Once upon a time, a company intranet that worked off a server in your office was enough to keep internal communication on track. But today, company needs have changed. And so have employee expectations.
We’ve entered the era of the digital workplace. Employees use a variety of different devices. Teams work remotely, across multiple locations. And beyond the world of work, everyone is now accustomed to intuitive, convenient, and personalized digital experiences.
Digital change has come quickly. And workplace software — like the intranet — hasn’t always kept pace. Traditional intranets feel old and clunky today. They’re affecting employee experience (EX) - and they could be doing more harm than good.
Thankfully, a new breed of intranet is now emerging. It’s fresher and more relevant to today’s workforce. It’s also built with digital workplace challenges front of mind.
A modern intranet holds the key to two-way communication and collaboration, better employee engagement, and an enhanced digital employee experience (DEX). And it could be a game changer for your organization.
Here, we’re going to take a look at the changing face of the company intranet and examine the features and benefits of a new and improved modern intranet.
- Intranets: then and now
- Why you need a modern intranet
- Features of a modern intranet
- How modern intranets impact the digital employee experience
- Choosing the right modern intranet
Intranets: then and now
The company intranet has come a long way since it was first introduced back in the 1990s. Adapting to advances in technology and changing workplace trends, it’s taken on a variety of different forms over the years.
When talking about the modern intranet, it’s useful to compare the most cutting-edge intranet software to what has come before. So let’s step back in time and revisit each stage of intranet evolution.
Closed private networks were the first intranets to hit the office. They used local servers to host static web pages, meaning only computers based within the same geographical location could access them.
These early intranets provided limited interactivity and functionality. They were a place to share company directories, policies, and other documents. But because the setup and maintenance of early intranets required a lot of technical expertise, information was often outdated and badly organized.
As the internet went mainstream, web-based intranets made their way onto the market. These intranets were accessible via standard web browsers and had basic search functions, which helped users find what they were looking for. But these new intranets still had their drawbacks.
Internal communication remained one-way, with information traveling from the top of an organization down. Content was often poorly maintained because updates were complex. And there was very little opportunity for companies to provide personalized employee experiences.
Social intranets were the first intranets to go mobile. Remote servers meant geography mattered less — and everyone within an organization, regardless of their location, could access the same information.
Inspired by social media platforms, social intranets prioritized communication, with features like user profiles and user-generated content. They were also designed to support team collaboration and productivity, with personnel services and project management tools built in.
Modern intranets take the social intranet concept to the next level. They are a mobile-first solution with a focus on user experience (UX), designed to meet the expectations of today’s digital workforce.
Content creation is democratized in modern intranets. All members of an organization can access information and tools easily. And team leaders get the analytics and data-driven insights they need to improve employee engagement.
Interested in seeing a modern intranet in action? Preview Blink today with a short 2-minute video.
Why your frontline organization needs a modern intranet
So why should your frontline organization ditch its traditional intranet and adopt a modern software solution instead? There are several very good reasons.
Older intranet software can cause friction and frustration. Perhaps your intranet has become a dumping ground for outdated information. Or it simply fails to provide the intuitive, user-friendly, productivity-boosting features we’ve all come to expect.
We know that traditional intranets fail to live up to employee expectations. 67% of workers say that digital experiences in their personal lives are better than the digital experiences they get at work.
Many traditional intranets are built around the needs of desk-based teams, so they do your frontline workers a disservice. Frontline workers miss out on the communication and resources available to their desk-based peers.
A modern intranet, in contrast, helps you meet all of the following challenges head-on.
1. Employee engagement
According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report for 2023, just 23% of employees are engaged at work. But organizations should try to do better. That’s because high levels of employee engagement lead to happier employees, improved productivity, and lower rates of attrition.
Employee engagement is always a challenge. But engaging employees in a frontline organization can be particularly tricky. When your workers are deskless, how do you give them the connection, coaching, and support they need to thrive within your organization?
A modern intranet gives you all of the tools you need to engage your employees, regardless of where they work. You can count on a social feed, a content hub, employee recognition tools, surveys, and more.
With analytics too, you can see what is engaging your employees — and what isn’t — so you can improve your efforts going forward.
