Intranet solutions provide the digital workplaces that our modern-day society demands.
They offer the real-time collaboration and connection of employees from any device, all within the secure confines of your own enterprise. These benefits have become used – and necessary – on a wide scale, causing intranets to evolve to an enterprise-level tool. If your company is operating outside some sort of intranet platform, you are missing out.
What intranet trends are we currently seeing? What are experts predicting for the future of the intranet? What features can you look for to set up your enterprise for intranet success?
Here are 7 intranet trends to look out for in the near future.
Intranet Trend #1: Increased focus on employee experience and engagement
User-first design is one of the biggest factors in the success of your intranet software. The only way to make your intranet successful and relevant is to keep your employees engaged with the system – every day. Without employee usage, your system becomes irrelevant in the workplace, therefore useless. You’ll have created a black hole within your organization – a place where information goes to die.
The good news is that the key to intranet success is in your hands. Employee engagement is the name of the game.
Today’s employee demographic is driven by a sense of shared purpose, which means that the more context an employee has within the larger picture of a company, the better their workplace performance will be. Richard Branson once said it best:
“Clients do not come first. Employees do. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
In other words: we are going to see a continued trend in intranets catering to employee satisfaction in the workplace.
This will result in a growing need for employee personalization and relationship-building, made easier through the social network features of your intranet software. It’s also important to cater to your employees’ preferred method of working. In this growing digital age, most employees are used to learning, working, and completing tasks digitally – why wouldn’t a company then help with that?
We are going to see more sophisticated collaboration tools and features within intranet solutions. Expect a positive effect on employee engagement and work-style compatibility for the current workforce.
Intranet Trend #2: Move from building intranet systems to buying from a third-party provider
The most recent Nielsen Norman Best Intranet Design of 2018 Awards doesn’t necessarily back this intranet trend, but individual intranet software providers have seen a move towards cloud-based SaaS software over the old school 'DIY' method. Building can be a huge time-and-money sinkhole for your business. It takes a skilled team a long time to design, build, install, and then manage a custom-built intranet system.
Now, we are seeing a rise in companies hosting and providing intranet software to sell to enterprises in need of a solution. There are now close to a 100 different cloud-based solutions that are available. All of them can be compared, customized and tested by your company to see what a successful intranet solution for your working environment would be. Most intranet solution vendors specialize in specific features – pick your preferred flavour. With an increase in these software providers, the need to build a custom intranet system will become obsolete.
For example, Happeo intranet solutions integrates with G Suite and Slack, while Unily specializes in an Office 365 integration. With so many options available and the market only becoming more competitive, enterprises are bound to find a solution that fits all of their needs.
Purchasing software versus building it can drastically cut down the intranet adoption and implementation time. The core product has already been built, tested, and perfected by the provider. Take time to research and test your intranet software before purchasing it – after that process you are virtually ready to go. They will also provide you with customization options and they will take care of updating the software, so all you’ll need to worry about is your own internal communication strategy.
Intranet Trend #3: More integration features
While intranets solve a host of problems, there are many other external collaboration tools needed to get the job done. Many enterprises already rely heavily on external tools. So, instead of trying to improve on tools that are already functioning well, successful intranet software integrates them.
Intranet providers know that it is in their best interest to incorporate these tools into their intranet solutions, so we will start seeing more and more providers adding integration capabilities. Integrating allows enterprises to streamline information and place all pieces of the digital workplace into one. For example, Happeo’s integration with G Suite allows all of your company’s documents, calendars, and groups directory to be seamlessly integrated into your new intranet software. Happeo also integrates with Slack, which is the leading messaging Software as a Service (SaaS) tool today. There are other intranet platforms that do the same, but in an Office 365 environment. Our tip? Start with the tools you already have – then take it from there.
It doesn’t take a big overhaul or move of data from one system to another. Integrated systems help smooth the intranet adoption process. Mass-integration eliminates constant switching between different software and login. It houses all the tools that employees need in one platform. Your intranet solution shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for these collaborative tools, but instead a hub that supports and integrates them into the connected workplace.
Intranet Trend #4: Focus on content relevancy
The old ways of broadcasting content on intranet servers is gone. Instead we are shifting to targeted content. Growth marketers have been using analytics to optimally target groups forever – with the right tools, so can the Internal Communication department. Employees are not interested in the messages corporate offices are trying to push on them, rather they expect personalized and relevant content that will directly relate to their tasks at hand. We are going to see a rise in storytelling narrative throughout the workplace, especially from leadership teams, to create content that employees find engaging and meaningful.
If you are specifically looking to step up your game when it comes to intranet content, consider investing in training your staff on Storytelling in the workplace. This will help create consistent, relevant, relatable content that will uniform across the company. It will set the tone for your intranet’s voice, and it will help drive the intranet adoption process by giving your employee’s context to their role within the larger system.
