The fostering of an engaged workplace remains vital in a workforce that has been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as employees increasingly work remotely and require new communication tools. Ensuring productivity and employee engagement in this altered work environment is top of mind for senior executives operating in an extremely competitive marketplace.
Not surprisingly the digital experience is at the heart of the modern workplace. Organizations need tools to connect employees across continents with seamless internal communications, as well as tools to interact with their customers, partners, and suppliers.
An intranet is a keystone of the employee experience, providing an important function in basic communication as well as in increasing productivity and improving company culture. In this article, we’ll break down the benefits of an intranet in driving greater productivity, as well as share some best-case intranet site examples to inform and inspire your next intranet refresh. Let’s get started with the basics.
What is an Intranet?
An intranet is an enterprise network, similar to a regular website but is accessible only to employees. Intranets are designed to support employees to access corporate information, communicate, and collaborate. They serve a broad range of purposes and uses, but at its core, an intranet enables you to face the challenges of today’s evolving workplace by:
- Increasing productivity for in-office, remote, and deskless employees
- Reducing information overload
- Enhancing employee engagement and experience
- Preserving institutional knowledge
- Rapidly onboarding new employees
- Improving collaboration, internal communications, and feedback
Intranets vs Extranets
Intranets and extranets sound similar, and both play an important role for digitally-focused, modern organizations. So what’s the difference? While intranets are an internal site, designed for employees only, extranets help employees collaborate better with external parties - such as authorized customers, partners, or vendors.
Both intranets and extranets offer powerful search functionality and have the capability of facilitating software integrations - both important for ensuring a high degree of usability and productivity.
How Intranets Can Improve Employee Engagement and Productivity
One of the most appealing promises of a healthy corporate and company intranet is boosting productivity for your employees. Intranets don’t do this on their own, unfortunately. It requires assessing your team’s current obstacles to productivity, then implementing tools that cut through them. Intranets may not always achieve this out-of-the-box, but plenty of organizations have found effective ways to impact productivity and encourage employees.
One of the easiest targets for most companies is to cut down on the time their employees spend waiting for other people to do their part of a task, thus improving internal communications. This can mean waiting for someone to send them a document or maybe waiting for IT to teach them how to use a new tool.
Increasing Productivity in Remote and Hybrid Workplaces
The movement to hybrid or fully remote workplace arrangements accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations now face new challenges maintaining a strong culture and ensuring productivity when teams are no longer face-to-face.
In hybrid workplaces, employees switch between working in the office and at home. In these workplaces, intranets serve to ensure a seamless transition between both spaces. An intranet solution can act as a central repository for information, such as company news, updates, or messages from senior management. This ensures that all employees have centralized access to information no matter where they are.
For entirely remote workforces, the company intranet plays a crucial function in building a strong workplace culture. From helping the remote onboarding process and training to supporting office chat groups and other collaboration spaces such as the intranet homepage, intranets help remote employees feel a sense of connection to their company and to team members.
For both hybrid and remote workforces, corporate intranets can be used in innovative ways to recognise and reward staff, a crucial tactic in ensuring engagement.
Intranet Site Examples
It’s hard to know where to get started when it comes to building a new intranet of your own. Browsing employee intranet examples can help, as can looking at different intranet design templates and ideas.
Start with mapping out what you like from your existing intranet and what you’d like to change, then look for examples with the intranet features and functionality you’re looking for.
Here are seven company intranet examples showing how different organizations have used this technology platform to make work more efficient and increase employee engagement to enhance productivity.
1. Search-Enabled Content Management
Most public websites have a capable search engine these days, especially if they have a significant amount of articles and pages. However, many companies don’t implement these same features on their intranets, which are often more likely to have large repositories of content.
Try counting the hours your employees spend hunting down documents without search — it adds up alarmingly fast. Whether they’re contacting coworkers and waiting to be sent a copy of the relevant document or clicking through page after page of unsorted content, reclaiming these wasted hours is an easy way to improve productivity with your intranet.
This US-based national healthcare network is an intranet example that recognised this. Their team was put under a tight time frame due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and was faced with the goal of maintaining a connected workforce. The company incorporated a fast, advanced live search feature for individual pages to help their document management so that employees could instantly find the content they needed. It was one of many critical implementations due to the flood of documents being uploaded and allowed them to combat non-working links.
2. Mobile Device Access
Intranets were once confined to internal networks in the entire company, accessible only to those sitting within the company office. This helped ensure security for a while, but with today’s mobile devices and remote workers, it no longer makes sense to limit the access this way. To ensure all employees receive corporate messages when they’re sent, companies need to enable access for every device.
Australian transportation and logistics company, Toll Global Express, designed their intranet to be accessible by mobile because many of their employees - which include frontline drivers and forklift operators - didn’t have regular technology access but still needed to be connected. Workers who require offline access can get access to the intranet by registering their mobile number and receiving text updates. Some of the most important communications they send out relate to policies, procedures, and company news, and it’s vital that these get through to employees.
