Employee engagement, employee thriving or employee experience — whatever you call it, it's paramount. With hybrid workplaces taking the forefront, tough competition to attract and retain top talent, and increasingly technologically minded staff, an employee intranet can be more useful than ever. But it won't be effective if you stick to the poorly designed, clunky legacy systems most people are familiar with.
Strong communication and documentation are the cornerstones of a healthy business, and digital transformation has inspired everyone to adapt how they approach them. An intranet can combine a plethora of core company functions, all in one place. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about effective modern intranets, with employee intranet examples to demonstrate their scope and reach.
What Is an Employee Intranet?
An intranet platform is a private network that employees use at work for internal communications and other functions. Only current team members have access to it, and it aims to improve workflows, encourage self-service and act as a central hub for communications and documentation.
Bigger companies tend to build their own intranet, while SMEs are more likely to subscribe to a third-party cloud service. Many platforms allow companies to customize intranets to suit the business' unique requirements and provide omni-channel access to increase engagement.
Intranet vs. Extranet
An intranet's target audience is employees, allowing them to communicate, seek information and manage workflows. No one outside the company has access to an intranet, but they can usually integrate with other tools such as social media, CRMs and financial management software. In today's people-centric landscape, intranets are increasingly being referred to as employee experience platforms.
Intranet vs. Internet
Intranets and the internet emerged in the mainstream at around the same time, in the 1990s. However, while the whole point of the internet is public access, an intranet is privately owned and not accessible to anyone without a username and password.
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Intranet and the Hybrid Digital Workplace
When you stop and think, the speed and extent of change that's occurred over the past couple of decades is enormous. Yet, intranets still have a reputation as unattractive web pages with a bit of company information and the option to save and share files.
Long before employee experience was the buzzword it is today, the high levels of interactivity we now see would have been frowned upon. Thankfully, we now understand the workforce and place more trust and respect in employees and their ability to self-manage without productivity loss. In fact, most effective leaders would agree that autonomy and self-direction boost performance and shape more well-rounded and motivated workers.
Digital collaboration and interactive frameworks are critical in today's hybrid economy. Many teams include a mix of frontline, home- and office-based employees, so tech is essential for fostering a culture of cohesion and cooperation. Intranets now serve more functions than ever, from acting as a corporate memory bank to ensuring strategic alignment.
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Why Don't Employees Engage With Your Current Intranet?
In the past, intranet systems were developed as top-down communication tools, with little thought spared for user experience. The aim was to deliver messages as opposed to spark conversation. This type of system lacked the human touch that's essential for true engagement, as well as being — for lack of a better word — boring.
People-centric practices are just as effective at getting the best out of employees as they are at improving customer experience. If employees aren't engaging with your current system — or you scrapped it altogether because of low engagement — it's probably for the above reasons. Intranets that excite the workforce tend to include cutting-edge design, inspire conversation and collaboration and take an omni-channel approach.
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Core Requirements of an Effective Intranet
Intranets are an older example of technology, but just like websites and email marketing, they're as relevant as ever. But that's only true if you prioritize incorporating the following core requirements.
An Attractive, User-friendly Design
The key to any successful tool is user-friendliness. If there are barriers that make it difficult to use, such as slowness, unresponsiveness or poor organization, employees will abandon it. The intranet should look appealing, with an on-brand design that's easy on the eye.
A couple of vital elements are integration functionality and search functionality. These were once major issues with intranets, making it challenging for users to find the information they need and preventing leaders from updating capabilities in an agile manner.
Communication Tools for Employee Empowerment and Thriving
Every ultra-successful modern business leads with both a strong company culture and mission. Not only that, but leaders are experts at inspiring the workforce to buy into and get fully on board with them. How do they do this? Excellent communication. An intranet is an exceptional tool for transmitting your values, vision and mission to everyone.
Top companies listen to employees and encourage them to contribute to and build on corporate culture. An intranet can give them all the tools, information and resources they need to fully understand your vision. As long as you sell the tool and encourage workers to be active users, the results can be profoundly empowering — and profitable.
