One of the key use cases for an intranet is providing a centrally- controlled library for important official documents, where all employees can access the very latest policies, procedures and forms, knowing that they are accurate and up-to-date. Typical examples might be the HR manual, the social media policy, risk management procedures or contract templates to use with clients.
A good policy library not only provides easy access for employees, but also supports content owners in ensuring only the very latest versions of documents are accessible.
While perhaps the policy library isn’t the most exciting aspect of an intranet it is one of the most valuable! All too often these central “official” documents get stored on emails or lost on the file network. It can be incredibly frustrating for employees to have to trawl their inbox to find the right document or having to call Nadine in HR only to find that she has just gone on holiday.
It can also be risky if you use out-of-date documents or apply policies which may have just recently changed, for example, due to GDPR. Sometimes, for compliance purposes, organisations must also show they have a good way to control the risk of employees accessing and actioning out-of-date policies.
The Institute of Cancer Research’s Policy Library
One piece of work which we are particularly proud of is the creation of a custom policy library for the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). This was part of a wider project to create a new SharePoint intranet.
The ICR, based in London, is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes. As a research establishment and a charity with an exemplary reputation, it is critical that the organisation and its employees operate in certain ways and follow various procedures, both for compliance purposes and to maintain its own high standards. Therefore, having a central library for policies, procedures and formal guidance documents was a priority for the intranet team.
The previous library, the Approved Document Library (ADL), was not doing its job. An audit of content found that the majority of documents were not meeting information governance requirements. Employees found it hard to find the documents they needed, and content owners found it very difficult to post the latest versions. The overall user experience was clunky and there was a lack of confidence in the tool. In short, it was not fit-for-purpose.
Working closely with the intranet team and users at ICR, Content Formula was able to scope, design, build, test and launch a new Policy Library that employees actually want to use. The library is based on SharePoint 2013 and has been built from scratch.
By focusing on the needs of both users and policy owners, and ensuring good findabilty, content management and a strong user experience, usage of the new library has increased by 48% compared to the old system. It’s also a library where the content meets the ICR’s compliance and information governance requirements.
Some of the key features are described below:
Providing easy access to policies for all employees
All employees have access to the new library via the global navigation on the intranet. It’s very easy for employees to find. It’s also called the “Policy Library” rather than the confusing “ADL” – a name which new staff wouldn’t necessarily associate with official policy and guidance.
Providing a great user experience
The policy library presents a smart, clean and modern interface with a number of intuitively-labelled categories and a prominent search box. The attractive and easy-to-use design has been critical in establishing trust with users and driving adoption of the tool.
The policies themselves are presented in ways which makes them easier to digest. We know that policy documents can end up being lengthy and wordy and sometimes employees just need to find one piece of information contained within the document.
Large fonts for headlines and maximum characters per line ensure that documents are easier to scan, while users can jump to different sections through a hover-over facility. In addition, selected information from the cover sheet is presented to the left of the document with an option to see all this information.
There is also very strong findability baked into the policy library. Each policy has a main category and then a sub-category which are clearly displayed. There are limits on the number of categories which can be set to avoid confusion for users. A very clear search interface also displays all the relevant hits under each main category.
When accessing a policy there is also the ability to view related policies which share the same sub-category, and also view custom links to related content such as FAQs which the policy owner thinks relevant. This allows an employee to view important content about the use of the policy.
Centred around users
We also added another couple of features based around how employees actually use policies. A prominent ‘Save’ button exports a version of the document in Word which also preserves much of the attractive styling of the online version, while a “Print’ button prints out the policy for convenience.
Making life easier for policy owners
One of the issues with the previous library was it was hard for policy owners to use. The new library removes many barriers for policy owners and includes:
• The ability to have different owners and approvers for different policies – different teams throughout ICR can maintain their own sections of the library
• Allows for a different approval process for minor edits and major edits – a highly practical detail which means more senior staff don’t need to approve elements such as corrections to typo’s
• Allows editors to add links to FAQs and other useful context
• Sends out automated reminders when policies are due to expire
• Has full version control and highlights differences between versions of documents if required
• Can do reporting on links.
Having these features has helped policy owners to keep their own policies up to date.
Need a great policy library? Get in touch!
Every organisation needs a central place where employees can access and find “official” documents and forms. In some sectors a strong policy library is critical. We created an excellent library at ICR which has driven user adoption, helped business policy owners and satisfied compliance requirements. We can do the same for you! If you need a robust but also highly usable policy library then don’t hesitate to get in touch.