Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.
The majority of companies globally have switched to hybrid remote work.
This is a shift that requires a different way of thinking and working. Less face-time means a great need to find information wherever you are.
Enter: the employee intranet.
Employee intranets are personalized platforms that drive employee engagement at every level and help keep hybrid and remote teams connected and productive.
The only question is: What is this technology and how do you ensure your team gets the most out of it?
What is an Employee Intranet?
At its core, an employee intranet is a private communication channel used for a single company.
The idea of the intranet began in the 1960s when ARPANET (the foundation of the internet) was first born.
The technology didn’t become a standard business tool until 1996, when Intranet Genie was launched to boost employee communication and collaboration with document sharing and messaging applications.
Today, this remote communication tool looks more like Facebook than a dated corporate IT tool.
Intranets allow employees across locations to share information, collaborate in real-time on various projects, and stay updated on any company news.
Essential elements of an employee intranet include:
- An easy-to-use interface.
- Content-sharing capabilities (images, files, videos, etc.)
- Integration with other productivity tools.
And because it’s 2023, the intranet must work well on all remote workers' devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
Why Does an Employee Intranet Matter?
A well-structured employee intranet boosts communication, which is crucial to the success of any hybrid or remote team.
Other reasons you may use a system like this are:
Access to Information
A centralized repository of documents, data, and company resources allows your team to access what they need when they need it most quickly.
Having the right information at your fingertips significantly improves employee productivity, which is why documenting and giving access to information is one of the key pillars of remote-first companies like Gitlab and Buffer.
Connected Distributed Teams Across Timezones
You risk losing productivity and proper resource allocation due to asynchronous work whenever your business operates across different geographical locations or time zones. An intranet bridges these challenges by fostering unity and mutual understanding.
Onboarding New Hires
With new employees comes a wealth of challenges, so it’s no wonder that remote onboarding is one of the biggest challenges companies face. A well-structured intranet provides a clear pathway to orientation.
All necessary modules, resources, and methods are collected in a single place to transition smoothly into a new team member’s first 30-60-90 days.
Being the “new kid in town” is never easy, but even more so when you don’t have the employee handbook or the latest company updates.
Must-Have Features of an Employee Intranet
Research from Coveo shows that employees spend 3.6 hours per day searching for information, an hour more than the year before. It’s worse for IT employees, who spend half their day (4.2 hours) looking for the right information.
That means a quality-run intranet customized to resource sharing would significantly improve work satisfaction.
The good and bad news? There is no “one size fits all” employee intranet exists.
Finding the right solution for your team will depend heavily on your goals, culture, and practical needs. That being said, there are some standard features you should expect to see when shopping around, including:
- User-Friendly Interface: Make sure the UI/UX is clean, intuitive, and easy for anyone in your company to navigate. Team members should be able to quickly access the info they need without dealing with complex menus.
- Powerful Search Capabilities: You should be able to find the precise documents, texts, or messages you need. Look for an intranet with robust search functions and filtering systems (date, sender, etc.).
- Document Management System: Want to get your docs to the right person through 24/7, 365 days a year access? Offer a centralized storage system with control rights to manage all your files.
- Mobile Accessibility: Phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, and any other device your team uses should be able to access your intranet remotely. It should be viewable on any screen size.
- Integrated Communication Tools: Many intranets boost communication through added chat functionalities or video conferencing integrations. That allows meetings to take place any time, day or night.
- Calendar and Event Scheduling: An integrated calendar can help coordinate events, meetings, and reminders, ensuring everyone's on the same page. This is equally important for critical project dates or upcoming vacations.
- Feedback and Survey Tools: The more your team can provide feedback on your intranet, the better you can streamline its operations. Continuous improvement is the name of the game.
- Social Features: Features like message boards, comment sections, and "likes" can make the intranet more engaging and community-driven. That creates a higher engagement favorability with your team members as they feel “a part” of the real-time conversation.
- Task and Project Management: This is critical for managers just as much as entry-level workers. You want everyone on the same page of every project you have ongoing. Just be sure there are access controls based on the job roles of individual team members.
- Notification and Alerts: Real-time notifications ensure employees stay updated about important announcements, tasks, or updates relevant to them. If your office is closed because of bad weather, or you want to celebrate a recent goal achievement – here is where you do it!
