Feeling Lucky? 13 Key Features & Practices for Managing Intranet Search

In Search of Search

In a Nutshell: As sure as water’s wet and days are long, content—in the broadest sense of the word — is the very heart of the internet. Perhaps less obvious but no less factual is that Search (think: Google) makes that heart beat. The same holds true for your intranet; an instance with poor search functionality is akin to a Google-less internet… it just, won’t, work, properly.

But fear not, we’re here to help. In this 3-part content series Ephraim Freed, internal-comms expert-in-chief — the expert’s expert — looks at how to optimize the search functionality of your intranet. In Part 1, he details 13 critical features that deliver on the technical side of search management and the search interface.

First Things First

Fact: most organizations will face challenges around the search functionality of their intranet. But just as all challenges are little more than opportunities in disguise, search can become an indispensable resource (and, dare we say, a magical experience) for your employees; all you need is a solid set of features and a solid set of best practices to guide the way.

In this post, we’ve compiled a set of search-centric features that will boost productivity and refine your intranet experience. If search is about the destination, actually managing how that search functions is all about the journey, and the following features will help make that journey an infinitely more satisfying one.

 

Centrally Managing Search Results

1: “Best bets” for intranet search results
“Best bets” (similar to, but better than Google’s “I’m feeling lucky”) will ensure that the most relevant pieces of content are bubbled to the top of your search results.
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Recorded Webinar: Introducing ThoughtFarmer 8.5 Sangria!

Register for the webinar to see how ThoughtFarmer 8.5 Sangria adds flavor to your intranet.

Add flavor to your intranet — introducing ThoughtFarmer 8.5 Sangria!

ThoughtFarmer 8.5 helps your employees take charge of their productivity. We’ve enriched the platform with a cocktail of features that make it easier for employees to find the people and content they need to get their jobs done.

In this 30-minute webinar, presented by our awesome Director of Customer Success, Carolien Dekeersmaeker & friendly Sales Director, Amol Gill, you will:

  • Get a live tour of the latest features.
  • Learn how a social intranet can improve employee productivity.
  • Have the opportunity to get your questions answered by our experts!

 

This webinar is now complete, you can view the recording here:

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Intranet Tip: Four New Reasons for Your Employees to Engage the Intranet

In brief: Looking for fresh content ideas to revitalize your intranet and boost engagement? Learn about four new things you can include.

DRIVE TRAFFIC WITH FRESH CONTENT

It’s no secret that the key to a successful intranet is populating it with content employees want to read. So whether you are looking to revitalize your intranet with new content or are seeking ways to increase engagement, we have four ideas to help you drive more traffic:

  • Job postings: Posting open positions on your intranet gives those eager to grow within the organization an opportunity to see what’s available.
  • Company success stories: Celebrating company or team wins is a great way to boost morale and performance. Publish them on the intranet so everyone can share in the success.
  • Events: Whether it’s an internal event or something going on in the community, put them in a calendar on your intranet to create some awesome team-building opportunities.
  • Humour section: The intranet doesn’t have to be all business. Create a section where employees can share funny gifs, videos, memes or jokes to give everyone a laugh during downtime.

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Intranet Tip: Why an Intranet Naming Contest is More than Just Crowdsourcing a Name

In brief: A naming contest is a great way to help employees build a connection to the intranet, keeping them engaged after launch.

ENGAGE EMPLOYEES EARLY ON

Creating an emotional connection to the intranet is one way to keep employees engaged long after launch. Central 1 held a naming contest to get staff invested right from the get-go. After a few selection rounds (all moderated via the intranet) Beacon was chosen. But crowdsourcing a name did more than just create a unique identity, it helped garner user buy-in and fostered a sense of ownership.

Initiatives like this contributed to an eight percent increase in company-wide employee engagement. Want to find out what other amazing things Central 1 accomplished with their intranet? Read the full case study.

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A simple way to approach intranet governance

Governance is sometimes a scary word. It is often misinterpreted as a set of borderline Orwellian policies and procedures, when in reality it is little more than a set of shared values; it simply allows a company to track and manage the things it is supposed to.

At ThoughtFarmer, we see governance as overseeing an intranet after launch so as to ensure all employees are on the same page.

More than a set of official policies and procedures, governance does involve such things as training users, monitoring activities, collecting data. And a well thought-out model can be the difference between long-term success and eventual failure.

Why intranet governance is important

Trevor Allen, ThoughtFarmer’s senior user experience designer and resident governance expert says, “a social intranet is a way to cultivate an engaged culture and governance ties into employee and customer engagement”.

A well-defined governance structure can help overcome three common intranet governance roadblocks: politics, a lack of clear purpose and a lack of data. Furthermore, adoption can be difficult without an intranet strategy supported by governance processes, and sometimes roles and responsibilities change after an intranet project becomes a program. Finally, having a governance structure in place can help minimize confusion if intranet managers change or executive sponsors move on after launch.

ThoughtFarmer’s governance approach

ThoughtFarmer helps clients roll-out successful intranets by starting governance conversations early on in the project phase. This approach ensures that we can get the right people and right processes in the right place and at the right time for launch.

