By Katie McIntosh
An intranet is not fit for purpose unless the information it contains is accurate. However, all intranets face the challenge of maintaining accurate information. This makes your intranet contributors essential in managing a good, well used intranet that helps employees feel connected, valued, and more able to get the information needed to do their jobs.
Who are your intranet contributors?
Your intranet contributors will be people who are closest to the different areas of the business that are represented within your site. It’s not possible for one person or team to maintain the accuracy of information that will cover an entire business, so you’ll need to rely on a network of contributors to not only keep things accurate, but to make content fresh and interesting.
I’ve found it helpful to list out all the intranet menu items, (e.g. Finance, HR, Compliance) and to then find willing people within each of those functions to take responsibility for certain pages or parts of content to be kept updated. You may want to break this down even further so you have different contributors for each sub-page of each business unit (e.g. Finance Managers, Financial units etc.).
How many people you need depends on the size of your intranet, but make sure you have people who are:
- open to being trained
- close enough to information within their area of the business that they’ll be providing accurate data and
- aware of what they’ll need to do to meet this responsibility.
It’s helpful to get a back-up person for each area; this means that if one of your contributors disappears for a while you’re not left having to make changes to their pages or content while they’re gone.
Engage them as a community
In my experience the best way to get the group in one ‘space’ was to create a Yammer group, (although any similar internal social network will do), as a place to share common issues, discuss ideas and best practice, and to ask questions. Frequently asked questions on how to update content that come to you or your support team via email can be redirected to the group; shared learning is better than coaching by email. A Yammer group also creates an archive of useful information, and is a good place for people to go to if they wish to learn more about intranet management.
It makes sense to treat your contributors as the essential colleagues they are. Make sure you involve them in intranet decision-making. If you want them to feel the same level of responsibility that you do for information accuracy across the intranet, you need to make them feel valued. Giving them information (e.g. advance previews on new intranet design / changes) before the rest of the business and the chance to change things will demonstrate your respect, and give you further insights.
What they need to do their job
To do any job well, you need to know what’s expected of you. It’s important to be really clear, therefore, on what your contributors are and are not responsible for.
I’ve found it helpful to provide contributors with a list of links to pages or sections of content they were responsible for, with clear guidelines on how often they needed to be reviewed. If there was any data on those pages that I or a central team would update (e.g. more complicated bespoke web parts), I would also be very clear on that. That gives everyone the chance to say ‘hang on, that’s way more than I thought I would have to do’, or, hopefully ‘hang on – I’d really like to learn how to update that bespoke web part’. You can then address any concerns straight away without it becoming an issue in the future when pages are already out of date.
Support your contributors’ development – make sure you meet their training needs. As well as offering a full orientation when someone becomes a contributor, you should also give them the option to continue with their training. For example, some people might want regular opportunities to be refreshed on the basics of updating content, and some might want to have the option to attend more advanced training. Think about how to offer this training so everyone can take part. It’s also helpful to offer face-to-face or online conferencing ‘drop-in’ sessions every quarter (or similar timescale). As well as offering refresher training and a general Q&A, it can also act as a general check-in and a chance for people to highlight any issues they are facing.
What if your contributors aren’t really… contributing?
This is a common problem, I think mainly because updating intranet pages doesn’t ever seem to be someone’s main job, but an item usually towards the bottom of a big to-do list! It’s really important to stress how important this stuff is – a good intranet is not a fluffy, nice to have little extra at work, but rather a key engagement tool that affects productivity. If you make sure this is clear during your orientation training it might help to bring the job of keeping those pages updated slightly up in the to-do lists. Contributors’ line managers may also need engaging, and you may wish to meet with them to explain the crucial nature of the work.
Healthy competition can sometimes help. For example, a scorecard to highlight the most and least accurate sites/pages every quarter gives people something to work towards. Consider even having some kind of prize for the most well maintained site/page, or for the most helpful and consistent contributor.
Make sure that you give people feedback and thanks for their work. If someone tells you that they found just what they needed on an HR guidance page, make sure you pass that onto your HR site/page contributors – and include their manager. It’s always nice to get a bit of recognition for a job well done.
On the other hand, if someone is simply not doing what is needed, you’ll have to use your own judgement to work out if it’s worth spending time on re-confirming what they need to do and updating their training. It may be that they just don’t have the time, or inclination, to maintain content, so you might be better off training someone else. If you are really struggling, you’ll need to review the governance for that area of the intranet, and explain to stakeholders that extra resources are needed. You could reduce their amount of content until they commit to the agreed governance and maintenance needs.
Katie McIntosh, Employee Engagement consultant
Katie’s focus is all around employee engagement with digital channels. She has worked with Diageo Plc for the past three years to work on their intranet build, later migration to another platform, continual development and overall adoption and effectiveness. Her strengths lie in communications, writing engaging content, developing and delivering training for SharePoint and Yammer and managing creative/technical agencies.
She has also worked to coordinate a global network of around 500 community site owners to manage a platform migration smoothly, ensure they are comfortable in managing their sites, making all necessary updates and using the tools available to them effectively.