I get a lot of requests from clients looking to me to build them the perfect intranet that does it all with a long list of features. More often than not, however, there are only really a handful of features that actually get used (I know, I see the Google Analytics reports in the backend!). Often intranets arise from the realization that a company isn’t communicating between remote employees or offices very well, or management decrees that company information needs to be shared better. Really, intranets are all about what employees want, since they are the majority of the users (vs management).
Employees want to find and connect with other employees and get timely information to get their jobs done. They also want to get paid, and have the HR tools available to receive benefits that they are entitled to. It’s a given that an intranet must be secure, and easily accessible by employees, and above all easy to use. There are lists of other features requested, such as a collaboration, project or document management tools, but these often are not core to 95% of most intranet activities. Here’s my top 5 for the most common features requested below;
1) Employee Photo Directory
An intranet is all about people, and most importantly for many, finding people in your company to help you do your job. Most of the time you need their email address, or phone extension to check with legal or product marketing for resolving a quick issue. Most want to search by name to get a quick listing of contact details. The clear benefit of a well organized employee listing is accessing information from the right person to achieve your job responsibilities. Interestingly, one of the most handy features of an employee directory is knowing if a person is out of the office or on vacation. Also, employee photos are key, since many people like to put a face to a name. There is nothing worse that leaving a voice-mail or email with someone and waiting 3 days before you realize they were on vacation and forget to turn on an out of office alert!
2) Content & File Repository
Employees need to be able to find content to help them do their jobs. That may include sales or marketing tools, HR guidelines or legal policies and procedures, concerning what can or can not be said about a product for example. Having a powerful search function for content is key, and allowing tagging of content to sort and display available items is useful. At the end of the day, the top activity on an intranet is uploading or downloading content. Making content fun and interesting is important so that it actually gets read and passed around. Allowing comments below content is a great way to add interaction with it. Keeping content fresh and removing old content is always important, so having a system of reviewing or purging old items is a good idea.
Photos, contests, staff interviews, recognition awards and polls are common elements of frequently read content. Always hook up Google Analytics or similar tracking to your intranet to measure what is hot and what is not. Also, it’s a given these days that your intranet must be mobile friendly, especially for remote staff or sales. Intranet sites that show menus and content dynamically down the screen of a smartphone will be more likely used and effective for road-warrior employees.
3) Forms, Forms, Foooorms!
HR forms are vital to an intranet that will actually be used. Employees are above all concerned with getting compensated and managing their benefits. Forms for employee health benefits, expense claims and maternity/leave requests are always the most trafficked areas of the intranet. Having forms that can be filled out online and that offer sortable reports for viewing and download is a huge time saver for the HR Manager.
4) Real-time Activity Feeds
All the buzz around “social media” really boils down to real-time commenting. Think Facebook’s “What’s on your mind” applied to the work environment, which could be “What are you working on?” (see our demo). Giving employees free reign to post comments (can be moderated by an administrator) empowers them to share what they are working on. Allowing workers to give shout-outs to colleagues who have helped them or gone above and beyond is a great tool for boosting morale and offering recognition. Also, management can post real-time updates on corporate events, employee issues or turn-over, which is more on a Twitter-like instant time schedule and avoids that “did you get the memo?” scenario.
5) Interactive Tools
Keeping employees engaged with an intranet means that they want opportunities to interact with it. An event calender that updates employees on upcoming events, staff meetings, key launch dates or promotions is always frequently viewed. Posting a survey to poll employee interest or feedback on corporate initiatives or event pending product launches provides instant feedback for management decision making. Making content more interactive with a wiki approach (think wikipedia.org) where it is editable by those with specific permissions can help keep content current.