Open communication within a workplace is vital. It helps you inform, motivate, and engage your employees, while fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment. It involves top-down, bottom-up, and peer-to-peer communication, so everyone has a voice.
For frontline teams, maintaining open channels of communication within teams who don’t work face-to-face requires tailored solutions.
A modern intranet helps you build internal communication links between every member of your workforce — whether they’re based in the office, on the shop floor, or out in the field.
You don’t need to rely on emails or a company noticeboard. Instead, all types of internal communication are supported via your intranet app.
With better communication, you bring your teams together and you may find it easier to grow your company too. A Forbes study found that companies who involve 75% of their frontline in internal comms, achieved more than 20% growth over a year.
3. Digital access
Older intranet software is built around an outdated version of the workplace. It doesn’t prioritize the mobile experience and instead works best for employees who sit at a desk on a computer for the majority of each working day.
Newer intranets understand that the world of work has changed. Digital tools are a workplace essential. And frontline, hybrid, and remote teams should have equal access to the information and interaction that these tools provide.
That’s why the best modern intranets have a mobile-first design. Employees can access them as easily on a small smartphone screen as on a desktop computer. All workers across an organization are engaged and empowered, so no one misses out.
Traditional intranets are known for being slow and difficult to use, with low rates of user adoption. In fact, 57% of employees say they see no purpose in their company intranet.
This impacts collaboration. When employees avoid your intranet — because it isn’t intuitive to use or data is hard to find — knowledge sharing suffers and you risk creating organizational silos.
For frontline teams, this exacerbates an existing risk. Frontline workers spend time away from HQ, working different shift patterns, and managing a high workload. These factors already get in the way of team collaboration.
Luckily, this is another frontline challenge that a modern intranet can solve. The intranet allows people across your organization to share ideas and objectives via an easy-to-use interface.
Everyone can contribute, even those who work remotely, making your organization more productive, more innovative, and better able to solve problems.
Features of a modern intranet
We’ve touched on what makes a modern intranet different from the other intranet software available. But now we’re going to delve into the details. Here are features you can expect from the newest intranets and how they stand to benefit your business.
A central hub
A modern intranet acts as the gateway to your business. It’s the go-to location for company communication and knowledge sharing.
With a single, searchable hub, it’s easy for employees to find what they’re looking for, whether that’s essential documents, a directory of co-workers, or a list of the latest company events.
Importantly, information is stored logically and consistently. And the advanced search functionality of a modern intranet — thanks to keyword suggestions and content tagging — means it’s always clear what information is and isn’t available.
User friendly interfaces
Modern intranets are familiar to their users. That’s partly because they can be customized with employer branding. But it’s also because they have an intuitive, user friendly interface that mirrors many of the digital tools employees already feel comfortable using.
Employees don’t need a company email address to sign in. They can get notifications whenever important information is posted. And it’s easy to download intranet apps from the App Store. This means very little training is required.
Personalization makes the modern intranet even more engaging for users. Employees can personalize their dashboard and see content tailored to their role and department.
You can also program your intranet so it presents different information depending on where an employee is at in their career and how much time they’ve spent with the company. Someone who started working for you last week will get different intranet content to someone who has been working for you for years.
Managers can share important news and announcements. Teams can share ideas. An employee can wish a coworker a happy birthday. With a variety of communication tools based within the same intranet software, meaningful communication becomes second nature.
Employees don’t have to switch between different platforms for informal co-worker chat, essential C-suite comms, and knowledge sharing resources. They can easily find communications, and contribute to them too, all within the same interface.
It’s also easy for managers to highlight need-to-know information.Push notifications and mandatory reads ensure essential information never goes unread.
Asynchronous communication is important for teams who work across different time zones or shift patterns. But real-time communication is also crucial for your organization. It allows employees to communicate as if they were in the same physical location — even when they’re not.
This allows for faster decision-making, improved problem-solving, and better collaboration. It also helps employees to feel more connected to one another — because real-time communication mirrors face-to-face communication in a way that an email thread just can’t.
Employee recognition isn’t always easy when employees work disparately. Managers have to be intentional about praise and recognition because they get few informal opportunities to show their appreciation.
