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4 Ways an Intranet Improves the Employee Experience

July 28, 2021 Employee Experience
scott clark
By Scott Clark

Many companies may not be aware of the capabilities and potential of today’s intranet. This isn't your father's archaic LAN-based intranet anymore. The modern intranet has the ability to consolidate information, enhance communication and collaboration, increase employee engagement, and improve the employee experience, all from virtually any location.

The use of corporate intranets had been waning for years. An often quoted 2012 survey by Prescient Digital Media revealed that only 13 percent of employees use their intranet daily, and 31 percent said they never use it. Then came 2020 and the pandemic, and with it, a suddenly remote workforce. Over the last year and a half, the intranet has taken on a new role as the virtual water cooler, repository of information, and the collaboration station that enables remote and on-site employees to stay connected and informed.

The aging on-premises intranets of yesteryear are going away, as they are ill-equipped to serve the remote or hybrid workforce. They are being replaced by cloud platforms that provide seamless content creation and communication functionality and flexible delivery features, with the ability to be accessed by mobile devices. These modern intranets provide personalization, and are often integrated with productivity suites such as Microsoft 365 or Google Workplace, as well as existing content management repositories, search, and collaboration tools. 

An Intranet Consolidates Information

Research from Social Chorus, a San Francisco-based workforce communications software firm, indicated that a quarter of employee’s time is spent locating the right information. Additionally, their research revealed that 80 percent of IT leaders believe that lack of access to information reduces frontline productivity. This is where the corporate intranet can shine.

An intranet can be a centralized database of ideas, documents, and links that enables employees to share knowledge, and search for needed documents or links, said Shawn Plummer, CEO of The Annuity Expert, an insurance company based in Kennesaw, Georgia.

"This is much easier compared to having knowledge dispersed across different places," he said. "Encouraging employees to write down information and store them on the intranet can also improve knowledge sharing.”

Employees commonly struggle to locate information and resources, especially when working remotely. Workers at home often feel left out and cut off from the resources that could be more easily located when working in the office. A cloud-based intranet can bring together all of those resources, making it easier for employees to perform their daily tasks.

“An intranet can be the single directory an employee needs to find important tools, so they don't have to keep track or write down everything they need,” Plummer said. “This makes it much easier for employees to work more efficiently and avoids confusion.”

If the intranet is useful enough, it can become an employee gateway, where the company can post notices about different tools and expect the notices to reach a significant number of employees, he added, as well as being the single sign-on point of employee access.

Related Article: The Corporate Intranet is the Key to the Digital Workplace. Really

The Intranet Makes Communication More Effective

The majority of intranets feature employee profiles that are similar to social media profiles, with functionality that includes blogging, sharing, chat and team workspaces. Employees are able to locate one another, leave messages on each other’s profiles, and send direct messages using the intranet. This open communication platform encourages employees to get to know one another better, even if they are working in different locations. Additionally, many intranets facilitate the sharing of video, audio, files and documents, and generally include the ability to use video conferencing.

“An intranet is a common platform for employees to collaborate and communicate with each other across the organization. Employees can share articles and others can comment to promote the exchange of ideas and foster closer relationships,” said Plummer.

Mike Gaburo, CEO at Igloo Software, one of the intranet providers included in analyst firm Forrester's Forrester Wave: Intranet Platforms Q2 2020 report, said effective modern digital workplace solutions are both a hub for corporate communications and a center for employee productivity.

“For intranets to be effective, they must provide value as both communications and productivity solutions,” he said. “Employers should look for next-gen intranets that support targeted communication to employees wherever and however they’re working.” 

The ability to integrate with enterprise software solutions is vital for the success of a modern intranet platform, and this is what reduces the pain points in the employee journey.

“Solutions that stand out in the market are those which help employees become more productive by accessing curated, searchable content and seamlessly integrate with enterprise software systems and tools,” said Gaburo. “Employers should be focused on both the need to communicate and the need to make the employee digital experience more frictionless."

Avner Brodsky, co-founder and CEO of Superwatches.com, a leader in wearable technology, said the benefits of an intranet are in overall employee experience.

