Brandemix has been creating company intranets since 2008. I thought it would be interested to see how best practices and innovations from that year compare with the latest design trends of 2015. Looking back at how far intranets have come can give insights on to where they’re going next.
I’ve dug through the Brandemix archives and conducted a web search limited to 2008 to determine what was trending then, and contrasted the results with this year’s innovations.
Intranets used to be accessible only to employees sitting at their desks. That meant a large screen, often a Windows operating system, and standard dimensions and colors. Thus, the intranet had to look good on only what type of machine. After all, why would an employee check work information at home, in their free time? And they certainly wouldn’t use a mobile device to browse a company’s intranet, since the first iPhone had been released only a few months before.
Of course, the iPhone changed all that. Now employees want to be able to check their benefits, schedules, sick pay, and other information anytime. And they do it on a number of different devices with at least three different operating systems. As the Nielsen Norman Group notes about this year’s Intranet Design Award-winners, “bevels, shadows, and elaborate framing effects” have mostly given way to simple flat circles and rectangles, the easier to be tapped by a thumb. Responsive design is a must, since the intranet must look good on devices of every size.
Then: Photo of the day
Now: Image carousel
In 2008, intranets were transitioning from utilitarian (and boring) text-only formats and starting to embrace multimedia, starting with photos. Many organizations posted a “Photo of the Day” that greeted employees when they accessed the intranet. Some of these pictures were from the company’s files or employee events, others were simply stock images, which weren’t very engaging.
In 2015, many organizations are using image carousels to provide multiple photos to employees each time they log in. Here, the content drives the images — if it’s open enrollment for health benefits, the image might reflect health and wellness. It the winter holidays are nearing, the image may show employees exchanging gifts or spending time with their families. This makes the intranet homepage much more relevant and engaging for workers, and makes the entire site easier to navigate.
Then: One-way video
Now: Interactive video
Seven years ago, video was just making its way onto intranets. Back then, you could expect two kinds of content: Training videos and speeches from executives. Useful, but limiting. There was no chance for a employees to respond or to post their own videos. The intranet was considered a one-way portal of information, with no thought of employees contributing to the conversation.
Today, the idea of social media has changed that philosophy. Rather than posting “official” videos of corporate events, some companies allow employees to post their own, since virtually every worker has a camera in their pocket at every event. Health company Klick uses video in a unique way: After an employee submits a question, an expert on the topic records an answer with an iPhone and uploads the video to intranet. This makes knowledge-sharing much more fun and interactive than a typical training video. Organizations have finally caught on and stopped making videos play automatically — a pet peeve of mine.
Then: Intranet as document dump
Now: Intranet as vault of knowledge
In the early days of intranets, companies would basically dump all their documents into their internal server. Press releases, legal documents, health insurance information, employee handbooks, old blog posts. Often it wasn’t indexed or categorized or searchable. Without a direct link, employees had to sift through a lot of blurry scans and weirdly formatted pages to find useful information.
Today, companies see an intranet as a respository of knowledge that can inform and engage employees. They take the time to scan and index documents, and tag them with descriptive keywords, so that employees can easily access them. Some organizations have taken the next step and implemented federated search, allowing one search to run through multiple databases. Others, like IBM, have made employees part of their knowledge base by connecting experts in different fields. Rather than searching a “normal” database, workers search for a colleague who can provide the answers they need.
Then: Brandemix could help you
Now: Brandemix can help you
Brandemix has been creating and enhancing company intranets since 2007. We know the latest trends and can customize your intranet’s capabilities to your exact needs. We also believe that extending your brand through internal communications is the best way to build employee engagement and commitment. Through our four-phase process, we build intranets that promote your business objectives, tell employees the forces driving it, and keep them up to date.
Ready for an intranet that will still be effective and engaging in 2023? Contact Brandemix.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
A new study from Gallup found that 51% of American workers are “not engaged” in their jobs. 17% were “actively disengaged.” Such employees hurt their company’s morale, productivity, retention, and bottom line. Luckily, there a number of ways to engage employees and turn these negatives into positives. Here’s an overview.