Digital workplaces are all about user-generated content. The days of top-down only communication are over, and instead we are creating a culture where everyone has a voice and a say. To keep content relevant, you need to provide platforms that are user-friendly and easily managed. With a push for content, you want to make sure that your system is prepared to host that information, and you will want to have someone in charge of maintaining it.
Another way of making content relevant to employees is by focusing on their interests and skills. The key to this is knowing your staff, and having the knowledge of what will be relevant to them. While that is an investment, the return is measurable in employee satisfaction and engagement. Both are key to intranet success.
Intranet Trend #5: Mobile and portable device-friendly software
We have already seen the shift from desktop computers to laptops. The next step will be completely portable, like tablets and phones. In the Nielsen Norman Awards this year, all intranet winners had a compatibility feature for a mobile device. But, what we are currently seeing is already established intranet systems attempting to create an adaptively designed mobile app. With more and more employees working from mobile devices, the mobile platform of your intranet system needs to meet that demand.
These days, intranet solutions need carefully designed and streamlined mobile application. If you can start off with something that will allow employees to access and create relevant content, get jobs done from a mobile devices, integrate other mobile applications and receive important notifications, then your enterprise will be set up for successful intranet adoption.
The mobile features also help connect your workforce any time and any place. As the “office” becomes less of a physical space and more of a digital one, it's important to keep different time zones and working hours in mind. It also helps your commuting staff to keep up with the company happenings while on-the-go.
Invest in mobile-friendly interfaces when choosing or designing your intranet solution. Look for touchscreen optimization, smart innovation, and responsive software for mobile devices. Another intranet trend we are seeing for mobile devices is a personalized employee feed. This allows for users to see the updates that are most important to them right when they open the application, and constant updates keep them engaged.
Intranet Trend #6: Personalized social features
The intranet trend that launched this software into its 2.0 version continues to dominate the requirements list for Internal Communication professionals. We’re of course talking about the social elements popularized by platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more.
While blogs, forums, and chat features allow for more interactivity, they aren’t new for intranet solutions. We’re now seeing a trend towards personal profiles of employees in intranets. Think of your external social media profile within the internal network. People take pride in their own personal brand and story; integrating that into your workplace will keep employees engaged and connected.
New social features we are looking towards are in-depth employee updates (where they are, what they are working on, sharing their current struggles/successes) and personal-post analytics (think LinkedIn’s popular ‘your post has reached x amount of people’) to get real time insight on employee participation and interaction.
Not only do social features of intranets engage employees, they also streamline collaboration. There are many tools out there specified to improve employee collaboration, but really, investing in your intranet’s social features boost work collaboration heavily. It keeps employees continually connected to each other, and provides features that allow real-time collaboration across departments, physical space, and time zones.
Another benefit of socializing your solution is an easy, quick intranet adoption process. Integrating features that are familiar and comfortable to your employees will keep them frequenting the platform, therefore driving the intranet adoption process. Social tools are some of the best ways to keep your employees interacting with the intranet, leading to a successful intranet adoption.
The integration of social tools in your intranet gives employees a sense of belonging and a voice within the larger context of the enterprise. It gives them space to connect, communicate, collaborate, and contribute to the everyday functionings of the workspace. Make sure your social features contribute to this notion and help create a meaningfully engaging platform for your employees.
Intranet Trend #7: Focus on design and visuals
An engaging, streamlined and well-designed User Interface (UI) will boost intranet adoption rates and increase employee engagement. You could host the best content and offer state-of-the-art socialization tools, but if your UI is confusing, none of it will matter. Users will be confused and frustrated, leaving your intranet an empty wasteland.
We are going to see intranet UI’s break away from cookie-cutter design. Instead, current intranet design trends boasts customized, individualistic approaches. These new designs will be built with the user in mind, and will include new, exciting features that engage employees.
Along these same lines, we will start seeing intranets trend toward visuals and diagrams over text and lists. We’ve already seen this happen with social media, just look at the rise of Instagram. The days of forcing employees to sift and scroll through endless text are over. With user-centric intranet solutions becoming the norm, leadership teams are expected to deliver information and create content that will engage employees. Easy-to-understand messages are key. User-first design will drive the intranet adoption process and keep employees coming back to your intranet software, whether it’s to find answers to burning questions, or help to complete tasks..
Take your workplace culture to the next level by figuring out how your employees interact with the UI, and then experiment with captivating designs that will draw users in. Taking the time to closely observe your employees will provide you with the data you need to choose a successful intranet solution that makes sense for you.
The bottom line: stay up to date on what works for your intranet
Looking through these lists of intranet trends may be intimidating when considering your own intranet solution, but it’s important to picture everything in the context of what works for your enterprise. Look at this list through the lens of your workforce and how you operate. If you have socialization functions within your intranet that your employees like, don’t worry about trying to improve them just yet. Instead, analyze the features that you think may soon become outdated and work toward improving them.