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How to Create Useful Intranet Content

Employees visit an intranet with a purpose. Whether it’s getting HR information, reading the latest company news story or learning a “how-to”—people use the intranet to accomplish tasks. Creating useful content that’s accurate, relevant, and well-organized saves people time by making it easier to get what they need from a page and carry out business tasks more effectively.

So what does useful content look like? Here we’ve outlined some fundamental ways to make your page content useful, and drive up the value of your intranet.

Useful intranet content has a purpose

Useful intranet content is:

  • Focused on specific tasks. The content addresses a specific need of a group of employees
  • Clear and simple. The content is stripped of unnecessary material, presented in simple language, and makes a clear point.

Asking “why does this page exist?” can surface the core tasks related to a page of content and can help you understand employees’ reasons for visiting the page. It can also reveal the content that lacks purpose so you can modify what’s on the page to better meet users’ needs.

To understand why a page exists, you can ask these more specific questions:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What tasks are people trying to complete when they are on this page?
  • What information do people need to accomplish those tasks?
  • What related tasks might people need to accomplish?
  • What related information might people need links to?

All of these questions help to hone in on the purpose of the page. They’ll highlight information you may not have originally considered to include and identify critical content.

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Intranet Tip: Manage Your Brand Assets through the Intranet

Manage your brand assets through the intranet.

In brief: Use your intranet as a centralized space for social media assets to maintain consistent brand messaging.

CENTRALIZE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ASSETS

Social media in the workplace isn’t new. Nearly 90% of organizations have harnessed the power of social media for business purposes*. Allete, an energy services provider, uses their intranet as a central repository to collect photos and topics of interest. For anyone who posts on behalf of your organization, this centralized space makes it easy to control and curate content that is in line with your corporate brand.

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Letting go: How I moved from SharePoint to a social intranet

Ilana Friesen has over a decade of communications and intranet management experience. Her experience ranges from traditional platforms, like SharePoint, to social intranets, like ThoughtFarmer. We’re fortunate enough to have her write for our blog.

SharePoint and I had a rocky relationship in the past, but it worked and I was fine with that. It was a decent content management tool, despite the occasional technological glitch. Sure, it wasn’t easy to change page layouts or paste content from other document management sources. And, collaboration happened on separate team sites, making project work clunky at times. But the technology enabled me to review, approve—and essentially control—content before it was published. Being an intranet content approver allowed me to prevent disasters like abstract employee profile photos, awkwardly formatted cafeteria menus, never before seen page layouts, and bizarre witticisms on random pages.

Awhile back I managed a SharePoint intranet used to communicate organizational updates and messages to a complex group of employees. Some were gung-ho about using new technology, while others had a full-on adversity to it. With its lacklustre design and cumbersome features, the traditional intranet was more of a bulletin board than a tool for helping people work better. People hardly used it. When there was talk of upgrading the intranet to help create a culture of openness, collaboration, and community, I was all ears.

Heading into the social intranet unknown

One day I heard some exciting news during a communications team check in—the intranet would be getting a major facelift. The organization was going to adopt ThoughtFarmer’s social intranet software.

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Intranet Tip: Level Up Your Employee Engagement

In brief: EngenderHealth gamified their intranet by rewarding users with badges after completing specific tasks.

GAMIFYING THE INTRANET

More than 1.2 billion people around the world play games1. So it comes as no surprise that organizations employ gamification techniques to drive business practices. EngenderHealth, a leading global women’s health organization, uses gaming elements to drive user adoption and employee engagement on their intranet.

In the example below, you can see users are awarded badges for completing various tasks on the intranet such as creating their first page, filling out their profile, or joining a group. Beyond awarding “first task” badges, EngenderHealth uses a point system to award additional badges based on the number of times an employee completes similar tasks. The result? A fun way to increase employee engagement and continue driving users to the intranet long after launch.

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What is a social intranet? The definitive explanation.

First, what is an intranet?

In simple terms, it’s an internal website that helps employees get stuff done.

An intranet plays many roles inside an organization—it’s a website, communications channel, and collaboration platform. Good intranets make it easy for every employee to contribute, not just a select few. The most effective intranets help people work better together by combining flexible content management tools, powerful search capabilities, and engaging collaboration features.

For a more detailed explanation of intranets, check out our full blog post, “What is an intranet”.

Next, what is social?

In the 21st century, “social” has become a term that we think of in relation to social networking or social media. When asked to define “social” the average businessperson would likely struggle, resorting to references of Facebook or Twitter. The term “social” simply refers to people interacting, whereas “social networking” describes the practice of establishing relationships. While the concept of social networking has been around for years, online communications channels—like social software and social media—have rapidly increased the rate at which people are connecting and sharing information.

Social intranets marry these concepts to help employees interact and build relationships in the workplace.

Understanding social intranets

Traditional intranets have narrow authorship restricted to a handful of people with official “editor” permissions. Content is basically anonymous, making it difficult to establish a social context or connection between pages and specific individuals.

In contrast, a social intranet is built around people. It enables widespread participation and interaction by allowing all employees to author rich content.

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