the business and its people to deliver on the business strategy.  So the intranet you have now is not relevant and never will be unless someone works this out.

  1. It’s boring

It’s amazing that when we interact as individuals on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other social platforms we do so in a relaxed and often very witty way.  Yet that usually gets switched off for the intranet.  The content is very formal, boring and there is little use of pictures, never mind video.  Blogs get started but many are not maintained. There is more personality in the office plant.  The site becomes a launch pad to google.

  1. The Content Management System requires a Masters in Astro Physics

Yes, you had the training and at the time the 12 steps to create a new page seemed quite logical but that was two months ago and you can be dammed if you remember what the hell step one is never mind the rest.  The intuitive ‘widget bar’ is about as intuitive as a 24 channel mixing desk in a recording studio, I mean even Brian Cox would be struggling to understand what those icons mean.  So, you cannibalise the pages you have and just add more content to them making them really, really, really long.  But at least you published so that’s okay right?  Or you just don’t bother and send out a really exciting email instead.

  1. You have platform-itus

Your intranet is….well, not very good so people are using their own platforms for stuff.  Angie in Marketing got this fab tool for all of Marketing’s assets and there is lots of good pictures and video in there.  You have another clever thing which allows you to put forms online and have all the expenses and payroll related stuff all in one place and HR love it.  They are probably going to need something else for the appraisal process though. You’ve just signed up to an ideation software platform and plan to launch that in the summer.  As the intranet is limited everyone is just going their own way and spending their own budget on other apps and tools which is driving duplication, frustration and cost.  The modern intranet is a digital employee interface – invest in that and you will save yourself a lot of time and expense.



Are you the Intranet Police?

It is easy to get caught up in the need to create lots of rules and many businesses have set an abundance of controls around social media which they then apply to their intranet, and this stifles creativity and collaboration.

We recommend a set of light-hearted simple rules. After all, why design your intranet around the very small minority rather than the majority.  If you trust in your hiring process, you should be able to trust you people to use all of their working applications wisely!

An example recently developed for a client:

Nobody leaps out of bed in the morning with a desperate desire to read policies or rules. (At least I have never met that person). We get that. So our intranet policies are designed to simply ensure that our intranet stays on track with its purpose and nothing more. If you think something in here is wrong and inhibits what you and your colleagues need from a communications or collaboration perspective then please let us know.

1. Home page design is managed centrally – that is so we can fulfill our corporate goals. We have
also adopted a consistent template for local home pages to help you all navigate the content. A little
consistency helps here.

2. Corporate content is controlled by Central HR. If you think something should be shared globally
just drop us a line. You are always welcome to post it on your functional home page and possibly
your local home page. Just publish and the relevant owner will approve it or let you know why it
couldn’t go on there.

3. Everyone can contribute content but home pages are managed by a designated owner and they
have the right to say yes or no to what goes on there.

4. Your profile is your profile so do with it what you will but please keep it up to date.

5. You can follow who you like, set up any group in order to collaborate on key topics that you like
and you can share content on your timeline and to the groups in which you participate without
needing any permission. Just crack on.

6. Fancy blogging? Go for it. Collaborative blogs can also be set up and the authors for these will be
limited depending on the subject matter and purpose of the blog.

7. Single source. Whilst (our Intranet) can search and find content in our (other sharepoint sites or
knowledgebases) our goal from here on in is to have a single source of the truth. We think you can
handle it. So keep it on our intranet rather than elsewhere and if you wrote it, keep it up to date.

8. Where to Share? If your content supports a project or will be of interest to a particular group of
people share it to that project/ collaborative group. If it is something that impacts a particular function
or location then publish in that place accordingly. You may have to get approval before it is
published (the request is handled automatically so don’t sweat it).

9. Our corporate language is English to help drive collaboration so please stick to it where possible.

10. The intranet exists to support you and will only improve if you both contribute to it and feedback
on it if you think it could and should be better.
Phew! That’s it. The rest is up to you! 



What does engagement look like?

How do you spot an engaged employee?

Well you probably know who they are because I bet they are your go-to person to get things done! But looking a bit more closely, engaged employees:

• use their talents daily;
• have high energy;
• are committed to the organisation;
• live and breathe organisation values;
• build connections and professional networks;
• are pro-active;
• solution rather than problem focused;
• demonstrate consistent levels of high performance, and very importantly;
• help make the organisation more profitable.

On the other hand, disengaged Employees:

• are often unsure what is expected of them;
• do not feel committed to the organisation;
• focus on task not outcome;
• are low energy and may be constant ‘complainers’ or ‘gossips’;
• may actively seek to disengage others – negative networkers;
• problem rather than solution focused;
• are unlikely to demonstrate all corporate values consistently;
• do the minimum in terms of performance, and very importantly;
• cost your company money.

A great intranet as part of a meaningful engagement strategy can deliver powerful performance results!