Your Intranet: Are Staff Maximizing It?

maximize your intranetToday’s intranets are powerful platforms doing the work that intranets have traditionally done — and so much more. Aside from archiving documents, today’s intranets can push content to users, enable users to communicate with each other, and work on mobile devices, such as tablets and smart phones.

But many organizations may find that adopting the latest, greatest, most powerful intranet platform does not translate into increased productivity, better communication, and enhanced collaboration.

Why not?

From what I’ve observed, the main reason is because “if you build it, they will come” does not apply to intranets. Just because you have the tool does not mean staff will use it, or use it properly. Most of the time, you launch a new intranet and then people just keep doing things the way they’ve always done.

They’ll keep sharing documents as email attachments. They’ll fill their shelves with paper copies of every single document, because they always want to have a copy at their fingertips. Your office still uses and shreds enough paper to warrant your very own landfill.

Sometimes it’s a matter of not knowing exactly what the intranet can do. Users may not know the new shiny object can actually make their lives easier and more efficient. Or they may know but don’t know how to work it. You gotta admit, we have a lot of technology to master, and we’re all sick of having to learn the next new thing.

The biggest obstacle, though, to maximizing your intranet is resistance to change. People want to keep doing what’s they’re used to, what’s gotten comfortable, even if the old way may not be the best way.

In this post, we’re going to talk about different ways you can overcome resistance to change.

When you set up a new intranet, you’re not just dealing with new technology. You’re also forcing your organization to change: change the way people think, the way people get things done. You’re trying to change an entire organizational culture. With patience, planning, and strategic thinking, you can encourage your co-workers to make the most of your intranet.

7 Ways to Encourage Staff to Use the Intranet to Its Fullest

1. Get express management support

We all know the support of management is essential to a successful intranet. But it’s not enough for them to sign off on paying for the intranet software. Your organization’s leaders must be vocal about their belief in the intranet. They must write about it, talk about it, and exploit your intranet’s features themselves.

2. Plan your strategy

Identify critical areas where your organization could get significant impact from your intranet. Make a list of your top priorities, and use that as the basis for your intranet-related projects. By focusing on high-impact areas of your intranet, you will get staff attention and buy-in for later, less sensational intranet features.

3. Get help from intranet champions

Identify, organize, and mobilize a group of intranet champions. These are staff members who are likely to be tech savvy, early adopters of new technology, and either already support the new intranet, or would be easy to win over. Ideally, your team of intranet champions cut across departments, locations, and positions in your company.

Share your priorities with them, and let them help you come up with ways to get your high-impact intranet projects underway. Have monthly meetings, in person or by web conference, to discuss how users can use the intranet more efficiently. They are also excellent sources of feedback from users.

4. Increase access

Today’s intranets are built on the assumption that your organization wants greater access to information, as well as the ability to create and share their own content. This is usually difficult for “traditional” organizations to accept and embrace. If your workplace is the type that doesn’t welcome internal messaging systems and employee blogging, then this will be a tough one for you. Go slowly, but don’t give up.

5. Show ’em the money

Monitor and share good and best practices of using the intranet. In the beginning, you may need to look outside your organization to demonstrate how other companies have reaped solid benefits from their intranet’s social and collaboration capabilities (ask your intranet vendor for case studies where you can get these good and best practices).

Or create your own success stories. Work with a project team or department on using the intranet to improve a mission-critical task. Examples include transforming paper forms into e-forms, and paper or PDF documents into intranet wikis. Get evidence — empirical and anecdotal — of how the intranet has improved this task or process.

6. Involve the staff association

The staff association is probably highly enthusiastic about the intranet. Sit down with them to make sure they’re able to maximize the intranet, too. They will find it useful for creating, archiving, and sharing staff newsletters, organizing special events, sharing information and documenting special events, running contests, and many more! The staff association could be an excellent source of intranet success stories (see number 5, above).

7. Put it in writing

As your organization’s attitudes and practices change, you will need to reflect such changes in your intranet policies and guidelines. Do what’s necessary to put things in writing, so that staff turnover doesn’t mean having to start over.

Are you struggling to get your intranet users to use the intranet to its full potential? What barriers are you experiencing? What have you tried that worked? Didn’t work? Share your experience in the comments below.

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