Building a User-Centered Intranet Through Stakeholder Input and Content Strategy

Finding Value from Internal Input

The primary objective of Avera’s intranet redesign was to help employees get the information they need to do their job quickly and effectively. The intranet team at Avera knew they had to look for internal stakeholders to achieve their goals. To get the inside scoop they:

  • Launched an employee survey with 970 participants
  • Ran a virtual card sorting exercise with 33 participants across various roles
  • Reviewed user data and analytics trends, including an in-depth look at site search volumes to identify specific tools that didn’t have an obvious home on the site or were too deep to find easily
  • Implemented heat-mapping to see interaction and engagement trends on the homepage and other key pages
  • Analyzed ongoing internal requests for intranet updates to identify themes

Avera’s core governance team of internal communications staff also took feedback from the wealth of employee and physician input on the needs and desires for the future intranet when creating their new site.

Using The Findings

Conclusions from the employee survey, data, and card sorting exercise became the outline for the team’s vision of an enhanced, user-focused intranet, such as:

  • Users visit KnowledgeNet frequently and use it to find a variety of resources, native and off-site
  • Most users found value in tools and apps, news, topical resources areas (HR/benefits, educational materials, IT needs, etc.)
  • Users would like to see improvement with site search, navigation, links to tools, and mobile site access
  • Users think about resources in a topical, related fashion, not by department ownership
  • Different users expect to access tools in different ways

Delivering a User-focused Intranet

After investing in research, the team was able to build a new intranet with user-focused content strategy and design. The new KnowledgeNet offers:

  • A mobile-friendly, app-like design
  • A user-friendly and intuitive sitewide navigation
  • An improved A-Z list of resources that allows users to search by keyword or tool name
  • A news feed with thumbnail images
  • Engagement-focused homepage elements like digital employee greeting cards
  • A three-panel engagement element that updates regularly with blog posts, appreciation stories and current job opportunities

Avera KnowledgeNet

In addition, popular landing pages, such as Education & Training and Employee Wellness Resources, put tools and information front and center, combining information into user-focused hubs versus siloed departments.

Avera KnowledgeNet

Content strategy helps Avera cross-link to other sections and resources to help their employees quickly locate the information they need. This approach helps make the new site manageable for users.

Committing to Content Governance

To maintain their commitment to keeping the intranet site user-focused, not departmental, Avera worked to shift how their teams saw KnowledgeNet, as a hub for many resources.

The core governance team met weekly before launch to review requests, resources, data, and opportunities to map out and document their governance plan. With the help of consulting with other discipline partners and senior leadership input, they created a governance plan that covers the broad range of banner implementation to adding news and making adjustments to the new resources or sections.

This shift allowed the intranet committee to have a purposeful content strategy to deliver information that enhances employees’ daily work, empowers employees as brand champions, and encourages more engagement.

Promoting by Roadshow & Results

Avera’s intranet team went on a roadshow before launching the new intranet. They met with leadership groups, key stakeholders, and other audiences to tell them what to expect, demonstrate new features and celebrate the new design and functionality.

Internal feedback since launch has been positive, and the new platform crucial for allowing the internal communications team to communicate timely information during the pandemic.

Positive data and usage trends continue to show growth and engagement in key areas, including:

  • 173% increase in resource and tools traffic
  • 77% increase in card interactions
  • 10% increase in news stories views
  • 5.4% increase in overall site page views

In addition, KnowledgeNet recently took home a gold in the Web Element – Intranet category at the 2021 MarCom awards.

Content Marketing Hub Connects with Community

Avera, based in Sioux Falls, SD, knows that effective content marketing builds trust and attracts new patients. The organization has been investing in content marketing efforts for years, starting with their popular WordPress blog, Avera Story Center. Although the blog was popular, the content was location-focused and didn’t reflect the fact Avera had moved to a system-centric marketing approach.

In addition to the rebrand, the Avera team wanted to be more thoughtful in the way they used content marketing to engage with women in the community, and they knew there was an opportunity to build more efficiency into their efforts by repurposing content across channels.

The organization created a content marketing initiative called Avera Balance, with the goal of engaging women in meaningful ways with valuable health information. The initiative has three main components including a print magazine that is distributed once a year, ongoing email marketing, and an online content marketing hub that replaces Avera Story Center. Avera turned to Geonetric’s content strategy and design experts to bring the online Avera Balance hub to life.