- Analytics and Reporting: Data-driven decision-making is how to remain competitive today. Use your intranet to gain insights into how team members interact, your efficiency levels, and more.
Finally, look at security features or integrations available on your intranet. You don’t want to risk critical internal resources being leaked. You also want the legacy tools you’re using to remain in use when onboarding a new intranet.
The needs may vary depending on company size, industry, and culture. These foundational features ensure that an employee intranet serves its purpose effectively.
Launching Your Employee Intranet
Integrating a new employee intranet may seem overwhelming initially, but a little prep work ahead of time goes a long way.
Choose Affordable Software or Leverage Existing Tools
Keeping a close eye on your budget is important.
An effective employee intranet doesn’t always have to be the most expensive option available. Several platforms cater to teams and unique needs of all sizes. You can find a solid option for your team that has a large number of remote workers.
Most of the top “easy to try” employee intranets can be quickly adapted to serve your unique team needs without sacrificing the current apps, tools, or processes you are already used to using.
Some of the more popular employee intranet tools you hear about include:
- Happeo – great for keeping your team socially connected.
- SharePoint – pretty comprehensive and works well with most Microsoft apps.
- Simpplr – a Google Workspace integration with more social elements than SharePoint.
- Confluence – good if you like team wikis or simple file repositories.
If nothing else, you can use digital communication tools like Slack to create separate digital rooms to discuss team needs, different projects you’re working on, and casual topics or watercooler moments.
No matter what you choose, keep scalability in mind. The more your team onboards new members, or you have to adjust to growing demand, the more you want your intranet to handle the weight.
Collaborate with Relevant Stakeholders
An employee intranet will be wasted if it is only to find a few remote team members. It can help you gauge the dynamics and connectivity of the whole across-the-globe team.
Having local representatives from different countries can help better understand their local teams' unique challenges and requirements. Then, ideas for higher engagement in the intranet will come!
You can lead an “investigative group” of diverse team members who can collaborate to find the best-fit intranet ideas for your unique working culture. This team-focused approach also works well for cross-departments.
Setting Up Intranet Content
There are so many things you can provide on your employee intranet.
Start with the essential documents and then get feedback from your team to know what to add next.
This could be an essential social feature where you share photos or a critical live document for everyone to contribute in real-time. Some other examples are:
- Calendar of Events
- Employee Directory
- HR Policies (vacation time, SOPs, etc.)
- Hybrid Work Initiatives
- Company Goals
- Current Projects
The thing to remember here is consistent updates are beneficial.
An outdated intranet with older information will likely lose its value for your team members. Keep things up to date when you can and consider assigning a single person from your team to run this system until you get the tool's full potential.
It’s never been easy introducing something new to someone. Until you make it a routine and… fun!
You can turn this into friendly-competitive games by awarding points/badges for those who post updates, comment, or visit new pages. A weekly updated leaderboard will surely motivate your team.
Then, give a sneak peek of it along with new features or highlight intranet posts in daily conversations with your team, even in Slack, to provoke more interest and engagement.
Try something like “Steve has already posted about his project’s progress and even a funny picture about his afternoon escape to the beach. What about you?”
Monitor and Optimize
A great team knows how to adapt to the world around them. The same is true for an employee intranet.
This is not a “set it and forget it” tool. You will want to remain flexible about changes based on how it works for your unique needs and data you get back from usage or team member behavior.
Think about what areas of the employee intranet see the most traffic and where you need to make small changes to get more engagement.
You may need to pivot based on the needs of your team members as they adapt to new projects.
Employee Intranet Advocates
The best employee intranets are a thriving ecosystem that will take a little maintenance.
Get everyone on the team involved in the process to drive adoption of different features.
Ask for help, and name advocates that can include department leads, regular users, or IT experts on your team.
All these advocates play a pivotal role in transforming an intranet from a simple tool to a highly engaging hub for employees. For example:
- Content Creators: People in your team or company that generate, update, and manage content. They ensure information remains relevant, fresh, and aligned with company and intranet objectives.
- Community Managers: Individuals tasked with creating a positive, inclusive, and active intranet environment. They facilitate discussions, address concerns, and spark engagement through interactive initiatives as a way to drive community at work.
- Technical Support: IT specialists who ensure the intranet platform runs smoothly, troubleshoot issues, and oversee regular updates and maintenance.
- Feedback Gatherers: Often, HR or other professionals who solicit, gather, and act on team feedback. They help understand how employees use the intranet and what improvements can drive engagement.
