Updated: Nov 18, 2020
When it comes to intranet best practices, we live in a golden age of transparency. With publications like the Nielsen Norman Group’s Intranet Design Annual and competitions like the Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards it has never been easier to peek behind the curtain and see what others are doing and put our own efforts into perspective.
Yet there’s another — less obvious — set of standards our employees judge us by every day, and we ignore them at our peril.
If Amazon knows what I want, why doesn’t my employer?
Your employees don’t know much about intranet best practices and they probably don’t care. Instead their judgment of your intranet is formed by the experiences they have every day on the consumer web. And they bring those expectations to work with them.
When they log in to your intranet each morning, they’re thinking about sites like Amazon and Netflix that recognize them automatically, show them personalized content and let them pick up where they left off yesterday.
When they use search to find what they need, they’re thinking about Google. The less your search works like Google, the more disappointed they will be.
When they read your company news, they’re comparing the experience to favorite media sites like the New York Times, CNN.com or TMZ.
Your emails and alerts are being compared to the increasingly snappy and relevant communications they receive at home from the world’s leading retailers.
When they check their employee benefits they’re thinking about the increasingly sophisticated and simple experiences they have with leading benefits providers like Fidelity and Vanguard, or modern personal finance sites like Mint.com and Betterment.
When they try out those new social intranet features you rolled out, well, you know who they’re comparing you to.
Does your video work like YouTube? Is your intranet accessible easily and everywhere like Facebook? And let’s not even talk about mobile. Chances are you’re just getting started, while out there rages a renaissance of consumer innovation and delight.
“The pace of innovation in digital today is thrilling, overwhelming and accelerating. Intranets are subject to these forces too.”
How do you compare?
No matter how big your organization and intranet is, you will never have the financial or engineering resources that Google and Amazon do. Thankfully your employees understand this and don’t really expect you to keep up. The name of this game is not to keep up per se, but to avoid falling so far behind expectations that you alienate your people and damage your employer brand.
Here are a few suggestions:
Focus on the spirit over the letter. Don’t try to copy the best of the consumer web. Instead conceive features within the spirit of those experiences, focusing on key user expectations and reflecting the overall feel. You might be surprised how far this can take you.
Prioritize more ruthlessly. Stop trying to do it all and instead settle on an intranet that does more with less. Decommission features that aren’t used much. Add functionality only when resources allow you to do it really well. This might sound obvious but there are too many bloated intranets out there.
Test everything first. Before rolling out new or improved features, test them with employees in prototype form to confirm that they’re ready for prime time. Or in fact needed at all.
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