Intranets: old technology with a bright future

Think Intranets are old-fashioned? Think again: the rise of cloud and mobile have given them a new lease of life

In today’s organisations, the line between work and personal is increasingly blurring. Employees are demanding social networking tools in the workplace that allow them to easily communicate and collaborate with peers regardless of location and device. The rising popularity of social intranets is transforming the modern day workforce by changing the ways businesses engage with staff.

First envisaged as a single online destination to meet workforce information and collaboration needs, first-generation intranets didn’t fail because they were a bad idea; they failed because HR and IT didn’t create a compelling and valuable user experience.

When it comes to accessing HR and company information, the modern workforce expects a consumer-grade experience akin to how they interact in their personal lives using social and mobile tools.

The findings from our recent research project with the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM), uncovered some interesting statistics to make us rethink how intranets will shape the modern workforce. Today, 85 per cent of companies have an intranet or employee portal of some kind, demonstrating how more businesses are finding this a useful way to keep staff connected, not just with each other, but also updated on relevant business announcements.

From an HR perspective, the research importantly shows how more than two-thirds of companies state it has reduced the administrative burden on HR; it’s quick for resourcing staff to check-in on team members and use the intranet to review their personal goals and details, rather than requesting endless forms to be filled out.

Today, 85 per cent of companies have an intranet or employee portal of some kind, demonstrating how more businesses are finding this a useful way to keep staff connected

Businesses can pay a high price for employees who are just going through the motions; staff could feel disengaged and out of touch with the organisation. This needs to be addressed as we move towards a world where more and more employees are digital natives, multigenerational, highly collaborative and more globally dispersed than ever. Employee intranets are an easy and highly impactful place to start, and when combined with cloud implementations will give the workforce access to information like never before.

What’s also interesting is how traditional intranets aren’t connecting enough to other social platforms to optimise digital possibilities; for instance fewer than 25 per cent of social intranets are integrated with other social platforms. What we want to see is all social functions centralised in one portal, so that the digital offering is consistent. Virgin America is a good example of how these portals can really take off in a company. Within one month of deploying a social intranet, 80 per cent of Virgin America users had shared content via Chatter, a social collaboration tool, and site time visits increased from 45 seconds to more than six minutes, contributing to increased employee engagement and social collaboration.

Cloud, mobile and social technologies make it possible to provide a more consumer grade experience that employees today expect; however, the vast majority of today’s intranets are built using legacy technologies. Cloud technology coupled with employee-centric design enables social intranets to have both a dramatic impact on productivity and efficiency, as well as employee engagement.

We’re excited to see this trend develop with companies far and wide, as the research shows business can benefit both from the point of view of better morale and through better use of employee data. Let’s make business as social as possible, to get better results, and a better atmosphere and understanding of what it is, as an organisation, trying to do.

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