Creating Valuable Intranet Content
The content that engages your team members is at the heart of any new, thriving employee intranet. What kind of content will resonate most with your intranet readers relies highly on your team dynamics.
For example, some teams focused on medical work may like updates on the latest innovations in their fields. Others who do design and marketing might want to share fun memes as inspiration for future content creation.
As always, the better the content, the greater the attention. Doing this well will help you bridge the gap between onsite team members and those remote workers who cannot get a face-to-face connection.
Some of the more common content sources you can post include:
Team or Company Announcements
You want your team to be aware of any news and updates happening within the company. Many times, these communications come from leadership and are critical because they align with your team’s goals, values, and vision.
You have more space than little snippets on the intranet. Go wild with your documenting culture!
Transparency helps infuse every team member with proper insights into financial milestones, strategic shifts, or recently uncovered improvements. That establishes fantastic trust and keeps you all on the same page.
From a simple sheet on “what is the intranet” for new team members to an internal frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, your employee intranet can serve as a repository of valuable resources.
It takes time to build up these documents. But in about six months, your team can shift from "who can help me?" to "I actually have a place to go" and "I can look up this question."
Chris Dyer, one of our top 55 great hybrid and remote leaders, agreed that giving your people a place to find the information they need can be a game-changer for better communication and collaboration.
Some employee resource ideas are:
- Policies and Procedures: An easy-to-navigate section with team member rules, operational protocols, and guidelines that should be followed so everyone is on the same page.
- Member Wiki: An all-encompassing space for everything related to the team – its history, departments, products, or services. This would often be a directory that makes communication way easier.
- FAQs: Addressing common questions, from tech glitches in the employee intranet to how to use the hybrid work policy, is crucial to ensure smooth operations. This should be a living section that grows as more employees ask critical questions.
Employee-contributed content can be a goldmine of creativity and insight.
From spotlight interviews to how-to guides written by team members, this content adds a personal touch that helps promote interest and engagement.
Someone can share about their recent birthday and get well-wishes from the rest of the team. Or they can post their weekend ideas for the new project and ask for other’s comments.
This is fantastic for cultivating a strong community culture where you can thrive.
Onboarding and Training Modules
The employee intranet is an excellent platform for introducing new hires to the team and its culture.
You want to “grease the wheels” of bringing in new team members who do not know the ropes. The smoother that transition, the better they can focus on how their efforts improve the team.
Onboarding modules can range from videos detailing team history to interactive quizzes about hybrid work etiquette.
Training doesn’t just refer to new team members.
Current employees and people returning from parental or other long-term leaves may need insight into what’s new with the company, it’s products, and competitive developments.
This will require additional training that can be easily uploaded onto the employee intranet so everyone can enjoy it at any time of day or night.
Benefits & Payroll
Ensuring that details about benefits, payroll schedules, and associated procedures are readily accessible minimizes your time spent answering repetitive questions.
You want to focus your attention where needed most, and getting these standard questions out of the way helps you do your job.
A separate section detailing health benefits, financial incentives, bonuses, and paycheck breakdowns can streamline understanding and reduce potential disputes.
A great example of how this works is documenting what deductions or tax components are available for your specific business niche.
Even hosting periodic webinars where “time off” or health insurance rules are explained goes a long way toward encouraging greater employee engagement.
Social Support Features
Integrating social support features is vital to building a cohesive community at work, especially in hybrid or remote settings.
You want to develop a forum for team members to share personal achievements, shout-outs, or even a space to advertise individual interests or hobbies that can bring teams closer.
Think of this like the digital form of the “water cooler,” where fun details of the daily life your team experiences are shared and monitored.
Even having something as simple as a digital bulletin board for recent team achievements like running a marathon or joining a local soccer club can transform how everyone engages online.
Event Calendar and Social Initiatives
Every team has various events, from serious meetings to fun-filled annual get-togethers and BBQs.
A dynamic event calendar can help everyone stay on track by giving easy-to-read instructions on an upcoming event's when, where, how long, and why. They can easily arrange hybrid work schedules to not miss those fun.
Additionally, spotlighting social initiatives, like CSR activities, can motivate team members to participate actively. When you see how many people will attend a local dinner out for the team, you want to jump on board or risk a little FOMO.