Intranet design examples such as Toll Global Express demonstrate how implementing characteristics such as a mobile-friendly company intranet design ensures that there is no delay in the information and enables employees to get what they need to increase productivity. This included a variety of self-service capabilities such as retrieving payslips and keeping informed on policies or procedures. This has improved their employee experience with efficient knowledge sharing of vital information.
3. Tacit Knowledge Management
One of the weaknesses of most knowledge management tools is that they only capture final products. For instance, you might have a company-wide document library of sales-approved PowerPoint decks, but does it allow you to view the edits and discussions that poured into each one? Usually, this is captured in something like comments on Google Docs, but once it’s finalized, the content is saved without these comments.
The Biostatistics Center (BSC) of the George Washington University saw value in tacit knowledge content management and decided to leverage effective intranet software that allowed employees to have access to features such as Kaleo workflow and message boards to accurately review and submit feedback for their manuscripts. It has not only allowed researchers to use custom features built for specific studies, but also to repurpose these for other research projects.
This made tacit knowledge visible to everyone, making it possible to reference past collaboration processes and track the progress of current projects to improve productivity.
4. Global Collaboration
Many kinds of projects require intensive collaboration and if you happen to be working with a global team, trying to coordinate meetings across time zones considerably slows your momentum. Rather than trying to coordinate live conversations, having a robust collaboration tool within your intranet allows people to contribute within their own schedules.
This is exactly what the international technology company, Schott, decided to do. Because it develops products globally, it relies on effective communication between its 10,000 staff in 35 regions worldwide. By incorporating this work into the intranet, they remove the risk of information being lost in back-and-forth emails or critical tasks being forgotten, thus improving employee communication.
5. Independent Administrators
Many organizations need to quickly make changes to their intranets without the help of IT, such as within the intranet homepage. A department manager might need to quickly get out a piece of news to their team, or maybe the director of HR needs to distribute benefits information to the entire organization. In these cases, it’s critical to empower administrators to create and manage content on their own, without waiting on IT.
The City of Vienna is one such intranet example where with digitalisation, employees and administrators have been able to collaborate on and manage their content in an easier manner. With the new intranet, creating and editing web content has been simplified and collaboration tools have meant it’s been easier to work together without needing to learn a new set of digital skills.
This improves productivity as well as relationships, because each department feels empowered to do its job well.
6. Sophisticated Integration
Thinking beyond the intranet can enable organizations to create an entire digital workplace, integrating with multiple internal systems, facilitating and digitizing processes and services for the employee.
One such forward-thinking organization is Brazilian paper manufacturer, Klabin, who launched a ‘Minha Klabin’ digital workplace to replace their previous fragmented ecosystem, integrating with dozens of internal and external systems and featuring several progressive web apps.
Minha Klabin offers services and content through an integrated digital system, with a personalized work experience to all its users so they can communicate, collaborate, and be productive securely, no matter where they are.
As an intranet example, Klabin has seen positive results not only for internal communication but also for IT and other areas of the company. Among the main gains are having visibility into news from all business units, improving engagement and internal alignment for many employees.
7. Replacing Email
For most office workers, email is an increasingly overwhelming chore. According to research by McKinsey, the average professional spends 28 per cent of their workday reading and answering email - negatively impacting productivity and morale.
It’s no wonder many organizations are looking for intranet solutions to reduce email communication.
When materials supplier, Materion, realized they had an over-reliance on email, they looked at how they could revamp their intranet to better meet the company’s communication needs while improving the employee experience. Their vision was to create a platform that employees could actually use to engage with content, job aids, and corporate news, without resorting to company-wide emails.
Their new effective intranet, Materion Matters, gives employees a valuable communication platform and has seen strong improvements in dwell time and engagement.
Company Intranet Design Ideas
The best and most effective intranet examples take several key factors into account when designing their corporate intranet. They ensure their intranet is:
- Mobile-first for an on-the-go workforce
- User-friendly, featuring intuitive navigation and search functionality, such as within the intranet homepage
- Attractive, modern, and visually pleasing
- Easy to use and update
- Based on employee needs and requirements
- Interactive, and encourages a sense of community
- Secure with strong data integrity and privacy features
Having clear goals of what you want to achieve with your intranet, and partaking in planning, testing, and careful research, will ensure your intranet helps foster an engaged workforce, and isn’t just a fancy phone directory.
The Soft ROI of Intranets
Intranets aren’t just about bumping up your productivity numbers, though it is one of their more tangible benefits. The more important advantage intranets offer is their ability to impact the intangible aspects of business, such as unifying a company’s culture or a higher employee retention rate.
It is difficult to measure the direct impact of intranets on these areas, but research suggests that it’s significant.
This is why it’s valuable for your business to have a strategy for measuring the effectiveness of their intranets which can be carried out with the help of an internal communications manager. After intranet adoption, companies should ensure KPIs are aligned with achievable company goals, such as increasing employee satisfaction on a number scale or increasing retention rate by a certain percentage.
Single tools or initiatives you roll out on your intranet - such as an intuitive and easy-to-use intranet homepage - may not seem to immediately impact these, but give it time. A habit of incremental but constant improvement will produce these valuable benefits over time.