GenY to the Xpower

6 things your intranet probably has, but shouldn’t by Valerie Hoven
August 17, 2010, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Intranet

So there are hundreds of articles out there that tell you the “must-haves” for an intranet. We must have fresh content, easy navigation, a people-finder, collaboration, a governance plan… Yaddy yadda.  So we know the 5 functions and 10 things and 7 pages every intranet must have. But what about what we shouldn’t have?

By now, we know what we should do, but what about the things that we keep doing and should stop. I mean, social media is all the rage now, and we keep seeing articles warnings companies not to hire the 20-something-intern to do it. But why doesn’t intranet feel that love, too?

In my humble gen-Y opinion, intranets still aren’t valued much in the USA. Before I was named the intranet administrator for two hospitals, my intranet was managed by an HR secretary. The bosses hated the Sharepoint look (see exact discussion here), so they sent her to a two-day training in Dreamweaver, and she went to town. The other hospital’s intranet didn’t even have a manager. It was just sort of there (put there by IT) and some people found it, little used it. Based on my short two years as an intranet manager, here’s some things that you’re intranet might have but shouldn’t have.

1) A look from outer space.
Don’t give your a look that looks nothing like your company’s style. Generally, companies have some sort of theme or style guide that their communications adhere to. Maybe they have some general colors they use. Well, stick to something like that. I’m not saying your intranet must look exactly like all of its other media, just make sure employees know they are on their company’s intranet and not some school teacher’s website. When I came on board, my intranet used two main colors – orange and purple. My company uses blue and white on almost every publication, letterhead and website. But for some reason, it was decided that the intranet should be orange and purple. Not really a best practice.

2) A giant banner.
Your giant banner takes up a third or even half the page. This was a problem not only on my intranet, but on my company’s website. People love banners, and it is popular real estate. But the most important part of the page is its content, so don’t blow most of it with a banner that names the title of the department with a picture of the team.

3) It’s all about me!
Yes, it’s OK to be proud of your intranet, but don’t be selfish. A number of my employees expressed in a survey that they don’t like seeing news just from their hospital/corporation. They wanted to see industry news. Consider a RSS feed showing headlines in your own industry.

4) It’s all in the family.
Don’t link only to your other intranet sites. Consider just linking to your own company website or external news sites featuring your hospital. Similar to #3, my employees said they didn’t just want internal information. Not only did they want industry news, they wanted to hear success stories. My employees wanted to hear patient stories, specifically. Well, our marketing team is constantly writing patient stories and pitching them to media or using them in our own marketing publications. I started posting the links to those stories, and they reach 100+ hits in a few days. And the links are outside our intranet, usually to our website or local news stations.

5) It’s none of your business.
An intranet can blow if it’s purely marketing. While news is the #1 reason my employees visit the intranet, they also said they wanted to see more stuff about our company’s bottom line. Make sure your intranet features the company’s business reports, like financial goals, sales earned, etc. (For me, it would be our surgeries completed, beds filled, etc.)

6) You’re social, but not popular.
So you have discussion boards, forums, wikis, but no one uses them. I’m a huge fan of the web 2.0 elements, but don’t rush it. But for the ones with it, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because it’s cool, or else you will end up just like all those girls at parties trying to be cool, but no one gives you the time of day. If people aren’t using your discussion board, take it down and try again. Re-evaluate. If your social parts become static, and that’s just bad news bears.

In closing, know that there are lots of don’ts for your intranet, but I hope they are obvious, not like the ones above. Examples include – crowded homepage, outdated content, broken links, no buy-in from leadership, and the list goes on and on… but most other intranet experts cover that stuff. See other resources for examples. Just know that sometimes it’s not obvious that your intranet blows – or at least could be improved.


3 Comments so far
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So true about item #5 … If marketing/communications manager responsible for Intranet homepage decides to have news items similar to what they posted on the internet website targeting public/customers, it does not serve much purpose to employees.
Also, staying consistent with the corporate style helps employees recognize the site as their “official in-house site”, specially if employees have access to corporate documents/policies through the intranet. I have seen in some cases, look-feel of Intranet resemble the Internet site, but customized enough to easily distinguish it from the internet website.

Comment by Vik P.

nice points, Vik!

Comment by Valerie Hoven

6 things your intranet probably has, but shouldn’t « GenY to the Xpower…

This article has been submitted to IntranetLounge, a website with a collection of links to the best articles about intranets…

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