With a multigenerational workforce comes a wide range of preferences for consuming media. Some employees will exclusively use apps on their smartphones, while others use desktop devices and prefer email updates. It's important to meet your employees where they're at, and you can achieve this by ensuring they can access the company intranet via their preferred channels.
Key Performance Metrics
Last but by no means least, remember that an intranet is also a highly valuable source of data. An intranet must be able to track the performance of your internal communications strategy, helping you understand how and why different employees engage with your messaging. What's more, this data can help you understand your workforce better as a whole, allowing you to improve employee experience based on hard facts.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Using an Employee Intranet
Despite the proliferation of technology that claims to solve your company's communication pain points, a custom intranet has clear benefits. However, there are common issues, especially with legacy systems, that have dented their reputation.
- Improves communication across time zones, locations and departments
- Encourages self-service
- Streamlines onboarding and training
- Delivers culture, brand, values and mission messaging
- Stores files easily
- Provides quick access to information
- Offers social media style capabilities
- Has the potential to be a content management system
- Information can be difficult to locate
- Desktop availability means the intranet won't reach all employees
- If an intranet isn't available on mobile, its reach is limited
- Updates to legacy systems can take a long time
- Older intranets don't integrate with third-party apps
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Employee Intranet Use Cases
The beauty of a modern intranet system lies in its ability to fulfill a wide range of communications, HR, training and business knowledge functions. Ideally, when selecting an intranet solution for your company, it should include all the following functions:
Company Directory and News
It's vital that employees can reach all the information they need as quickly as possible. An intranet system should contain all the essential company information your team requires, from the employee handbook to detailed information about the entire workforce. It's also the best place to share company announcements and important news. Unlike email, it's possible to check who's read the message and send push notifications.
Content Management System
Employees should be able to use a search function to quickly locate content within the company's database. For instance, if a worker needs to find a report written by an executive from a few years ago, they can type in a keyword and find it.
Employee Social Network
While employees come to work to do a job, it's critical that there's time for them to engage with each other. Outside of home, the workplace is where people spend the majority of their time. For employment to feel fulfilling, there should be a social element.
Virtual water coolers, social media-style profiles and instant messaging are excellent tools for demonstrating an understanding of your employees' needs. But that's not to say it's all fun and no work. IM is particularly useful because employees can use it to ask for help without leaving their desks or waiting for someone to reply to an email.
Being able to share documents and other workflow tools instantly to anyone in the world is a boon for multi-location teams. What's more, shared schedules and calendars on an intranet platform make it easy to keep everyone on the same page. Everyone has access to upcoming deadlines and information about accountability and capacity.
Events Calendar and Management
While it's possible to schedule meetings and events by email, it's not as trackable as an intranet. Including a centralized calendar in your intranet helps everyone stay up-to-date with company events and easily see whether they're in the office, remote or at the warehouse.
Employee Support Interface
Customers can log support tickets, and employees should be able to do the same. Company equipment will occasionally go wrong, and having the employee log a support ticket on your intranet is a speedy and trackable way to fix these issues.
Automated HR Documentation Hub
Every company needs its employees to complete forms from time to time. Thankfully, the days of wasting paper are long behind us. This new reality also saves HR precious time. Vacation requests, training acknowledgment and sign-up sheets for upcoming events are just a few documents you can process automatically using intranet software.
Onboarding and Training
First impressions are everything, and this is just as true of your employees as it is with clients. Onboarding is the most critical time to train new workers and get them on board with your company's culture and vision. In addition to giving a new starter a login on the first day, make sure an inspirational leader explains how awesome the intranet is.
New employees can complete their onboarding documentation, do e-learning, learn about the company's structure and follow a schedule all from one place. Gamify the process — or make it mirror social media — as much as possible to maximize engagement.
Employee Experience and Recognition Management
If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Let's put that another way: If an employee exceeds your expectations but no one notices, are they likely to repeat the behavior that got the result? Maybe, but not if a pattern emerges. It's vital that your team is autonomous and doesn't need constant validation, but it's just as important that you make great workers feel seen.
