7 ways to drive intranet adoption and engagement over the long haul

Make your intranet a must-visit site for all employees, every day, with a plan for ongoing engagement.

Developing and launching an intranet is a huge milestone for many businesses. But, like a New Year’s resolution in February, it’s easy for users to lose interest after the launch.

In lieu of a magic bullet, you need a strategy to maximize ongoing engagement.

For advice on how to develop one, we turned to two in-the-know pros: Atlassian and Confluence expert Arto Kovalainen, Senior Consultant with Helsinki-based Atlassian Solutions partner Eficode, who’s been developing corporate intranets for more than 15 years, and David Bruno, Director of Retail Industry Insights for Atlanta-based Aptos Retail, a retail management software company with 13 offices and more than 1,000 clients around the world, whose intranet is powered by Confluence.  

Bruno, who oversees the sales and marketing content on Aptos’ intranet, offers a reality check off the bat, cautioning intranets can be a hard sell at first. “I’ve been struggling to gain adoption for intranets since, I think, 1996,” he jokes. But his success rates have steadily risen along the way (more on that later), and today, he has pointers in spades.  

While there are a number of great strategies to promote excitement about your intranet launch, you’ll need a longer-term plan to shift behavior and make the intranet an invaluable resource that employees use every day.

How to boost intranet engagement

Once the initial excitement over the launch or relaunch subsides, it’s important to figure out how to make the intranet a part of business as usual. Here's what it takes to make that happen:

1. Be a change agent by consistently reinforcing the intranet as the destination for key content

If it’s on the intranet, you can bet it’s there because that’s the most centralized, efficient, accessible place to keep it. But sometimes it takes work to get colleagues to see it that way, too.

To get Aptos’ sales team and sales support staff into the habit of using Confluence for finding and updating important assets—sales decks, pricing sheets, whitepapers, analyst reports, etc.—Bruno had to tell folks over and over to go to the intranet to find those things.

It wasn’t easy. It meant he had to stop honoring requests to send attachments via email and direct everyone to Confluence where they could easily locate the most up-to-date information.

“This was a breakthrough moment for us,” he says. “We were able to demonstrate the value of the intranet as the primary source for information and get the sales team into the mindset of, ‘Before I ask someone for help, I know I can look here on the intranet.’”

"The linchpin for success was finding out what my users were highly motivated to find and needed to use frequently."

2. Let the intranet content tell you what’s working and build from there

Once Bruno had sales reps in the habit of getting what they needed on the intranet, he was able to parse out which assets were most frequently accessed. That started a cycle of continuous improvement.

“The most sought-after presentations typically contain product overview and roadmap information, customer case studies, or product and company positioning information,” he learned, so he added more of those types of resources to Confluence.

Sales decks were also in high demand, so he created a Presentation Library—and marketed it as such until the name became part of the team’s everyday vernacular.  He stocked it with a wide array of assets useful across the sales cycle.

Later, he added an Analyst Resource Center, where sales reps can find the latest reports from industry analysts who cover Aptos products, and both hubs remain prominently used within the company.

“The linchpin for success was finding out what my users were highly motivated to find and needed to use frequently,” he explains. He also uses the frequency of those asset requests—before and after the content has been posted to Confluence—to gauge how well intranet engagement is faring.

“If, after implementing—and sticking with—a new project [on Confluence] the support requests typically drop significantly, I know it worked.”

3. Don’t discount the power of executive buy-in

Messages from higher-ups reinforcing the importance and benefits of the intranet can help motivate employees to continue using it, Kovalainen explains.

“Ongoing communication from intranet champions, whether that is HR or IT or the corporate leadership team, will keep the intranet and its offerings top-of-mind for users,” he says.

It goes beyond messaging, too. Behaviors are equally telling. If leaders are seen circumventing intranet protocol, chances are higher those down the totem poll will do the same.

If you see an executive skirting the rules, explain to them why their behavior matters so much to the wider intranet initiative, and how their adherence could benefit their team or the organization at large.

"If leaders are seen circumventing intranet protocol, chances are higher those down the totem poll will do the same."

4. Save some hype for later

You want your intranet to be a living and breathing entity—not a “visit once and you’re done” scenario. It should grow and evolve in time along with the teams it serves.

A good way to use that to your advantage?

Treat every new feature, design, improvement, etc., as a chance to re-sell the intranet and remind colleagues of its value. Bruno’s addition of the analyst hub is a perfect excuse to generate new buzz and buy-in.

5. Collect feedback on what works and what doesn’t

Making employees feel like they are part of the process helps participation, stresses Kovalainen. He recommends adding employee feedback to your future development log.

Bruno hosts focus groups to get feedback on intranets. He wants honest, collaborative group discussions that cover users’ needs, challenges, and ideas.

“These discussions can be difficult as participants often ask for far more than can be delivered, but the group setting makes it possible to reach consensus on urgency and prioritization,” he explains.

And as an additional benefit, “the focus group participants feel like they are part of the solution and I find them more likely to engage with the outcomes and to spread the word with their peers.”

"Focus group participants feel like they are part of the solution and I find them more likely to engage with the outcomes."

6. Make sure you’re serving a diverse range of roles and interests.

By making the intranet accessible and reflective of everyone from top-level management to regular workers, you’re sure to get more traction on an ongoing basis.

Bruno says a strategy to target both senior sales executives and the sales support staff has paid off by making the intranet deeply ingrained in the culture up and down the hierarchy. If it were only useful to one set of roles, for instance, it’s effectiveness would be more limited.

7. Customize your intranet to meet the needs of your users

Intranet administrators who use Confluence and Refined to power their intranet have a powerful set of customization options at their disposal to create an outstanding user experience that drives long-term adoption.

Here are some ways Refined paired with Confluence can help you engage users:

  • Use announcement banners to keep users up to date on the latest developments and important information.
  • Entice users to visit shared pages by customizing the meta data on Refined pages (you can choose a relevant photo and write a description of the content), which allows you control how blog posts and pages appear when they’re shared, or when they appear in modules on your homepage.
  • Delegate admin permissions to frequent content creators so they can manage blogs, spaces, pages, etc. on their own and ensure everything is up to date and accurate. Outdated content can undermine your intranet's utility and credibility.
  • Use activity stream modules to show recently updated content in an easy-to-browse list format, which allows users to keep pace with new or modified content in Confluence. You can also customize which updates are displayed by filtering according to Confluence labels, spaces, or contributors.
  • Update your site’s theme for big corporate events, or to reflect seasonal happenings. The Refined holiday theme, for example, is always a bit hit.
  • Add a Google Analytics tracker to your intranet to measure engagement over time. Use insights such as popular pages to drive incremental improvements.

Try Refined for Confluence for free for 30 days on the Atlassian Marketplace.

Journalist-turned-business storyteller Amy Roach is a veteran writer and editor who has contributed to many lifestyle, family, business, trade, and educational publications. Most recently, she served as Managing Editor for New York-based Today Media, a regional magazine group publishing award-winning luxury lifestyle and business magazines. Currently, she runs her own boutique writing firm, providing content, copywriting, and communications services to a wide range of businesses.

Try Refined free for 30 days

Cloud subscriptions are free for 10 users.

No payment details required to start your trial.