Intranets used to be boring, static platforms where employees would occasionally visit to read about their benefits and find departmental phone numbers. Now, savvy organizations use intranets to connect with employees every day. They also allow workers to talk back to the company, in the form of surveys and polls. And intranets are now much more than text. They can include video of the CEO’s speeches and photos of company events. Some even allow employees to post their own photos and other content. IBM’s robust intranet mimics some of Facebook’s functions, letting employees reward each other and even mentor each other. A social, multimedia intranet helps employees feel more connected to their colleagues, to offices in other cities, and to the larger company mission.
An ERP is a great way to engage employees. Asking them to help find the next generation of workers is very empowering. The materials you provide them with — from calling cards to YouTube links — reinforce the company brand and culture not just with job-seekers but with current employees, too. An employee referral program is easy to gamify (see below), which adds an element of fun while increasing urgency. By offering varied and thoughtful rewards, you can make every employee feel valued and special. Referrals have a higher retention rate than other hires (46% to 33% after one year) and are generally higher-quality hires. Another benefit: If the program goes well, employees end up working alongside their friends, which increases camaraderie and retention.
One of the latest tools in employee engagement is gamification, adding game mechanics to a non-game activity, like a sales contest. Savvy organizations are using gamification in numerous HR tasks. For example, Cricket Wireless gamified its training program, giving employees points and virtual badges as they passed training tasks. A leaderboard showed not just individual scores but also store-to-store rankings, giving employees a chance to team up and not just compete against each other. . St. Lawrence College used gamification to improve employee wellness, awarding points when workers competed in fitness challenges, took health quizzes, or met their goals. The result went far beyond wellness: 88% of SLC workers said the program improved their sense of teamwork and collaboration.
Intranets are just one way to engage employees through internal communications. Many companies have found success with full internal social networks like Yammer, Chatter, or MangoApps. They let employees collaborate in a social setting that takes the place of emails and meetings, which often slow productivity. You can also take your internal communications mobile, sending text messages to employees. There’s nothing to design, and open rates are often better than email because the message because comes to employees’ personal device. You can innovate in other ways, too — who says an employee newsletter has to be a piece of paper distributed once a month? What if it was a video? Or a Pinterest board curated by a different employee each week? Any new idea that supports employee endeavors, recognizes their achievements, and increases collaboration will keep workers engaged. They’ll know you value their work and their time.
These four tactics can help your organization reinforce your company culture and employer brand every day. They reach employees in innovative ways and reward them for their efforts. They create a dialogue so that workers feel valued and heard.
Brandemix is an expert at internal communications, employee referral programs, intranets, and gamification. If you’d like to implement any of these into your employee engagement strategy, give us a call.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
Below from IBF’s Intranet Life blog and Globally Local, by Jane McConnell, author of Global Intranet Trends for 2010.
The changing demographics in the workplace (brain drain) and heighted focus on worker efficiency is bringing the corporate intranet into the spotlight.
From my trusted sources comes a few tales of how companies are breaking down the borders between internal and external communications, along with attaching the ROI to such. Lastly, trends to look out for.
Sun: Realizing the intranet of the future
Known as Project 90/10, Sun is turning over ownership of the intranet to employees (that’s the 90 percent) instead of corporate communications (which will become the 10 percent). The intranet, they say, will become an aggregation point like a Netvibes or iGoogle page on the Web. The borders between internal and external are coming down too: Employees will be able to aggregate external content such as Facebook alongside internal content such as corporate news.
For Sun, it’s all about orienting the intranet toward the employee of the future. “The type of employee we’ll be seeing in five years, and are already seeing a lot of today, will be very familiar with social tools. They will want to get corporate news but also to share and play, to have fun and connect,” says McKenzie. Social media are at the heart of this vision, but where most companies struggle to come up with meaningful measures of ROI, Sun is introducing the Community Equity tool. This tracks both the level of participation and the value of contributions by employees. “It will be a powerful tool for us,” he adds. “For example, as a manager deciding who to promote, I can see who is contributing and participating.