With built-in employee recognition features, a modern intranet makes it easy for you to motivate and incentivize your team.
Managers are prompted to recognize employee anniversaries and milestones. Peers can celebrate coworker wins. And some intranet software even provides recognition leaderboards and real-life rewards as further incentive for hard work.
The modern intranet makes collaboration a priority. It provides features that support collaboration for teams who don’t necessarily work in the same office.
From shared calendars to real-time chat, document sharing to task allocation, a modern intranet helps teams work together, even when they’re physically apart.
Workers no longer have to be chained to their desktop computers in order to get the most from the intranet experience. Modern intranets are mobile responsive. They offer the same user experience and the same great features whichever device employees have access to during their workday.
This means frontline, remote, and hybrid workers enjoy the same intranet experience as their desk-based peers. And you create a joined-up organization in which all workers are treated equally.
Modern intranet software integrates with the digital tools and data sources you already use within your organization. It creates a seamless experience for employees.
They don’t need to log in to multiple platforms and deal with repetitive or conflicting information. Everything is available via the same intranet hub.
For your management team, integration makes everything more efficient. You don’t need to duplicate work over different tools, which means you improve data accuracy too.
Good internal communication goes both ways. And with modern intranet feedback functions, it’s easy to find out what your employees are thinking and feeling at any given moment.
Surveys and forms are delivered in a user friendly format so a higher proportion of your employees is likely to respond. And with accurate insight into employee sentiment, you can create better employee experiences, making informed decisions based on what your workforce really wants and needs.
When you opt for a modern intranet, security comes as standard. The best providers work by recognized cybersecurity guidelines.
They provide data encryption and data backup. Regular penetration testing ensures the system always provides a strong defense against cyber-attack. And access controls mean admin teams can choose with members of your organization can see sensitive information.
Analytics to optimize and measure
The best modern intranets offer analytics too, meaning you get real-time data on employee engagement and the employee experience.
You can track a variety of metrics — things like user activity, co-worker interactions, likes, searches, and downloads. And then you can view these results in a visual, easy-to-digest format.
Along with surveys and feedback forms, intranet analytics gives insight into how employees use the software and how it impacts their overall experience of the workplace. This empowers you to make data-driven improvements.
How modern intranets impact the digital employee experience
The digital employee experience (DEX) is how employees feel about the digital tools they use within the workplace. For optimal DEX, you need digital tools that support and streamline every employee workflow, without creating points of friction.
DEX comes under the umbrella of employee experience (EX). But we’d argue that, in a digital workplace, DEX isn’t just part of the EX picture. It’s integral to it. In fact, we can relate DEX to nearly all of the nine EX elements identified by McKinsey.
Digital tools affect:
- social relationships in the workplace
- an employee’s sense of belonging
- an employee’s sense of growth, purpose, and motivation
- how employees feel about their productivity and efficiency
The company intranet is inevitably a big part of employees’ digital experience. And when you replace a traditional intranet with modern software, designed to meet the expectations and needs of today’s employees, you impact DEX in all of the following ways.
These days, we rely on digital communication tools to connect frontline, hybrid, and remote working teams. It’s important to EX that teams get the same level of connection and knowledge sharing, and the same sense of belonging, that they’d get working face-to-face.
Modern intranet software is built with team communication at its core. It understands that, in a digital workplace, informal water cooler chats aren’t always possible.
So it provides teams with communication tools that create a sense of physical togetherness, even when teams work disparately.
With Blink Chat, for example, employees can message each other in real-time. They can chat one-on-one or set up Group Chats for multiple team members. Within chats, employees can send messages, send documents, and even start online voice or video meetings, straight from the app.
But the modern intranet doesn’t just facilitate peer-to-peer communication. It also gives managers the communication tools they need to enhance the employee experience.
This is where the Blink Feed comes in. Via a familiar, social media-style feed, leadership can post company-wide communications. They can guide company culture and broadcast important news, motivating and informing employees in the process.
Employee techquity is achieved when frontline workers have equal access to the digital tools, resources, and people they need to succeed. Older intranet systems tend to leave frontline and remote workers behind. They fail to address many of the key challenges faced by frontline teams.
