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Remember when you first got your intranet? Those were the days. There was so much hope, so much promise that this tool would help you overcome your workplace challenges.

But once that excitement wore off and you slipped back into the day-to-day, you were faced with the daunting task of maintaining that intranet.

The last thing you want is for your intranet to become a vacant lot — the place where documents go to die. But how do you keep your intranet interesting and effective so people actually use it? This article will offer advice about how to set yourself up for intranet success and how to maintain that success in the long run.

Break Old Habits, Then Maintain Participation

But before we discuss intranet success, it’s important to understand why a lot of intranets fail.

During the early stages, it’s generally because of employee resistance to change. Once your intranet is up and running, it’s time to embrace it, and that often means saying goodbye to old tools and old communication habits. But that’s where a lot of companies struggle. Humans are creatures of habit.

Although you have deployed a fancy new tool designed to make life easier, people revert back to old communication habits (like using messaging apps or reply-all emails).

The second challenge you may face is maintaining a high level of participation. Once more people start using your intranet, you need to keep them coming back. People aren’t going to become regular users if, for example, your intranet is rarely updated.

Related Article: 6 Ways to Measure Your Intranet's Effectiveness

7 Tips for Achieving an Effective Intranet

Here are seven tips about how you can overcome employee resistance and other challenges and create a thriving intranet.

1. Make sure you know what you need

An effective intranet, by definition, is a communication and collaboration tool that meets the needs of your company. As soon as it does that, it becomes a success. That means you need to have a clear understanding of why you have an intranet and what you want to do with it.

Perhaps you want to make your leadership team more accessible, or your business more transparent. Or maybe you want to strengthen teamwork or simply make documents more accessible.

Whatever your needs are, you need to keep those front and center. If you don’t seem to be meeting those needs, you need to figure out why that is the case, so you can fix the problem and start making the most of your intranet. Alternatively, if your objectives change, don’t be afraid to adapt your intranet to help you evolve.

2. Get your leaders involved

I can’t stress enough how important it is to get executive buy-in on an intranet project. Employees look up to your leaders, and they will mimic their behavior. If the CEO is still sending internal reply-all emails rather than using the intranet’s chat feature, or storing files on a hard drive rather than the intranet, others will do the same.

Sit down with your leaders and emphasize the importance of embracing the intranet. Get their buy-in, and get them using the intranet. Encourage them to share comments and provide updates. If they do that, others will follow them there.

Similarly, if your leadership team’s participation begins to dip and they stop contributing, don’t be surprised to see others doing the same.

It’s vital that leaders stay involved on your intranet, even if it’s through small but regular contributions. Their participation could be as simple as commenting on someone else’s post or publicly thanking people for their hard work.

Related Article: Today's Intranet Has 5 Key Purposes

3. Make your intranet the go-to place for information

It can be tempting to continue to use older means of communication in addition to the intranet. Those options could include companywide email, posters or newsletters.

But if you keep doing that, people won’t have a need to go to the intranet. You’d be rendering the tool redundant. If you start posting announcements, policy updates, documents and other essential news in your intranet, people will soon learn that it’s the go-to hub for information.

4. Provide ongoing training

Even if you have a user-friendly intranet, people still have to take the time to learn how to use it. There can be friction here if employees are busy or are not particularly tech-savvy. To reduce that friction, offer assistance and take steps to help everyone understand the basics of the intranet.

You can do this by giving a series of lunch-and-learn workshops, or by putting together a core team of employees who act as intranet ambassadors. These people are available to share knowledge, offer tips and tricks, and help their colleagues troubleshoot — it’s even better if they use your intranet to do those things!

5. Make sure the information on the intranet is relevant to people’s jobs

In recent years, there has been a big upsurge in social intranets — enterprise sites that encourage socializing among employees. However, a lot of these sites fail because they’re purely social.

Social intranets don’t encourage (or have capacity for) work-relevant information-sharing and collaboration, which means they provide little value to busy employees. They often become “another thing I have to log in to and check on.”

Ensure that your intranet has important and work-relevant information. Of course, it’s great if it is also a place where people can share personal stories (if that’s in your company culture), but don’t rely on a purely social platform.

Related Article: Why It's Time to Update Your Legacy SharePoint Intranet

6. Make it easy for people to contribute

Often, one or two people are responsible for keeping a company intranet updated and interesting. This can be a heavy load for those people, so try to split up the work as much as possible. Make it easy for everyone to contribute stories from their corners of the business.

If more than just a few people contribute, your news hub will stay fresh, and everyone will have a better understanding of how other teams work. 

Also, you may want to give certain subject matter experts the authority to maintain their content (for example, allowing the head of human resources to update HR forms). That makes it easier to keep all of your documentation up to date.

But please note: This doesn’t mean giving subject matter experts the ability to create new pages or alter the layout of your intranet. That could result in damage to the platform. More on that next.

7. Don’t break the architecture

If you have a turnkey intranet with a locked-down interface, it’s impossible to break the architecture. However, if your intranet is built using pages and widgets, it’s incredibly easy to break the architecture over time.

That could happen because thousands of different pages get made by different teams, often without the user experience being taken into account. This results in a huge, messy network of pages that are frustrating (or impossible) to navigate.

To avoid such problems, it’s best to keep an intranet professional on board or as a consultant. Or get a turnkey intranet.

Intranets Don’t Have to Be Frustrating

Traditionally, intranets have been frustrating tools for users. That’s why abandonment rates have typically been high. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hopefully these seven tips will help you establish an action plan for maintaining a vibrant intranet.