Nissan: Democratizing communication
At Nissan, the intranet is a central hub providing employees with access to the information and tools to do their jobs-from workflow and processes to project management and virtual meetings. The vision for Nissan’s intranet is straightforward: to enable employees to connect and engage in a dialogue. “I think that without the intranet it would be almost impossible to run the organization,” says Simon Sproule, corporate vice president of global communication.
Nissan’s internal social network, N-Square, is bringing fundamental changes to the way of working at Nissan by breaking down hierarchical, functional and regional barriers. Interactions that would not have happened previously-such as dialogue between senior executives and employees, or across functions–are now happening in a way that employees are comfortable with and find convenient.
“In the same way that you may watch the inauguration of Obama on CNN and then go and visit other news sites and blogs to get a different perspective, so internal communications needs to become a trusted brand within the company,” says Sproule. He sees the internal communication brand, N-Com, not as being in competition with the democratized dissemination of information via employee blogs and profiles, but as adding value by providing a timely, relevant and trusted news service.
The Global Intranet Trends for 2010 report is subtitled ‘Towards the workplace web’. This phrase reflects what is happening today in intranets around the world as organizations are positioning the intranet as the entry point into the organization’s ensemble of information, applications, collaboration and communication tools.
The intranet is starting to be “business as usual” and thereby involving more high-level stakeholders in the organization. The ownership model is slowly moving away from the single owner model (usually communication). Forty percent of the organizations do still have this model but another 30 percent have a co-owner model where two or three functions share ownership.
The third model, which is cross-organizational with all major functions and divisions represented, exists in 15 percent. Although used less than the first two models, it is more often found in organizations with mature intranets
Approximately one third of the organizations have a high-level intranet Steering Committee. The senior level presence on this body has increased over the last year reaching 60 percent, with middle management and operational management decreasing slightly. This trend has continued since 2007 when the senior level presence was around 35 percent.
There are a number of indicators showing that the employee voice is being given some room in the intranet. Two examples:
“Commenting on official content” such as letting employees publish comments and questions about articles written by management is “in general use” in 20 percent of the organizations. Another 20 percent are testing it or have it “in some parts” of their organization.
Internal social network applications (similar to Facebook or Linkedin) are not often found to be “in general use throughout the organization”. However they are likely to increase as 30 percent of the organizations are currently testing or “using in some parts”.
Twenty-five to 30 percent of organizations that have already implemented some form of social media have experienced 3 general benefits: increased employee engagement, more effective knowledge sharing, and better-informed employees. Stories “from the front lines” are shared in the report.
A few organizations have begun to measure the impact of social media and although the examples are rare in number, they provide insight on how the pioneers are making social media part of business as usual.
Concerns are changing as organizations gain experience. Doubts are considerably lower about the relevance of social media to business needs, senior management hesitancy and employees wasting their time. At the same time there is a higher degree of concern about two things: the difficulty of finding information and potential user resistance.
Organizations in the planning stages for social media usage have very high expectations for benefits. Their expectations are far greater than what the “implementers” have seen so far. There seems to be a potential risk of disappointment.
Technologies such as presence indicators, instant messaging and web conferencing are found more frequently the more mature intranets. Some organizations feel they have reached a level of “optimization” for certain real-time technologies.
Intranets are leaving the workplace, or rather the workplace is being extended to where the people are. People do not need to be in the office in front of a computer to be able to use the intranet. Home access is possible in over one third of the organizations and smart phone access is just starting.
Some intranets have services for smart phones today, but the vast majority do not. However, twenty-five percent of the organizations in the survey say they are in the planning stages of making the intranet accessible through smart phones and PDAs.
