Employee Engagement

8 tips for improving intranet adoption

July 28, 2021


Julian Morency

8 tips for improving intranet adoption 

It’s sometimes said that once an intranet launches that the real hard work begins. Improving adoption is certainly a big-ticket item for intranet teams, and is a focus for much of their activity. It’s often regarded as a key indicator of success, and a way to get the most out of your investment in an intranet platform. 

But how do you actually increase adoption? What are the tactics you need to employ to get an uptake in numbers that will impress your senior sponsor? And what do we actually mean by adoption? Unfortunately, there is no single magic ingredient that will guarantee an increase in adoption. Instead, there are a variety of approaches that need to be carried out, focusing on meeting the needs of users as well as removing any associated barriers.

In this post, we’re going to cover 8 approaches that can support better intranet adoption.

  1. Work out what you want to achieve

Adoption is a widely used term in the intranet and digital workplace world, but all too often, teams haven’t thought about what “adoption” actually means. Adoption becomes a general term entailing more users, more views, more something, rather than the kind of usage that will really drive value and move the needle on specific business goals. 

This translates to a focus on increasing the number of daily or monthly active users, visits to the intranet or downloads of the app. Of course, those are important, but if you define more specific goals about the kind of adoption you want to achieve, you can then target efforts to drive adoption more effectively. Perhaps you want more managers to visit a Manager Hub on the intranet? Perhaps you want more people to use the intranet for employee self-service around IT and HR tasks to drive efficiency? Maybe you want more frontline staff to access the intranet to improve employee engagement? By defining the audience, the feature on your intranet or app and the kind of usage you want to encourage, you can then home in on notching up those numbers. 

  1. Focus on processes and getting things done

People use intranets primarily to get things done or complete tasks. They might be finding a piece of information they need to carry out their role, trying to complete a simple transaction like booking annual leave, or discovering how to do something that is part of a key organisational process. They may also use the intranet as a convenient front door to the wider digital workplace with links to popular apps.

Internal communications and news are very important parts of an intranet, but they’re rarely the main purpose for visiting. Focusing on use-cases involving key processes and task completion is a great way to drive adoption and make your intranet truly essential to everyday work. 

Employee self-service relating to HR and IT tasks, integration with key applications, key links to tools and pages, central app directories, embedding forms and workflow, personalised lists of collaboration sites, knowledgebases of “how-to” information, task-orientated navigation, access to user support communities or central policy libraries - these are the kind of intranet content and features that help support good adoption, making your intranet the hub for everyday work.

  1. Make content trusted and purposeful

The quality and usefulness of content on your intranet or related app is critical for its success. If you have swathes of content that is out-of-date, inaccurate and without much of a purpose, employees simply aren’t going to want to read it. This can have a serious impact on adoption which will often worsen over time: when content isn’t trusted, employees stop visiting your intranet so content owners don’t bother keeping it up-to-date, thus adoption continues to dwindle - it’s like everybody has abandoned ship.

Conversely, if you ensure content is accurate, timely, purposeful, well-written and relevant, adoption can thrive. Employees want to read content that is engaging and helps them stay informed or complete a task. Of course, making that happen is easier said than done and requires content governance in place including having defined publishing standards, a programme of content owner training and content management processes. We’ll cover governance in more detail in a future post.

  1. Make iterative improvements based on measurement and feedback

Building up good adoption is not something that is achieved overnight, and is more of an ongoing process. When you work on a basis of continuous improvement, taking a data-driven approach to making iterative changes to content and features that bring something to users, you can really start to build adoption in a more sustainable manner. When users start to see your intranet is getting better and better because it actually is getting better and is focused on their needs, you’ve found a good formula for adoption success.

Continual improvement cannot be based on assumptions. It must be driven by employee feedback and analytics to gain the insights to make the right changes and prioritise adding features. There are efficient ways to do this including making sure you measure the right things (and take in a variety of different numbers), encouraging employee feedback through different channels and even creating a specific group who give you valuable feedback on a regular basis. 

  1. Add people-centric content and features

In my experience, adding more people-related content and features on your intranet can certainly attract more intranet visits. This can range from information about company benefits, to stories featuring everyday employees, to a feed of peer shout-outs, to providing access to online communities. This latter feature could include groups relating to interests outside work such as sports, recipes and yes, even pictures of cats. Adding more people-focused content and capabilities can help an intranet feel less corporate and more like a place that employees want to continue coming back to.

  1. Create a network of intranet ambassadors 

Intranet adoption definitely benefits from a group of intranet or digital workplace champions who can drive awareness of the intranet among their peers. Messages about the value of the intranet from local champions are frequently delivered in the context of how local or departmental teams work with specific use cases; messages from peers often resonate more than central, top-down messages. 

Many small central intranet teams successfully leverage the energy of local voluntary ambassadors at launch, and sometimes also on an ongoing basis, to drive awareness of the intranet across the enterprise. This really can make a significant difference. 

  1. Remove all barriers to access

Sometimes the focus for adoption needs to be on fixing the issues that are inhibiting it. There can be many barriers to adoption, some of which are very basic. Does your entire workforce actually have access? For example, perhaps there are some frontline, outsourced or disconnected employees who do not have access, or need to access it through a mobile device but can’t. Are users required to log in? Not having single sign-on in place can be a major impediment. Sometimes having to go via VPN when accessing remotely can also be an issue. Are there any technical or performance issues? Slow page loading and glitchy experiences are the enemy of good adoption. 

As well as doing all you can to remove any barriers, it’s worth increasing the easy “routes” to your intranet to allow users straightforward access. Arranging links from other parts of your digital workplace, such as Microsoft Teams, and booting up the intranet when people use their browser are common tactics. Weekly email newsletters with a round-up of intranet news and links back to the intranet are another tried-and-tested approach.

  1. Target content and experiences through personalisation

For an intranet to be well-adopted, it has to be relevant for each individual user. Targeting content and experiences to different roles, divisions and locations by leveraging personalisation is the way to achieve this. Even if the targeting is relatively simple, it can make a real difference to adoption. Having relatively robust and complete profile data – often in Active Directory – is usually a dependency to deliver successful personalisation.

Keep on working at intranet adoption!

Improving adoption is a long-term project. Taking a holistic approach that focuses on continual improvement, centring on the needs of users as well as business value, will help drive sustainable adoption. When employees perceive that there is an intranet that is going to help them in their everyday work, they are more likely to return.

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