Illustration intranet best practices to boost employee experience

Every day, people across your health system are logging into your intranet. How can you make it the best it can be? To answer that question, we turned to Erin Lickliter, vice president of Associate and Clinical Communications at Bon Secours Mercy Health (BSMH) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Erin has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, and the intranet is a priority for her internal communications team. Erin shared six intranet best practices every marketing professional should know.

Q: Let’s start with the basics. What is an intranet?

When done well, the intranet is a source of truth for employees. It’s the one place they can go to find all the information and resources they need to help them do their jobs and understand the organization. It’s also a place for culture building. It connects associates to the company’s mission and their colleagues and peers through storytelling.

Q: How can an intranet boost productivity?

The intranet can be a really powerful tool. Some benefits include:

  • It’s always there, versus an email that goes out at a certain time. So, people can check it whenever they need it, even if they’re working a night shift.
  • Once you’re on the intranet, there is a lot of other information you can find. This one place leads them to other sources of information and inspiration, whereas an email is specific.
  • The intranet is searchable, so it makes it easier to find what you need and ultimately save time.
  • It can help reduce misinformation because it’s a central place to keep documents/info/policies that are the most up-to-date and vetted as correct.

As useful as an intranet is, you can’t rely on it as the only source of internal communications because associate populations are diverse and need multiple communication channels.

As someone who has worked in this space for many years, give us your top tips for intranet best practices.

OK, here are a few ideas to help you maximize your intranet content and usage:

1. Incentivize associates to use the intranet

If your intranet is new or is undergoing a revamp because it has historically been not so good, associates will not be in the habit of using it. To change this, there has to be a draw – something they have to have so they will definitely come to the intranet.

At BSMH, a huge draw is the quick links page – a list of links to resources that people look for all the time. Examples include links to:

  • IT self-service forms (request equipment, learn how to do something)
  • Timekeeping system
  • Recognition program to celebrate a teammate
  • Safety resources

Another way to keep the intranet top of mind: At BSMH, any time someone opens the web browser, it opens to our intranet page.

We also use other channels to drive them to the intranet. For example, we might put a short blurb in an email with a link to the intranet to read the rest of the story.

2. Get feedback from users

If you want people to go to a website, it has to be what they want. We are always listening to our associates and what they tell us about what’s working or not working. We just completed a communication audit – focus groups and surveys – where we asked users directly about their experience.

3. Let the data guide you

We use analytics to show us how people are using the site – to see what resonates with them and is most meaningful.

For example, we look at search – are associates finding what they need? We track the most common terms searched, which gives us a clue about what users want. We ask: Are they searching for that because it’s hard to find and we should move it? Is it even there for them to find? We can then make sure that content is there for them and that it’s easy to find.

We also use analytics to find out where people spend their time. We can leverage that information to capture people’s attention for important messages we want them to see. For example, we put a banner at the top of the most popular pages encouraging associates to take our associate survey. This can also help cut down on the number of emails we have to send.

4. Learn as much as you can about your users

The vast majority of our workers are not on a computer most of the day or it’s shared with other people. We try to go to their environment to see how they work. Associate space is small, and there’s not a lot of privacy. But we also have remote workers performing corporate functions who are in front of a computer all day. We take all these factors into consideration with what we post and how we set it up.

People have very little time, and we want to be respectful of their time. We try to make the site easy to navigate with the fewest clicks. We think about people who don’t use it every day and set it up to meet their needs – sometimes what you, as an internal communications person who uses the site every day, think is the most logical, is not.

Knowing your users also helps you personalize their experience. While we are a larger organization and system-wide communication is important, the feedback and data also tell us associates are invested and interested in what is closest to them and their every day. We have pages dedicated by roles or geographic location, so they see the information most related to their day-to-day job and also what’s local.

5. Set your content owners up for success

A lot of our content is crowdsourced. Our internal communications team owns the content in a few sections, but subject matter experts (SMEs) populate the content in other areas.

An example is the Quality and Safety team. They have their own section about patient safety where they can post information about policies and programs, etc. We consult with content owners on the best way to present their content. They learn the process and get certified to be able to post and edit.

Your intranet might start out great, but it can easily become unusable if people can do whatever they want. Not everything belongs on an intranet. Provide clear guidance for SMEs.

6. Add inspiration to the information… And keep it fresh!

Our associates tell us that the organization’s mission, vision and values are the most important thing to them – that they are inspired by those things. So, we post stories about our associates – stories that showcase their work, how they’re living out our mission, something they’ve done and their career journey. We show and not tell what the experience is like for an associate.

We have a feature section on the home page. And we always have new content, which helps keep them coming back. Someone might go to the intranet because they have to enter their PTO, but while they’re there, they find a dynamic home page with interesting stories. We want our intranet to be a digital extension of our workplace that helps associates feel good at the end of a tough day. 

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