User Feedback and Suggestions
Remember, an employee intranet should evolve based on the team’s needs. Create a feedback portal or a monthly survey asking your team what they'd like to see, what they find helpful, and areas for improvement.
Pulse surveys and open feedback forms like these help you make necessary adjustments to enhance the employee intranet and give you a snapshot of who is active and how to drive those who are not.
Like a flourishing garden, a valuable intranet requires nurturing, attention, and the right seeds. With these content ideas, you’re on the path to cultivating a resource-rich environment that employees will find indispensable.
How to Organize an Employee Intranet? Intranet Examples
You cannot read a book without well-known chapter headers or proper layouts. You don’t play golf without markers that tell you where to go next.
Similarly, your local intranet should be neat and easy for team members to quickly find necessary resources. To do this:
- Begin with a clear structure in mind. Try not to throw too many features onto a homepage and hope for the best. You want a layout that is logical and easy to read. Maybe break down info into departments, project teams, or types of resources.
- Try to design your employee intranet intuitively for a great team member experience. It should be as accessible to a newly onboarded person as your experienced members. That could mean including a search feature or hierarchy menu. One favorite is a “recent news or updates” section.
- Think of the homepage as a best-selling newspaper. It should feel “fresh” with highlights about the intranet for new joiners, current events, and maybe even a feature for recent employee achievements.
- As you build up your intranet, use permissions wisely. Not everyone needs immediate access to the calendar for hosting new events. Make it logical by decluttering the view of users to the specific sections relative to their role on the team.
Let’s take a look at an intranet example for remote teams.
Imagine that you want a social place where team members can fetch resources, socialize, collaborate, and grow collectively, no matter the physical distance. Your employee intranet's potential features are:
- Discussion Boards: Places where teams can discuss projects, but also where individuals can share personal victories or seek advice on challenges like balancing how to work at home.
- Interactive Polls and Surveys: Quick temperature checks on team initiatives or fun polls on the upcoming virtual team-building activity.
- Virtual Coffee Break Rooms: Informal spaces where your team can hang out based on their shared interests and discuss anything from the latest streaming show on Netflix to what news events are essential (just be sure to have an admin monitoring the boards).
- Interactive Onboarding Modules: These guide newcomers through the team's history, values, and culture. Think animated videos, quizzes, and engaging content that makes learning enjoyable.
- Mentorship Portals: Spaces where new hires can connect with assigned mentors or buddies, schedule check-ins, or seek guidance.
- Resource Libraries: Curated spaces with essential reads, be it team dynamics or understanding the company's product range.
By promoting a blend of work-related and personal interactions, this intranet helps avoid work-from-home loneliness of your remote team.
Employee Intranet: Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an employee intranet cost?
It’s hard to nail down a specific cost of an intranet as there are so many variables that would contribute to it.
How much you invest will vary based on what features your team will need.
A basic setup focused on communication via Slack could be free. Something more complex with additional features, for example, Sharepoint, will cost you more.
How secure should an employee intranet be?
Try to make your employee intranet as secure as you can.
This resource will house internal data and should have strong encryption, regular audits, and restricted access controls.
You don’t want your team's or client data's critical competitive advantages to get leaked.
What content should be included in an employee intranet?
Stick to anything your team needs to know, and then add a bit more.
Foster transparency by keeping everyone on the same page with regular updates about team news, resources, employee-generated content, training modules, and community boards, as discussed in our community at work article.
How to foster higher engagement for employee intranet?
Regularly update content, engage team advocates to drive adoption, and ensure the intranet aligns with your team’s needs.
Have an unveiling party and incentivize team members by telling them where critical info they need is located.
How can I automate onboarding processes on an intranet?
Use integrated tools that are available. A good example is automated training modules providing a step-by-step guide for new hires.
Make it clear and well-organized with a “Day 1” section similar to a university syllabus or a “how to” manual for a new video game. Clear and concise info is your friend.
Wrapping it Up
Your employee intranet will be different from everyone else’s that you see.
That is fantastic because your team is unique and requires different help than others.
Customizing it to your team's culture and daily processes goes a long way to making hybrid workers feel appreciated and heard. While you’re at it, feel free to celebrate this tool's many benefits to your team.
We hope this article has given you all the insights you need to move forward and succeed with an employee intranet. Take your time and research what features will work best for your team. A properly integrated employee intranet will drive your team to exceptional communication, collaboration, and cohesion.
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Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.