Building a Content Machine

During the redesign of the main health system site in 2016, the Avera team worked diligently to reduce the number of pages and streamline the user experience. The team knew if they were going to increase page count on the site with blog-style content that it should be done strategically. They needed to create actionable content that users really wanted, written in a compelling and shareable way.

Geonetric’s content strategy team trained the Avera writing team on how to write for content marketing, keeping the user in mind and connecting the content back to a service line or a product they deliver, such as a support group or health evaluation. We also discussed how to repurpose content effectively, including how to take a media release and revamp it for other platforms and audiences. The training also covered how the tone and voice of content marketing differ from other types of marketing writing.

As part of launching the Avera Balance initiative, Avera also developed a new editorial calendar. The marketing team needed a resource to help them see what content could be repurposed, and where they had content gaps. Their new content calendar is a valuable resource that allows them to track all content in one place – including Balance stories, media stories, social media, and videos they produce with their local news channel.

With Avera Story Center, the writing team was posting 3-4 stories a month. With Avera Balance, the same team is posting new or repurposed content almost every day.

An Integrated Content Marketing Strategy

When the Avera team began to consider how to develop their new content marketing hub, they had more than one option. They could rebuild the hub on a separate platform like WordPress, but this would send traffic to a separate site. Or, they could build the blog in their current CMS, VitalSite.

Avera chose the second option because it prioritized the connection between service line marketing and content marketing. With content now organized around service lines and topics, the new Balance hub offers an improved user experience, while social and promoted traffic stays on the main Avera site. This option also has the potential for SEO benefits, as search engines send traffic to a single site that has quality content, which in turn, continues to strengthen the domain authority.

Powerful Functionality, Engaging Design

The new Avera Balance hub allows site visitors to easily search by keyword or filter content by topic or service, thanks to VitalSite’s sophisticated taxonomy system. Geonetric’s content strategy team guided Avera on how to appropriately tag all content –by service and topic, author, and format – such as text, audio, or image – to make the filtering possible.

The content strategy team also identified multiple cross-promotion opportunities, helping to integrate the content marketing content and website content more effectively. In fact, provider profiles automatically pull in Avera Balance stories based on the author taxonomy.

The design complements the Avera Balance print magazine and offers a Pinterest-inspired look with engaging photos, captivating headlines, and social sharing features that encourage users to share stories organically through Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

An eye-catching call to action—placed front and center on both the Avera Balance home page and on individual posts—encourages site visitors to subscribe to the wellness enewsletter.

The health system unveiled Avera Balance to the community on Mother’s Day 2017, with both the Avera Balance magazine and the online marketing hub available for audiences to enjoy. In the 30 days after launch, the hub had 25,315 page views and 261 enewsletter sign ups. Digital marketing and social posts were able to drive more people than ever to the site, which helped to send engaged consumer to the hub.

In addition, the content has caught the eye of more than just community members. In the summer of 2017, NBC called to do a feature based on one of the Balance articles. The news outlet spent two days shooting the story last July, and the feature ran under the title “Finding the Right Medication: Gene Test May Help Treat Depression.” Almost a year later, Avera still receives several calls a week from people who want to travel to South Dakota to receive genetic testing.

Health System Redesigns Intranet to Support Organizational Goals

Based in Sioux Falls, SD, Avera is comprised of more than 30 hospitals and 208 primary and specialty care clinics throughout South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Before the redesign, Avera had multiple intranets for each of their main locations. They needed to consolidate their intranets into one main intranet.

Intranet Supports Organizational Goals

Avera needed to consolidate because they were shifting how the organization presented itself to their communities. The public website was organized with a location-first approach, but research revealed that patients preferred a services-first approach. This required Avera’s website to shift from being internally-focused to patient-focused. And Avera needed their intranet to help them communicate this shift to their employees.

Geonetric’s team launched a new intranet that provides a consolidated communication platform. The responsive design allows Avera’s more than 16,000 employees to access critical information from their tablets and phones. After the launch of their intranet, Avera was able to begin a redesign of their public website that made the shift to a patient-focused approach.

Custom Functionality Benefits Employees

In addition to consolidating their intranets, they wanted to increase the amount of useful, up-to-date information for employees. To accomplish this, we helped them implement custom functionality, such as a feed for their census number, a widget with up-to-date weather conditions, and a news feed. The intranet also has a CEO blog.

As you can imagine, having 16,000 employees requires critical integrations with multiple third-party tools and systems. Some of the many integrations include payroll, a wellness program, email, and education resources.