An intranet is an excellent space for recognizing a job well done — and making sure everyone else hears about it. Even better, ensure everyone knows how you rewarded that effort to encourage more people to seek the spoils of high performance. In combination with everything else, recognition is a fantastic way to improve EX.
Believe it or not, many employees at every level love engaging with their employer. The more they know about your place of work and the priorities of the leadership team, the better able they are to align with your mission. Posting to a C-suite blog regularly helps keep your vision and mission at the forefront of operations, organically pushing the team to do their best.
Employee Feedback and Learning Hub
You can't force your employees to give feedback or go over and above to learn more about the company than necessary. However, you can make both easily accessible to encourage the maximum number of team members to engage. A self-service learning hub is great for workers who love having something focused and useful to read while on their lunch break or commute. Likewise, any moments of downtime can be used to give feedback, and an employee intranet is a convenient place for these important elements of EX.
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Why Should Your Company Deploy an Employee Intranet?
There's a clear emphasis on using employee experience to improve customer experience in the modern economy. Implementing an employee intranet that's modern, adaptable and customized to your brand is an excellent way to manage EX. Below are five clear reasons to use an intranet in case you need further encouragement.
1. Improve Company-wide Communication
Communication forms the foundation of society and business and encapsulates what it means to be human. Our incredible ability to support, persuade, sell, manage and nurture through communication is unparalleled. The more channels, pathways and opportunities you provide for two-way conversations between you and your team, the better.
An intranet helps employees connect with people they need answers from, provide feedback, check deadlines, organize schedules and get praise.
2. Develop a Profit-boosting Company Culture
It could be argued that company culture — combined with the internet — has facilitated the massive proliferation of startups in recent decades. Now that workplaces are more fragmented and disparate than ever, having a central hub for promoting corporate culture is essential. Use a newsfeed to share inspirational stories and successes and promote goals and objectives in a fun, accessible fashion.
3. Connect Remote, Hybrid and Office Workers
Anyone who's ever worked in an environment where there's little to no social contact knows that it's a dreary existence. Of course, management must ensure employees are productive and can use metrics to measure that. However, a little social chit-chat — and the ability to ask questions and seek advice — are great for morale. Intranets can help team members feel valued, seen and connected.
4. Streamline Operations
If the documents, contact details, files and schedules an employee needs are scattered across various locations, you have a time drain on your hands. The right intranet portal streamlines working processes, making it easier for every team member to excel in their role.
5. Boost Collaboration
To collaborate is to maximize every resource you have. When people share ideas and ask each other questions, more detailed, nuanced answers and solutions emerge. Large projects that require multiple input can be challenging to manage if there's no centralized location for using communication channels. You can use an employee intranet system as a project management tool, connecting teams and boosting collaboration.
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Interactive Employee Intranet Examples
Intranets have been around for a long time, and the following companies have perfected their systems over the years:
- GoDaddy: As the world's largest registrar for domain names, GoDaddy is a major global player. Its intranet system aims to connect employees, so they feel like a close, tight-knit team.
- Estée Lauder: This behemoth brand was the first beauty company to win an award for best intranet, thanks to its powerful ability to connect. Corporate, manufacturing, frontline, supply chain and retail employees are unified and aligned, thanks to the company's advanced employee experience platform.
- Princeton University: Due to the expansive nature of the various departments at higher education establishments, intranets are uncommon. However, it's these situations, where vast swathes of information must be accessible, that call for a centralized information hub. Princeton's intranet aggregates work resources and streamlines internal communication.
- IBM: This company's intranet has a long-standing reputation of excellence. That's because the company has instilled a culture of continually improving employee experience for its 250,000-strong workforce. It takes pride in having an intranet that's content-driven, social and engaging, maximizing productivity by streamlining collaboration and promoting autonomy.
Most of the employee experience platforms mentioned above are accessible to view online. Take a look at the design and features available on the platforms to get an idea of how the best intranets foster engagement and seamless communication.
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