“Intranets help enhance group communication," he said. "Employees can communicate with colleagues through blog-type posts and sharing of articles and other information, which spark discussions via comments and feedback. An intranet is also a way for management to demonstrate its commitment to transparent communication since important messages don’t have to go ‘through channels’ or be top-down anymore. Everyone receives the same message at the same time and feedback can be immediate.”

Related Article: How to Keep Your Corporate Intranet From Becoming Outdated

An Intranet Encourages Employee Engagement

A recent report from Social Chorus also indicated that 57 percent of internal communications and HR professionals are under increasing pressure to develop a cohesive approach to employee engagement. Thankfully, the modern intranet can help them do just that.

“An intranet is one of the ways in which companies can keep their employees highly engaged,” said Brodsky. “However, it needs to have relevant content and be regularly maintained by a mix of HR, corporate communication, and IT staff, so that it can contribute to employees’ positive experience and engagement with the company.”

Dave Nilsson, founder and director at ConvertedClick, a London-based SEO agency, said his company's intranet has helped them improve their employee engagement and productivity. “As a fully remote company, we understand the importance of helping employees connect with each other, even when they are not in the same physical space,” he said. 

ConvertedClick uses its intranet to encourage team communication and collaboration, which has increased productivity by 25 percent, Nilsson reported. And most importantly, it facilitates spontaneous, unplanned interactions, which is where some of the most creative ideas have come from, he added.

Related Article: Why Intranets Are Key to a Functioning Digital Workplace

Intelligent Intranets Makes Resources and Content Accessible

Intelligent intranets give employees the ability to find the information they are looking for while collaborating with other employees, said Diane Burley, senior director of content at Coveo, a cloud platform provider. When employees are not able to locate the resources they need, they feel dissatisfied and discouraged.

“For organizations grappling with dissatisfied employees, adding intelligence to your intranet may be the first place to start,” Burley said. Coveo research of nearly 2000 people backs that up.

“When workers don’t have the information they’re looking for, employees feel less confident (47%) and less engaged (42%) in their work. They worry the information they have is out of date (39%) inaccurate (25%) or not allowed to be shared (25%),” said Burley.

Surprisingly, 16 percent of employees polled indicated that not being able to locate the information they need made them consider quitting their jobs. An intelligent intranet can work in conjunction with the other tools in the technology stack, and allows employees to gain immediate access to the content they are after.

“An intelligent intranet should sit atop your collaboration tools and eliminate these unknowns by offering contextually relevant content based on roles and the specific needs of the project at hand,” said Burley. “Further, it should allow knowledge workers to learn from their peers by offering context-based recommendations.”

The Value of a Centralized Workplace

Facebook obviously sees the value of an intranet, as its Workplace from Facebook product, which was first announced in 2015, is a collaborative software tool that facilitates online group work, instant messaging, video conferencing and news sharing, all functionality that is very similar to an intranet. 

Workplace, much like an intranet, is being used by companies to facilitate collaboration, communication and open discussion, said Christine Trodella, head of Americas, Workplace from Facebook.

“We often see Workplace customers use the platform as their primary mode of communication, nearly replacing email and other internal messaging tools,” said Trodella. Workplace's Knowledge Library is used by some in lieu of an intranet as a searchable and shareable place to centralized company knowledge and documents, including company policies, handbooks and benefits information, she added.

The way Trodella describes the Workplace platform as an "enterprise-grade communication tool that helps turn businesses into a community" explains what a modern corporate intranet can be when it is used effectively.

“It allows leaders to easily engage with their teams, and colleagues to interact with one another, using familiar Facebook features like chat, video calling, posts and groups," she said. "It’s easy to use and can connect everyone in a company, regardless of location.” 

The corporate intranet of today is clearly not the network-connected onsite dinosaur of the 1990s. Rather, it is cloud-based, accessible from any location and device, including mobile devices. Using this modern intranet, companies can consolidate information, and employees are better equipped to communicate, collaborate and engage socially with one other. Today’s intranet is intelligent, and offers employees contextually relevant content, and helps them locate the information they need, when they need it, improving job satisfaction, productivity and the employee experience.

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