BRANDING your Intranet with BRANDEMiX
All signs are pointing to the intranet as being a critical hub in the dialogue, as opposed to a repository of dated information and downloadable forms. The opportunity for branding and alignment of business strategy with human capital presents a myriad of ways we can make an sustainable impact in 2010.
Lets get planning
By Susan Solomon, The ClickZ Network
Every day of his gray-hued life, Ward Clever kissed June goodbye, patted Wally and the Beav on their heads, and drove the Edsel to work. He sat at his desk until 4, pushed a few papers across the desk, and called it a day. The tune didn’t vary much, except when — every once in a while — those crazy boys from accounting trotted across the hall to swap stories about those truly wild guys in finance. But that was a rarity. Most of the time, old Ward relied on a monthly corporate memo or two to learn about anything new in the company.
Today, Ward probably lives in Boca Raton and his sons Wally and the Beav are themselves nearing retirement at Ward’s old stomping grounds, but, man, how times have changed. The company intranet has the power to keep them posted on everything that’s happening to the company, not only in the Mayfield office but also at the outpost in Mexico City. “It’s really neato,” Beaver emailed recently to Wally. “But, geez, did you see what the guys and gals from accounting posted the other day? I don’t think the company brass intended for us to use the intranet for publicizing the number of drinks they all enjoyed at their holiday bash.”
Huh? Cut! I’ll bet you thought this was going to be an article about the wonders of the intranet for employee communications. I’ll bet you thought it was going to be about creating a free-for-all on the company electronic bulletin board. Well, yes and no.
The truth is, the content of internal communications is just as important as the external stuff. It may not be as glamorous, or as widely viewed, as a multimillion-dollar television campaign or even a well-visited Web site, but employee communications is truly a strategic function that affects the corporate bottom line.
Those marketing communications people who have responsibility for the corporate intranet have a very powerful tool to manage. Don’t ignore your duties because it’s “just internal communication.” Employee relations efforts have a significant impact on your bottom line. Here are some suggestions for handling content.
The intranet is not a bulletin board. Don’t clutter your site with employees’ notices about cars for sale and condominium rentals. Worse yet is letting your site become a free-for-all. Employee communications — similar to external communications — must “stay on message.” You don’t have to be Attila the Censor, but you have to be a good editor. Set parameters early about what can and can’t be posted. And make sure you — or another communications professional — are in the editor’s chair. Set up a quick and efficient approval cycle and stick to it to prevent bottlenecks.
Architecture counts. Set up your intranet site with the same care you would your Web site. That includes considering which items go “top of fold.” Test ease of usage with employee volunteers and listen to their responses.
Reward submissions. Give employees “beats” and reward them with bylines. But never, ever let an article go by without your initial perusal. (Have I emphasized enough the importance of an intranet editor?)
Don’t mistake the intranet for email. Email is communicated to a select group of people under some semblance of confidentiality. Forget confidentiality on the intranet, where the message is shared with the entire organization. Therefore, if a department head has a message for a select group of employees, suggest the use of email instead.
Don’t substitute the intranet for face-to-face communications. Employee satisfaction is highly influenced by the staff person’s relationship with her supervisor. Remind supervisors that the intranet is not a substitute for communicating face-to-face with their direct reports.
Empower employees. Give people the tools they need to do their jobs better. This includes online educational materials, software tutorials, and postings of important presentations.
Expand benefits. Let employees better manage their benefits with tools that allow direct access to their pension accounts, health insurance, and so on.
Communicate the message. Use the intranet to let employees preview ad campaigns. Provide an explanation of the strategy behind the campaign and “talking points” that will help employees further the branding message through word of mouth.
Survey employees. Be as responsive to employees as you are to Web site visitors. Survey users on the effectiveness of your efforts, and don’t forget to report on how you’ve used the information to make changes.
Yes, Wally and Beaver, company communications have changed. But the new medium is useless — or could even have negative effects — if you don’t take seriously your responsibilities as communications professionals. So, pay attention to those corporate intranets. Otherwise, I’ll tell Eddie Haskell on you.