From online outcast to digital game changer; how the intranet came of age
When first launched in the mid-1990s, many intranets featured little more than basic document storage and an employee 'noticeboard. Early platforms were designed to improve internal communications and simplify document filing.
Whilst some platforms partially achieved this, others became derided for their 'clunkiness' and proneness to 'crash' on over-worked client servers. It wasn't unknown for some employees to revert back to the manual processes the intranet had been designed to replace.
Things started to look up for intranets in the mid to late 2000's when Web 2.0 kicked-in. The explosion of user-generated content and instant messaging started to creep into the business world, with LinkedIn and similar platforms leading the charge.
Intranets soon followed suit, with tech companies realising the huge potential of instant workplace communications and online collaboration. Today, intranets have become one of the most effective vehicles for implementing business strategy and cultural change.
Here's how they're helping organisations to evolve:
1) Improving communications (and relationships) between leaders and employees.
The new breed of intranet presents a huge opportunity for organisations to create regular, two-way communication between leaders and employees.
Enabling informal lines of communication between the C-suite and staff can work wonders for strategy and change implementation - not to mention morale.
Recently, we were asked to design an Intranet around the needs of a financial services firm, with offices across the UK.
One of their challenges was to improve communication between its leaders and employees.
We suggested a weekly video update, where one of the eight board members would create a 20-minute round-up of key developments in their field. The first 7-8 minutes minutes would comprise a summary, followed by a 10 minute Q&A with questions pre-set by employees.
All employees would be invited to email questions directly to the leader in advance of the video. Some of the questions would be answered during the broadcast and the remainder answered afterwards, either as a post or via email depending on the subject matter.
This simple but effective approach has produced some very encouraging results so far.
6 months into the initiative, over 70% of employees are regularly viewing the updates with 50% posing questions to leaders.
In the same period a survey revealed 75% of staff felt 'more engaged' with leaders compared to 30% before the updates were introduced.
2) Employee-created content
In our experience, an intranet which leads with employee-created content creates a genuine sense of belonging.
It's also a great way to encourage employees to buy-in and exercise brand values - both internally and externally.
After implementing an intranet for a healthcare provider, our research revealed employees were engaging with employee-led content, on average, 4 times a day with 73% rating the content as 'helpful' to their role.
The content varied in subject matter from customer complaints and managing workloads to car-sharing and social meet-ups.
We've found that enthusiasm for employee-led content is even greater amongst remote workers, who find online social interaction of particular value.
A remote worker recently commented to us:
"The first thing I do each morning is check the news and social feed. If someone is in the same area that day, we'll often arrange to meet up - I feel much more part of the team now we have this feature".
3) Training and CPD
Built-in training applications can help keep employees at the top of their game by supplementing formal training and providing 'refresher' modules when required.
Training modules can be designed to suit all specialisms such as customer service, sales and HR with a blend of visuals, video and multiple choice questions.
Adopting a multiple choice structure dramatically cuts administration by creating an automated score and emailing it back to the employee with a 'pass' or 'retake' alert.
New modules can be created at any time and the appropriate employees alerted.
In 2016 organisations of all sizes, are increasingly striving towards a people-centred, on-brand culture.
The evolution of the intranet makes corporate and people-togetherness a real possibility.
Here's just a few of the benefits the new breed of intranet can bring to your organisation. For the full lowdown please contact me on LinkedIn or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Creation of a friendly environment for leaders and employees to interact and build relationships.
- Enable collaborative working across one or multiple locations.
- Bring employees together by creating new contacts and working relationships.
- Enable brand buy-in and communication - both internally and externally.
- Simplify or automate many manual and hard copy processes reducing administration time and costs.
The above benefits combined result in reduced costs, happier employees and increased productivity.