8 Essential Intranet Features for 2023
Technology is evolving fast, and companies are continually searching for new and innovative ways to enhance internal communications and collaboration.
It's easy to understand why: A well-designed company intranet can improve productivity, increase employee engagement and streamline internal processes. It can also impact the effectiveness of company culture.
With 2023 well underway, we're taking a closer look at the intranet features aimed at helping all of your employees work more effectively.
Top Intranet Features of 2023
“The most important, must-have features of an intranet vary from organization to organization and depend on the nature of the business, the industry and the culture,” said Toby Ward, president of Prescient Digital Media.
With the rising idea of the digital workplace and the development of digital hardware, digital needs are now vast, said Suzie Robinson, a consultant at ClearBox Consulting specializing in intranets and communications. And with vendors popping up to meet specific niches, the list of modern intranet features keeps growing longer and longer.
Ward recommends thinking of employees and approaching company intranet features with a WIFM mindset: What’s in it for me?
“Employees are most interested in that which relates to or affects their lives and day-to-day jobs,” he explained.
With WIFM in mind, the best intranet platform for your organization might include:
1. HR and Finance Tools
According to Ward, the modern intranet features most used by employees are those that offer human resource and finance information, such as:
- Pay stubs
- Benefits paperwork
- Hour tracking
- Paid time off scheduling
Intranet platforms that centralize information make it easier for employees to find what they’re searching for. It also reduces the workload for HR staff, as employees can use self-service tools to request or schedule time off, print pay stubs, access W2s and more.
2. Easy Search and Sharing
One big user complaint of many intranets, Robinson said, is inadequate intranet search functionality.
Finding and sharing intranet features are vital service areas, she said, which means a good search experience, a way to find experts easily across the business and a way to digest complex information in browsable chunks are critical.
The ideal company intranet search tool should help administrators manage results, present information to the right people and govern old content so that it doesn’t appear in results, she said. It should also have features like search refiners, an easily browsable search results page and intelligent search that can understand misspellings.
“These are all things that will make people’s lives easier,” Robinson said.
Ultimately, effective modern intranets need good search tools to improve information management and sharing and boost employee engagement.
Related Article: Empowering Teams With Enterprise Search
3. Internal Communication and Engagement Tools
These are two critical components of nearly every intranet platform, said Robinson. They include elements like sharing formal communication, allowing people to communicate with one another and offering a space for leadership to “speak” to colleagues across the organization.
“Intranets are often one of the few tools that reach a global audience within an organization, so [they] are perfectly placed to act as a news hub,” she said. But this means they must support internal communicators, help them manage the flow of news across multiple channels and assess the success of what they’re doing.
Important engagement and internal communication tools, Robinson added, include communications calendars, fine-grained audience targeting, good analytics and ways to post to multiple channels.
4. An Office and Employee Directory
Among the intranet features that tend to slip people's minds is the office directory. Yet, access to contact information is vital in medium and large organizations, Ward said.
Employee directories should include information like:
- Phone number
- Email address
In some companies, directories within the company intranet platform also contain the employee’s professional social channels (e.g., LinkedIn and Twitter), a short bio that includes experience and expertise, birthday, hire date and a photo.
5. Strong Information Architecture
Among intranet features recommended by Ward is a strong information architecture (IA). Beyond the search tool, information architecture is what allows company intranet users to find information and tools.
A Prescient Digital Media report offered some best practices when it comes to IA, including:
- Minimize clicks: It shouldn’t take more than three to four clicks to get somewhere from the intranet software homepage.
- Create parent categories: Create six to eight major channels representing all the content on the company intranet.
- Keep language simple: Keep the language used within the IA simple, straightforward, intuitive and distinct — everyone in the organization will use it, not just those with technical knowledge.
- Make navigation clear: There are many ways to present content to users. To determine the best way to organize data within the intranet platform, consider your target audience, goals and objectives, the current size of the intranet site and its planned future growth.
Related Article: Do We Still Need Intranet Teams?
6. Company Policies
Ward said company policies are frequently used intranet features, so employees should be able to easily access all policies within the intranet platform. The policies should also be easily searchable, as users may want to find them by keyword or topic.
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Beyond standard policies — e.g., employee code of conduct, equal opportunity policies, workplace health and safety, ethics policies, attendance and time off policies — many companies also create intranet-specific policies, which tell users what the intranet is and how to use it correctly.
Intranet policies might include information on:
- Appropriate company intranet conduct
- Best practices for using the intranet software
- How to manage account properties
- Avenues for technical support with intranet software
7. Collaboration Tools
Another intranet feature recommendation from Ward is a collaboration tool, something that offers video, chat and remote workspaces. While these tools are primarily for meetings, he said, organizations are learning how to better use them for other tasks, such as document and knowledge sharing.
Modern intranet collaboration tools are what allow employees to communicate and work together efficiently. In the digital workplace, where employees might be spread across continents, these tools are necessary to complete day-to-day tasks as a unified team.
The ideal collaboration tool will offer capabilities for internal communication (necessary for communicating tasks, brainstorming, problem-solving and feedback), the visualization of projects or ideas, and ways to recognize exceptional work.
8. Mobile Agility
Native apps for intranets have been around for a while now, but they previously delivered the whole company intranet in an app, Robinson said. To build a good mobile environment that supports hybrid working and frontline workers, these apps should be much lighter and leaner.
“Intranets now must deliver tools to make the mobile experience more flexible,” Robinson explained. She says companies should switch off features that mobile users won’t care about and limit how much is presented on a smaller screen. "This will improve the experience and improve adoption,” she said.
It’s important to remember that people need a reason to use any tool on any platform.
“And despite me saying how important communication is, this isn’t always a good enough reason to get people using an intranet. Practical tools need to be available…particularly on mobile where people are expected to use their own devices.”
Related Article: How Mobile Apps Can Power Up Your Internal Communications
Choosing Intranet Features for Your Organization
The most important intranet features listed above cater to various organizations within various industries. But all of them align with the goal of developing a modern intranet solution that aids operations, boosts employee performance and promotes company culture.
Some organizations may need intranet features to blend with a knowledge management or content management system. Others may want to tap into more social intranet features that centralize communication. The end-goal, however, should be features that engage employees and make their jobs easier.
“Ultimately,” said Robinson, “intranets need to help people and make their working lives easier — all features must point towards that function.”
Intranets in the Next 10 Years: What Will Change?
Intranet platforms aren’t poised to evolve anytime soon. They haven’t changed much in the past 10 years and aren't likely to change much more in the next 10 years, according to Ward.
“However,” he said, "that adoption learning curve will continue to grow in the years ahead, as will personalization (personalized content for the individual, delivered to the intranet home or desktop).”
Ward predicted that much of this change will be supported by artificial intelligence and cloud-based developer platforms.
For Robinson, she anticipates more intranet features to meet the needs of internal communications departments, improved ways to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and further disruption from Microsoft.
Microsoft Teams and Viva have shaken up the intranet software market in recent years, she said. As Microsoft aligns what it offers with what organizations want, the industry will have to react. “The Microsoft ripple is definitely an interesting one to watch.”
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