This means frontline and remote employees miss out on the opportunities afforded to desk-based staff. They find it harder to advance in their careers, they don’t always have access to the same tools, tech, and training, and they can end up feeling disconnected from company HQ.
A modern, mobile-first intranet helps to create a fairer working environment. All employees get to use exactly the same functions and features, whether they access the platform via a desktop computer or a smartphone device.
A modern intranet is easy to use, so frontline workers can dip into internal comms during a busy work day. It also acknowledges the fact that many frontline workers don’t have a company email address, so provides alternative login methods.
By providing an equal digital experience for all workers within your organization, everyone gets the tools they need to do their job — and everyone enjoys a sense of connection and belonging.
Learn more: Download our ebook, Achieving Employee Techquity
The right resources
Employees enjoy a better workplace experience when they feel they’re working to the best of their ability.
In a digital workplace, this means having the right information, along with the right collaboration and productivity tools. And this is another area of DEX that a modern intranet can help with.
A modern intranet acts as a content hub for your organization. But unlike old intranet software, this new style of content management system is well-organized and user friendly. It’s easy to find and read policy documents and to collaborate on files with co-workers.
Just take a look at the Blink Hub. It’s a content management system that puts policies, training materials, and manuals in one convenient, easy-to-access location.
A drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to add content. And because the Blink Hub is available via desktop and mobile apps, every member of your organization can access it.
A modern intranet can also provide self-service functions, another big plus for the digital employee experience.
When employees can book shifts, request annual leave, register for a training course, and access pay stubs all from the same platform, work admin becomes much less of a headache.
Engaged workers feel emotionally connected to their work and co-workers. They feel aligned with company values and empowered to work productively.
A poor digital employee experience gets in the way of engagement. But there are lots of ways that a positive DEX — supported by a modern intranet — can enhance it.
The social features of a cutting-edge intranet — like social feeds, discussion forums, and employee profiles — help employees build meaningful connections with people at all levels of your organization.
Employee recognition and reward functions within the intranet also boost engagement. Employees understand their goals and how these goals relate to the overarching company mission. A culture of recognition and rewards — made easy with intranet tools — then incentivizes them to meet their objectives.
Another way that your intranet can improve employee engagement is with employee personalization.
Workers get to personalize the platform dashboard to make it more relevant and engaging. Admins can adapt content too, tailoring it to the needs of workers at each stage in the employee lifecycle.
Analytics and feedback
Modern intranets make it easy for you to gather information on the digital employee experience. You can launch surveys, send out forms, and dive into the analytics provided by your platform.
This is a huge bonus to your DEX strategy. Because you don’t need to stab in the dark. You have all the data you need to make targeted EX improvements.
View data on employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. See what content performs best to improve your content management strategy. Understand how your teams interact, identifying co-worker relationships that need a little TLC.
A tool like Blink Analytics allows you to really drill down into the data. You can segment it based on team or location. So you understand exactly how your digital workplace is working for each member of your organization.
Some organizations have approached the challenge of digital transformation by acquiring tech tools for every business function. But this isn’t an effective way of doing things.
Gartner research shows that application sprawl (when workers are expected to use multiple digital tools) turns up the volume without improving communication.
When workers use multiple apps, it affects productivity too. Workers could save up to 10 hours per week simply by reducing the number of tech tools and apps they use.
Simplifying and streamlining the technology you use can therefore have a huge impact on the digital employee experience.
When workers have a single, go-to platform, there’s less friction. Employees aren’t constantly pinged with notifications from multiple apps. They don’t have to familiarize themselves with different interfaces. And it’s easy to find the information and tools they need.
Choosing the right modern intranet
We’ve covered all of the reasons that a modern intranet might benefit your organization. But with numerous intranet options out there, how do you choose the right one for your business?
Let’s take a look at a couple of questions you can ask when looking for intranet software that meets the needs of your organization and employees.
Is the software built to scale?
An intranet is a big investment of time and money. It also quickly becomes a central part of your company operations. So you don’t want to be changing it in a hurry.
