Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

How to make the best HR intranet in the world

Once upon a time, not so far in the past, there was an HR team who designed an HR intranet. This HR intranet was for managers and employees to find information.

Over months they worked with IT on providing the information they wanted on the intranet, as well as the headings and links for each page. They kept the business updated on progress, as managers and employees had asked for an easier way to find information. They printed off all the pages once it was done and double checked for errors and whether all the links were working. Then they did a huge launch with communications about the intranet going out in various formats, competitions for people to find things on the intranet and a mini survey to find out if people like the intranet and found it useful.

Feedback was good – people said there was lots of information now available. A few people entered the competition. There was general excitement about a job well done.

And then nobody used the intranet. IT reported that usage had dropped off completely after the first initial flurry.

The HR team couldn’t understand it. People had asked for the information and the intranet provided that. It was well set out, they had focused on writing things simply and not over-complicating it. What was going on?

That’s when I met them. When they were wondering what had happened.

Now in the last 2 years I’ve gone on a bit of a voyage of discovery myself about how we transform HR. The HR Game Changer conferences have raised many ideas that HR teams could use. And having seen many HR intranets myself, one solution crossed my mind.

The traditional way of designing a processes or information is exactly how they had done it. Set out the steps or information and put it all together. From an HR point of view.

However one of the ideas that we explored at the HR Game Changer last year is about HR using design thinking. One of the steps in Design Thinking is to watch your user actually using the product or actually having issues and then designing or redesigning it based on that.

I suggested that:

  1. a) they go out and watch managers or employees use the intranet OR
  2. b) they come up with 5 scenarios that managers or employees might want to use the intranet for, and then see what it’s like to use with that aim in mind (e.g. one of my team has called in sick, what do I do? Or I’d like to do something about being more productive in the afternoon, is there anything the company can do to help with that?).

They did a combination. They asked some managers and employees what they wanted to use the intranet for, wrote their answers down and then went back and opened the intranet up to try and use it for the written purposes.

After a few minutes one of the team said “Oh my god – this is the worst intranet in the world”. The reason everyone had stopped using it was it was clunky and impossible to move around and actually find the information. It made sense to an HR person looking out, but not to a manager or employee trying to come in.

Of course it wasn’t the worst intranet in the world. But it wasn’t good.

And there are two things you can do at that point. Decide that it’s now too hard. The intranet is there, you delivered something and that’s enough. Or you go back to the drawing board and you get it right. And that’s what they did. And over time it became an intranet that managers and employees used regularly and that helped them get answers. It went from being the worst, to being great.

This is something I now try and build into my thought process whenever I’m thinking about designing a conference, training programme or any other solution. Who is the customer, how will they use the product and what do they want to get out of it? It is easier said than done, but may just be a game changer for what you deliver.

So when you’re looking at your HR processes, communications or HR systems – go and talk to the people who will be using it and design it to that.

You might just find that you design the best process in the world!


Angela Atkins is a best-selling author and business entrepreneur who has a passion for providing development and training for HR and people managers through the Management Bites programme, HR Conferences and other events 

For more information about the HR Game Changer visit

2 comments on “How to make the best HR intranet in the world

  1. Pingback: How to make the best HR intranet in the world – insideHR

  2. Colin
    April 21, 2016

    This is so true. We experienced this when we constructed the modlettes site. As a result it took us four years to get it right. If the user experience does not stack up then you are wasting your time and money.

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This entry was posted on April 20, 2016 by in culture, human resources and tagged , , .
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