Why You Need An Intranet Communications Plan

We recently wrote about all the reasons why modern intranet and enterprise portal projects can fail based on mistakes or misjudgments made throughout the design process. Today we’re taking a look at what internal communications and intranet teams need to do once the project has been finished.

71% of daily intranet visitors only use their intranet for one or two basic tasks

According to Nielsen Norman Group research, whilst 71% of corporate employees use the Intranet every day, most of what they do is just look up a corporate phone number or read the latest corporate news. Even if you’ve spent time, money and effort building a comprehensive enterprise portal, there’s a good chance people are getting as much use out of it as they would from a phone book.

Imagine if you could convince this 71% to take full advantage of all the deeper features and functionality that your painstakingly built, ultra-modern intranet has to offer. Not only will your Intranet be more successful, but both productivity and employee retainment will see massive increases.

To make this happen, you need an ongoing Internal Communications plan to promote your intranet

You almost certainly made a corporate announcement when you originally launched or redesigned your intranet. It might have been a cursory email directing people to the new portal, or a full series of launch events, virtual tours and training events. Whatever you did, selling the features and functionality of your corporate Intranet is an ongoing activity. Just as you need to market your products to customers, you need to continually sell the value of your intranet to employees.

“But why do I have to sell my Intranet to employees?”

Because if your employees do not effectively adopt your solution your company has wasted its money. Nothing will kill a project faster than the scent of wasted investment.

Of course, fear of a wasted investment can cut both ways. Committing to continued internal communications promotion is a significant investment and it may be difficult to get buy-in if the return on investment is unclear. This isn’t helped by the fact that ROI for intranet adoption can seem difficult to quantify, with many companies measuring success in “intangibles” according to Nielsen Norman.

It is very much possible to quantify ROI for continued intranet adoption, however, even for metrics which can seem intangible at first. At the recent Digital Workplace of the Year Awards, the judges singled out Cisco’s recent digital workplace initiatives for praise because they were able to quantify the concrete business benefits of their project.

Their initiative was focused around a singular goal – promoting the “enablement of a flexible workforce” – and engaged a broad range of stakeholders across Cisco to make this happen. As a result, they achieved staggering 17% increases in both employee engagement and workplace satisfaction, as well as a 15% improvement in world/life balance. These might seem like “intangibles”, but they directly resulted in dollar savings, including $60m thanks to lowered staff attrition rates.

A good communications plan is vital to achieving these kinds of savings

But what does a good Internal Communications plan for intranet adoption look like? Here’s what works in our experience.

Take the lead before launch

Your intranet communications plan should certainly make sure your intranet has branding that aligns with your external brand. You should definitely create blogs, run email campaigns and hold town halls before, during and after launch – all spelling out the unique features and benefits of your new intranet to the whole company, and to each individual business unit.

In the run up to launch, coordinating with both HR and IT is also vital to ensure that there are comprehensive intranet training sessions for existing employees as well as a full onboarding process for new employees.

At launch you can do everything from branded goodies, to intranet scavenger hunts and virtual tours – your intranet launch should be a memorable event, not just another IT upgrade. All of this will go a long way towards getting people involved and engaged. Be aware, though, that it may only last for so long. Many intranets (and particularly enterprise social networks) have launched to fanfare and high levels of adoptions only to become slightly less active than a graveyard after only a few months.

Making employees your biggest advocates

To keep momentum going after launch, you need to switch to a bottom-up intranet communications approach and recruit employees advocates from across your organization. Take more of a backseat role and recruit subject matter experts to share their advice and knowledge. People are far more likely to actively use your intranet if they can get advice on how to deal with obstructive customers from another contact center agent or if they can read about what’s coming the next couple of quarters from one of your product managers.

Working with your intranet team to carry out user research can be an invaluable internal communications tool

At the same time working with your intranet team to carry out user research can be an invaluable internal communications tool. Whilst this might seem more like the role of a User Experience professional, it has a double-sided communications role – you can learn how the intranet fits into the day-to-day lives of employees and you can actively involve them in the ongoing development of your intranet. Not only will you have a clearer idea of how to position your intranet to different departments, employees will feel like they have more of a stake in its development.

Again, your intranet is not just another IT system to use or HR process – it should be a living, breathing digital extension of your office and you should aim to make employees as invested in your intranet as they are in the quality of the office coffee or the temperature of the office floor.

These initiatives take time, careful planning and vigorous efforts to get management buy-in, but before you know it you’ll be seeing real returns in employee satisfaction and retention.

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