In times of business difficulty, a strong internal communication platform is an absolute essential. Crisis situations create a need for immediate responses, frequent updates, visible leadership and the ability to reach every single employee, no matter how remote. When it comes to communicating with employees during a crisis, all your existing internal communications channels suddenly come under close scrutiny. Are they really up to the challenge?
Many companies will be relying on their employee intranet to sustain their internal communications. In theory, this is the obvious solution. An employee intranet exists to function as a central, consistent point for employee engagement encompassing communications, resources, references and opportunities. It’s exactly what you need to facilitate your internal communication strategy. Or is it? In this blog, we take a look at employee intranets in more detail and consider whether they are still meeting expectations in today’s business climate.
What is an employee intranet?
In essence, an employee intranet is a platform used to share company information and resources among employees. It is also used to facilitate group working and the exchange of news, views and ideas. Over the last two decades, employee intranets have become a popular way of sharing information and improving internal communications. As author Tomasz Sobczak wrote in an article for Findwise.com:
“The goal of intranet invention was to increase employees’ productivity through easier access to documents, their faster circulation and more effective communication. Although access to information was always a crucial matter, in fact, intranet offered lots more functionalities, i.e. e-mail, group work support, audio-video communication, texts or personal data searching.”
The death of the intranet?
Just a quick search on “www employee intranet com” reveals that the employee intranet is no longer viewed as the ultimate solution to internal communication. When you take a look at internal communication trends, the once revered intranet solution has suffered a fall from grace in recent years. Unfortunately, the majority of employee intranets are plagued with problems.
Most intranets were initially built as a company library, packed with useful information within a hierarchy all of its own. Unfortunately, many companies didn’t invest in the one thing that makes most physical libraries operate efficiently - librarians. Many intranets were poorly curated, so information quickly became duplicated, out of date, or altered such that multiple versions would co-exist.
But out of date information is just one of the reasons why so many intranets fail to engage employees…
Drawbacks of employee intranets
There are many reasons why so many intranets fail to meet expectations. Here are some of the most common internal communications mistakes that you will encounter:
1. Outdated Content
Unless you have built regular updates into the internal communication plan for your employee intranet, it will quickly become obsolete. Not only do you then run the risk of employees using inaccurate or out-of-date information, you will also find that the intranet is no longer trusted. Once employees discover that the intranet is no longer a reliable source of information, they will lose faith and cease to use it.
2. Poor Structure
An employee intranet that is hard to navigate has already failed in its main objective. One of the most important aspects of an intranet is the inclusion of an effective search function to assist with the location of information and files. Without an organised structure, your intranet will not be able to deliver. If staff don’t know where to search for information, they will soon stop looking for it.
3. Bugs and Errors
Software issues will cause intranet usage to drop through the floor. As soon as employees associate the intranet with technical issues such as crashing and freezing, they will be reluctant to use it. Even worse, if the bugs cause data corruption, your intranet will actually be working against you.
4. Failure to Engage
The most effective internal communication tools are ones that connect with their audience. However, employee intranets often overlook the need to engage with employees in favour of disseminating news, reports and information. Including opportunities for participation can hugely improve user levels.
5. Inadequate Security
External threats, from hackers for example, are often well covered with firewalls and virus protection. However, often the internal threats are ignored. Weak passwords, unlimited access, poor encryption and issues of remote access from insecure personal devices such as laptops and phones, all need to be addressed.
6. Unclear Ownership
Who’s in charge? Often, the answer is no one in particular and that’s where a lot of issues can start. When ownership is shared across departments, with no overall responsibility assigned, your employee intranet becomes a rudderless ship at sea without overall goals or direction.
7. No Evaluation
Unless you are measuring internal communications, it is almost impossible to quantify success, and therefore to justify continued investment. Most employee intranets are left unmonitored, but regular evaluations and surveys will not only help you assess your reach and uptake, but will also direct you towards areas which need improving.
8. Low User Adoption
“If you build it, they will come.” Sadly, this isn’t true of employee intranets. In fact, the most common challenge faced by intranets is low usage. Due to the many problems detailed above, you will often find your intranet is not reaching the whole company. In fact, a recent survey by Prescient revealed that only 13% of employees use their intranet daily, and 31% never use it at all.
Is there another solution?
In recent years, Employee Engagement Apps have started taking over from employee intranets. Are they the new and improved version of the intranet? Well, at their heart, these Employee Engagement Platforms are just portals to a cloud-based solution that combines multiple tasks to help employees do their job better. The real hard work is done by the platform, whilst the phone, mobile device or desktop offers a convenient, connected way to view, access and share information.
Let’s take a look at what you need your internal communication platform to do:
- offer an engaging way for employees to communicate
- integrate and grow with your business
- expand functionality
- extend to new employees on multiple sites and geographic zones
- adapt to your specific requirements
- define user groups
- maintain security on multiple devices
- add media and content in a logical and systematic way
- enable reporting on all aspects of usage
While the majority of employee intranets fall short of delivering on this list, an Internal Communication App will cover off all these points. If you’re looking at your current under-performing intranet and wondering how to improve internal communications to meet the challenges of the moment, this could be the answer.
On the most fundamental level, the best examples of internal communication are ones that easily become embedded in every employee’s work routine. In an ideal scenario, your Employee Engagement Platform will be the first thing your staff turn to when they need anything for work. Removing barriers by allowing employees to use their favourite means of communication, whichever hardware or software platform they prefer, instantly improves your reach, even with remote workers. Add in the improved levels of engagement via two-way feedback channels and opportunities for participation, and you have one of the most effective internal communication tools at your fingertips.
Is there still a place for employee intranets? Yes, of course. However, their limitations are becoming more apparent as new and improved alternatives comes to the fore. When your business is facing unusual challenges and difficulties, you need all your systems and strategies to be performing at a prime level. Now is the time to address your internal communications strategy and consider whether your employee intranet is really meeting all your requirements. With the rise of Employee Engagement Apps and all the increased functionality and flexibility they have to offer, maybe it’s time to think again.