By Cathy Dew
In a previous blog post, we discussed why having an intranet is so important for a modern enterprise. From communication and collaboration to the establishment of company culture, we looked at the many ways in which an intranet can have a positive impact on a business. What we didn’t delve into much—at least not in great detail—was the features that a great intranet should have.
Every intranet is a bit different, depending on the needs of the organization at hand. However, most intranets have a few commonalities in structure and function. Simply put, some applications are useful for virtually every enterprise—regardless of industry, market, size, or other such factors. Below, we have a compiled a list of what we think are the top ten must-have features in an intranet. If you are thinking about building an intranet for your enterprise, make sure each of these features is somewhere in your blueprint.
1. Employee Intranets need document management features
Many businesses adopt intranets first and foremost as document management solutions. Simply put, the days of the physical filing cabinet are in the rearview. Today, most company documents exist digitally—whether on a server, on someone’s hard drive, or in an email inbox. An intranet can put them all in one place, so they are easily discoverable and accessible for your end users. With a central repository you can be sure that everyone has the most recent version. And you can stop clogging up everyone’s in-box. At the same time, your intranet should provide ways to organize your documents into different libraries, as well as to give those documents adequate security protections.
2. Employee Intranets need amazing search capabilities
Document management means getting a handle on your documents – all of them. Your document repository isn’t scalable without an amazing search function. If your company is storing hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of documents on your intranet, then you need a search function that can cut through the noise and help you find what you are looking for at a moment’s notice. Intranet technologies, like SharePoint, rely on metadata to categorize and organize documents and information into easily searchable databases.
3. Employee Intranets need to include an employee directory
Right after document management, the second most important capability for an intranet is communication. As it becomes increasingly common for employees to telecommute or work in different offices around the world, the need for seamless communication across digital channels is becoming more and more important. By including an up-to-date employee directory that any user can access at any time, your intranet can help foster stronger and quicker communication between different offices and teams.
4. Employee Intranets need a knowledge base
Employers spend a lot of money and time on employee onboarding and training. An underrated function of intranets is their ability to cut down on these inefficiencies. A knowledge base—made up of wikis, FAQs, how-to guides, and other constantly-accessible resources—can essentially allow new employees to onboard themselves. From information about company policies to instructional videos on how to use critical internal software systems, the knowledge base can answer many of the questions that newer employees used to have to ask their bosses or managers. Building this knowledge base will take some work and will require the cooperation of many experts throughout your organization. However, in the long run, the initial effort will be worth the investment.
5. Employee Intranets need to provide a convenient way to disseminate local and global news
The days of sending out office memos are over. With intranets, it’s easy to share local (departmental) and global (organization-wide) news with people to whom that news is relevant. From the latest quarterly financial report to announcements regarding benefits packages or job opportunities, so many communications can be disseminated in this fashion. Since most employees are using the intranet every single day, news items can be displayed prominently without clogging up email inboxes. Your intranet must have ways to post or share global and local news.
6. Employee Intranets need to provide areas for team and departmental collaboration
Your intranet needs to support easy creation of individual team or department sites where smaller groups can gather to chat, brainstorm ideas, or work together on project documents. These team sites also provide a great place to post news bulletins that aren’t relevant to the entire organization, but apply to the department or team in question. These sites might include chat or email functionality, social features, document sharing applications, and more.
7. Employee Intranets need to integrate with other business apps
No intranet exists in a vacuum. Just because you can do a lot of things within your intranet doesn’t mean you stop using other enterprise business apps like ADP, Agile, Kronos, Taleo, and Innotas. Creating an index page featuring a grid of your apps allowing employees to launch the application (Single Sign On is a bonus) or to Learn More. For each application, create a page with a description of the app, a contact to request access, links to training materials and in some cases, announcements from the vendor. The goal is to continue to position your Intranet as a destination for everything employees need.
Bonus points in you are using Office 365 and SharePoint online. One of the reasons that SharePoint is so popular for building enterprise intranets is that it integrates so seamlessly with Microsoft’s suite of products, from Word to OneDrive to mini application builder tools like Power BI and Microsoft Flow. Team collaboration in particular is greatly enhanced with integrated document collaboration, workflows and summary KPI data available to the team.
8. Employee Intranets need to include a “shout-out” function
Rewarding and recognizing employees for strong performance is an integral part of workplace culture and motivation. As the days of having every employee in one office become fewer, these kinds of “shout outs” are losing some of their potency. Intranets have the power to create an online feed of employee-generated shout outs or recognitions of their colleagues. With employee recognition tools, it’s possible for team members to praise co-workers, team members, or even their boss for their contributions. Often this feature allows the recognizer to select the value the employee and includes the location of the person being recognized. The results is a “twitter-like” feed of shout outs. Depending on the company culture, the tool may include an approval step. . The result is a forum in which anyone can praise the work of anyone else, which can help foster teamwork and strong morale.
9. Employee Intranets need to provide a way to share and promote events
Every intranet needs a calendar function of some sort. Calendars can serve multiple functions, from helping teams keep track of their project deadlines to promoting company-wide events. For instance, if there is an annual holiday party coming up, or if you are trying to get employees to participate in a wellness challenge, an intranet is a terrific way to share that information.
10. Employee Intranets need a learning center
Ongoing employee learning and development is an extremely effective tool for combating burnout, dissatisfaction, and turnover. Your intranet should include a spot where employees can see what learning opportunities are available, browse upcoming seminars and conference events that may be of interest to them, or even engage in e-learning courses relevant to their jobs.
2Plus2 is your Employee Intranet partner
An intranet can and should be a multifaceted resource with a slew of different functions and tools for your employees to use. At 2 Plus 2, we specialize in helping enterprises like yours build powerful and versatile Employee intranets. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.