Intranet Best Practice
Determinants of self-service take-up
Substantial funds have been invested by companies on implementing internal web sites, and more recently on developing HR competencies for the intranet to facilitate employee and management ‘self-service’. The aim is often to increase employee understanding of company goals and procedures and reduce workload on key personnel, enabling them to become more strategic. Furthermore intranets can provide a greater degree of flexibility for individuals and groups as well as assist in the creation of a ‘learning organization’ where change becomes easier. However, despite the potential benefits to both the individual and the organization, utilisation of these systems is generally low. This brief offers an overview of best practice in ensuring employees are motivated to use company intranets on an ongoing basis.
Best Practice Advice:
- Ensure each business area or department that is being represented on the intranet are involved in the design, implementation, evolution and diffusion of their web sections. Better still, ensure they plan and define their expectations and use of the web to ensure goal attainment. The system is far more likely to be effective if it is business needs driven.
- Ensure the end users are monitored and asked for feedback on the web sections and any later changes.
- Ensure the intranet has enthusiastic support from the very top – and that this is disseminated in a controlled manner.
- Ensure all information on the web is important, relevant to users jobs and of benefit to them in their work. It should also be up to date. If you can include aspects of work that they have to use, or will be motivated to use because it is simpler (such as forms of ‘self-service’), that will help increase usage.
- Do make available a searchable, easy to navigate, repository of information. Whilst care should be taken not to overload people with too much information, research shows staff can become more productive if they do have easy access on the intranet to a range of company documentation.
- Do ensure people are given recognition for any work published or pages developed on the web, this not only increases motivation but ensures changes can be communicated to the right person, increasing accuracy and reliability.
Technically the system must be fast, reliable, and easy to use. If staff have to invest time finding information and/or struggling with the system, they will give up. There are detailed best practice guidelines for the technical development of websites available, which include best use of colour, format and content presentation, identifying new items, ensuring no broken links, and reducing the number of clicks/ease of navigation. These should be adhered to.
Things to Avoid:
- Do not leave it all to the IT department to organise. They can only take responsibility for the technical aspects, not motivating individuals or selling business practices. The strategic effectiveness of intranets can also be adversely affected if content and structure is left solely to IT.
- Do not assume that staff will start to use it in time, or after a short initial training course. They will need good reasons for using the system as well as ease of use.
- Do not use as a general data repository or an uncontrolled mass-communication device. People suffering from information overload actually reduce the time and effort spent on the system and can miss the information that is valuable.
Developing these areas of best practice should enable companies to ensure that investment in intranets is not wasted.