Avera understands that making organizational shifts online requires more than an effective website redesign. We helped them create an intranet that supported their online transformation by communicating more effectively with their employees.

Redesign Makes Site More Accessible

Guided by the values of stewardship, compassion and hospitality, Avera aims to improve the lives of the nearly 1 million people it serves across the Upper Midwest. In support of that mission, the organization pursued a responsive redesign to make it easier for users—especially the growing share of mobile visitors—to learn about and access care online. The redesign also meant merging Avera’s mobile site with the main site, resulting in less maintenance for the organization.

Benefiting Users & Stakeholders

For Avera’s first site overhaul in five years, Geonetric interviewed client stakeholders, who wanted an intuitive, clean, modern look that could “wow” younger audiences and new families while promoting providers, services, and locations. Website users shared input, too. Eighty percent of those who took a survey rated their online experience as good or better, but some reported leaving the website with tasks unfinished. Their top tasks, according to survey results? Finding contact information, paying a bill, searching for jobs and looking for services offered. The redesigned site had to make it as simple as possible for users to quickly accomplish such goals.

Image of Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

Getting it Done

To that end, the new homepage features a prominent task navigation that lets users make just a single click to get to pages about billing, careers, and other commonly-sought topics. On interior pages, the task menu floats to the top in mobile view and to the side on desktop so it’s unobtrusive but still easy to access. Links can change, if needed, as Avera gets user feedback or sees a need for shortcuts to certain activities.

Outside the task navigation, card elements invite homepage visitors to find a doctor, location, or health plan. On many pages, SmartPanels—a feature of Geonetric’s VitalSite CMS—dynamically display providers, events, and locations related to content visitors are viewing. This means that no matter where users are on the site, they’re often just a click away from all the information they need to visit an Avera physician or facility. That comes in especially handy for an organization with 330 locations and more than 1,600 providers.

For pages with a unique call to action, attention-getting CTA panels in bold green remain high on the page even in mobile view. That lets users quickly take the next step to engage with Avera—whether it’s registering for a birth center tour, donating online, contacting the organization, or doing something else.

Engaging Baby Photo Gallery

Geonetric’s designers developed an eye-catching online nursery to help users accomplish another of their top tasks—viewing baby photos. Proud parents can announce their infant’s arrival, and visitors can quickly find their new little one by choosing a variety of helpful filters, including names, date of birth, gender, and hospital. The interactive gallery promotes Avera’s pregnancy and birth service line while keeping site visitors engaged.
Picture of a baby from Avera's baby gallery

Shift to System-Focused Content Highlights Breadth of Services

Avera, a large integrated health system headquartered in Sioux Falls, SD, covers a lot of ground in the northern United States. With dozens of hospitals and hundreds of clinics serving several states, they’re the primary healthcare choice for thousands of patients and families. Before a recent redesign, flagship site captured the expanse of service locations, but didn’t make it easy for patients to learn about the wide range of services available no matter where they lived. In interviews, organization stakeholders told Geonetric they wanted to better communicate how easily patients could access all of Avera’s high-quality care and treatment from any point in their health system.

Keeping the Content That Matters Most

Avera recognized the benefit of creating system-level navigation. Duplicate content, such as services information previously found under multiple location-focused sections, was combined into a system-level story about the comprehensive and advanced care Avera delivers across the Upper Midwest. By focusing on the top-viewed pages, Geonetric helped the organization eliminate most of its 9,200 CMS pages—a number that was challenging to manage and meant some pages were hard for users to find. Even while merging a freestanding mobile site with the main site, Avera reduced CMS page count to 500, leaving only the information that matters most to users.

Consulting That Counts

Avera’s marketing team collaborated across the organization to help internal stakeholders understand and prepare for the major changes and opportunities offered by the redesigned site. In support of Avera’s open communication—a huge component of their redesign success—Geonetric’s web strategy and editorial director went onsite to join conversations, answer questions, and help the team visualize the new site structure. Using sticky notes that represented new webpages, she built out the entire site navigation on a conference room wall, making the sitemap easier for stakeholders to review and understand.

Custom Location Pages

Though site content now focuses on system-wide services over specific hospitals and clinics, Avera’s high-profile locations still have a place to tell their story. Custom location pages share visitor guidelines, quality information, contact details, and other facility-specific information. SmartPanels, a feature of Geonetric’s VitalSite CMS, automatically connect these locations with related provider profiles and services content sitewide.