When choosing an intranet, look for a solution that can grow with your business. Consider whether an intranet contender will continue to meet your needs if you experience a period of rapid growth and need to take on lots more staff.
Scalable intranets offer bespoke pricing for enterprise clients (per-user pricing can become unaffordable as your team grows). They’re also cloud-based, so you don’t have to rely on on-premise infrastructure when you need to expand capability.
Some other considerations to bear in mind? You need access controls suited to large teams, the option to create communication channels for each team or department, and the right level of security and support for a bigger organization.
Is mobile access a priority?
If you have any workers who don’t spend their workday sitting behind a desk, then a mobile-first intranet is the only logical choice.
On-premise solutions aren’t always accessible via mobile devices. You may even find that remote desk workers, using a laptop or desktop computer, have to jump through VPN hoops to access intranet content.
A mobile-first intranet is designed to work well — and provide the same features — over any device and from any location. So it’s particularly useful for frontline teams who need to access internal info on the go, using their smartphone.
Does the solution provide analytics?
The best intranet solutions give you the analytics and reporting features you need to measure the success of your new platform.
They provide data on employee engagement, content performance, user behavior, employee retention, and employee satisfaction. With real insight, you can identify areas for improvement and make targeted changes.
Only shortlist solutions that offer robust analytics functions. They should be able to provide data on a wide range of metrics, allow you to segment data by a variety of user groups, and provide real-time data. They should also present all data in a visual, easy to understand way.
Does the intranet integrate with your existing technology?
One of the key benefits of a modern intranet is its simplicity. It brings all of the communication and collaboration tools your digital workplace needs into the same platform.
The ideal intranet will meet your business needs in terms of two-way communication, content management, and collaboration. But it should also integrate with any of the tech tools you already use.
You need to know that any payroll, project management, or customer service software can integrate seamlessly with your intranet. And that these tools will continue to work just as well as before.
A new intranet shouldn’t negatively impact the adoption of your current tools. Instead, streamlining your digital tools should actually improve uptake.
Is the intranet user friendly?
An intranet only benefits your company (in all of the ways listed above) if your employees actually use it. So you need a solution that is intuitive and easy to learn, even if your team isn’t super tech-savvy.
Look for an intranet with a user friendly interface. It should feel familiar even if you’ve never used it before. Also, ensure it includes all of the self-service and search functions that make life easy for your teams.
User friendliness is particularly important for frontline teams. Working away from a desk, often with limited time for company comms, your intranet needs to be so easy and engaging that these remote, time-poor workers choose to open the app and check in.
When conducting your software search, it can be helpful to look at adoption and intranet usage stats. If other organizations, with a similar structure to yours, have managed to persuade their workers to use a particular intranet solution, then the platform will probably work well for you too.
Want to head straight to the best of the bunch? Then start your intranet journey by comparing the 16 top intranet software providers.
Ever since its introduction in the 1990s, the intranet has been an integral part of company operations. But today, organizations are moving away from older intranet versions to embrace a newer, slicker, more effective modern intranet.
A modern intranet supports the creation of a truly digital workplace. It gives frontline, remote, and office-based teams everything they need to work happily and productively. Because it provides a beautiful interface, designed to meet the needs of digital workers, employees actually enjoy using it too.
Choose the right modern intranet and you’ll improve the way your teams communicate and collaborate. You’ll improve DEX and employee engagement, so employee retention gets easier.
You’ll also avoid some of the pitfalls of digital transformation, preventing application sprawl by making all tech tools available via the same user friendly dashboard.
For frontline organizations, the modern intranet really comes into its own. Mobile-first, intuitive design with a real-time communication focus, ensures everyone – whether they work on the frontline or in an office – has access to the tools and information they need.
If you’re ready to benefit your employees and your organization by adopting a cutting-edge intranet solution, take a look at Blink —– a platform designed specifically for frontline teams. Blink does everything a modern intranet does, and more.
Employees get a social feed and a content hub. They can access self-service functions, make their voice heard via company-wide surveys, and receive recognition for a job well done.
As an organization, you can count on analytics and top-notch security. Blink also integrates with many of the most popular workplace apps out there, so it fits seamlessly into your workflow.