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Making Intranets Useful, not Just Usable


By Mark Anderson, CEO/CFO   |   Posted August 28, 2017

When it comes to intranets, there’s a big difference between usefulness and usability. Many organizations focus on making sure their intranet is usable by providing information that’s quick and easy to find. But it’s just as important for an intranet to be useful. To be effective, it should also provide the information and tools employees need to perform their duties each day. If it doesn’t, staff will be less likely to use it.

Determining What Employees Need
Understanding what employees need from intranets requires intentional exploration. But instead of asking staff members what they need, you can conduct a needs analysis to get a clear understanding of how they work, and the information they need to do their jobs. There are a variety of tools that can facilitate this process. For instance, you can use structured techniques like surveys, focus groups, interviews, task analysis and workplace observations to build a picture of the daily operations of your organization and employees’ work environment.

These techniques can make it much easier to determine the needs and issues within your organization. Then you can identify potential solutions that can enhance the usage and value of your intranet. For example, you can use the survey feature that’s built into intranets as a convenient way to poll employees. With targeted surveys, you can ask employees directly how they feel about policy changes, company news and other important issues that affect their jobs.

A survey can be an effective instrument for gathering information and insight from staff. And the employee feedback provided from surveys can be very valuable, especially if it’s given anonymously. Employees often feel free to express their genuine concerns when they can give anonymous responses. They also tend to make helpful suggestions through surveys, which can make it easier for your organization to develop real-world solutions. Organizations can also use the insight gleaned from employees to improve intranets, so they are more useful to staff.

Using Tools to Enhance Intranets
Useful tools are another important feature of intranets. For example, a search tool can increase productivity by making it faster and easier for staff to find information on your intranet site. An employee directory, organizational chart and employee profiles can speed up the process of identifying the most appropriate staff for tasks and special projects. And online training tools can help HR administrators manage courses, assessments and other training initiatives more efficiently online.

Tools like electronic forms, interactive calendars, and a ticket/help desk system can also boost the usefulness of intranets. An analytics tool can further enhance the functionality of intranets because it can help you determine how employees are actually using your content. With analytics, you can identify the kind of content employees want, care about and interact with on your site. Then you can use this insight to ensure your intranet site is presenting the most useful information for their needs.

Making Intranets Useful Through Relevance
Relevance is also an essential factor in making sure intranets are useful. This may be an obvious statement, but the more relevant the content on your intranet is the more useful it will be to employees. Intranets can have specific content for different departments, so that each employee gets the kind of information that relates to their work environment. Think about it: Sales staff would need quick access to accurate information about products, services and rates to be effective at making sales. But this information would be less critical to employees working in the maintenance or custodial department.

Obviously, not all people will be interested in the same kind of information on intranets. Having departmental pages can ensure employees receive information, news and other content that’s unique to their areas of responsibility. For example, the HR department has different issues concerning staff than the IT department. The HR section, might focus more on policies, procedures, training and general employment issues. But the IT department might feature content relating to major technology projects, cyber security and other technical issues.

Intranets can also weave relevance into other features to increase their usefulness. Take, for instance, your blog and FAQ section. You could use the blog to dispense helpful information and advice about some of the challenging issues employees are having. The posts could discuss solutions for problems concerning everything from clients to internal processes. Likewise, your FAQs could provide timely information that addresses questions employees are currently having about different issues. Using the communication tools available through intranets not only gives employees the information they need, but it can also help them become more productive and successful at work. And, ultimately, this can help build the success of your organization.

Keeping Intranets Updated
Understanding how employees work and employ information is only part of the formula for making intranets useful. You also need to ensure the content on your intranet site is accurate and up to date. Information that’s outdated or incorrect will quickly become obsolete and virtually useless. Remember, an intranet can be a valuable communication tool—but only if it has helpful and reliable content.

Key areas that should be kept updated are policies and procedures as well as information about rates, products and services. It’s also essential to make sure your employee directory, training initiatives, and company news are current. Providing your staff with quick access to updated information can help enhance efficiency and keep your organization running smoothly.

Intranets can be valuable communication tools when they’re both usable and useful. So make sure your organization is offering an intranet that provides helpful information and tools that make employees’ jobs easier.


Previously:Tips for Managing News on Your Employee Portal  Next:How Directors Can Get the Most From a Board Portal