What is an Intranet? And How Can You Benefit from the Right One?

Oct 12, 2020
What is an Intranet? And How Can You Benefit from the Right One?
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Just what is an intranet exactly? And if your company isn’t using one yet, how can you benefit from an even better intranet solution?

An intranet is a private network used to distribute important information to their employees or other internal audiences. There are many different use cases and best practices to consider, but most companies use intranets to store and share important information with their workforce or other approved users. As an opposite approach to a company’s internet home page or website, information on the intranet is usually protected and is generally unavailable to external users. 

The history of intranets

Internets came into use in the mid-1990s and have been widely used and adopted by companies of all sizes since then. Yet they’ve come a long way since then

When intranet sites were first introduced, they tended to be static web pages that were poorly linked and didn’t offer much in terms of search, sharing, or other capabilities. As a result, it was hard to consistently find important information, and more, companies had not yet embraced the concept of pushing announcements or information out to employees using channels or other methods. 

Not surprisingly, employees tended to be frustrated by the overall experience and unfortunately, user adoption was never as high as it could have been. 

How to do more with intranets

As the technology evolved, intranets began to include powerful features such as employee directories, intuitive folders, search, and other capabilities that helped employees find and share the information they needed to perform their day-to-day activities. 

Even more recently, various integrations and new ways of thinking about the employee experience led to more modern, social intranets that supported more intuitive two-way communication and information sharing. For example, the best intranets can actually serve as fully featured content management systems to store important information in intuitive folders, and even better, allow any user to create folders or channels to distribute important information.

As these types of corporate intranets became more popular, even more, familiar social features have been added, including things like comments, likes, sharing, and hashtags. Now, HR teams and other users can monitor the real-time use and activities and can report on employee engagement and the user experience to continue to enhance their offering.  

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What are the advantages of an intranet?

When companies “get it right” with their intranet, they are positioning themselves to achieve many powerful benefits.

Intranet benefits include:

1. Improved internal communications.

Employees can find the information they need or subscribe to various channels to make sure they get all the information they need. And when they do, morale, engagement, and productivity will soar.

Shirley Garcia
Auditing and Operations Administrator of Medlinks Cost Containment, Inc. and Medlinks Staffing, LLC.

“I can’t say this enough: Without HR Cloud, we could not have communicated important project information or demonstrated that we could take on an increased workload. We now provide real-time workforce statistics and productivity reports that have helped us win more projects.”

2. A better way to store information.

Imagine the old days of paper systems and files. Clearly, any intranet is a better alternative to that, but now, the best solutions offer intuitive folders, real-time updates, search capabilities, and so much more.

3. A powerful content management solution.

Today, a comprehensive, central repository of information promotes a community approach to managing, accessing, and sharing vital content employees need each and every day.

4. A solution employees can own, and IT will love.

With the right intranet technology, any user can create portals, pages, and specific content. Even better, all of this can be created by non-technical staff (any employee, not just IT staff) using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

The evolution to a modern, social intranet

Most experienced HR professionals can remember what company intranets used to be like—a static collection of web pages with limited communication and search capabilities. Repairing broken links was practically a way of life. And even though the purpose of an employee intranet is largely to enable self-service for employees, the inability to find the right information often meant HR teams were busy fielding emails and phone calls from frustrated new hires and other employees.

If what we just described still defines your company intranet, it may be time for a change. Modern intranets—sometimes referred to as Intranet 2.0—have moved from static internal websites to collaborative employee portals emphasizing collaboration, accessibility and most importantly, seamless communication between employees and your company.

Today’s employee portal has evolved with qualities that define it as a “social” intranet, an experience that drives culture and communication with features that foster engagement. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key characteristics that define the social intranet 2.0.

Ease of adoption and use

Employees typically embrace social intranets because they mimic the same usability and features they are accustomed to with the social media sites they use every day. Like any new application, familiarity is critical to success and maximizing your company’s investment. Training is significantly reduced as a barrier to adoption, and employees are more likely to revisit the intranet regularly to explore the tools and information available to them.

Ease of adoption and use

Improve internal communications

Most modern intranets do more than support information sharing from the company to employees. They empower employees to access and share information with each other—sharing within teams, projects, and groups defined by location, workflow and more. With Workmates for example, individual departments can upload important documents, leadership can circulate important announcements and product teams can socialize product updates and share launch details.

Improve internal communications

Bring remote teams together

COVID-19 has sharpened the importance of employee connection—with your company and with each other. From desktop to mobile apps, Workmates connects remote employees and teams no matter the circumstances: remote work from home, field-based teams, satellite offices and more. Streamlining communication in remote work environments enhances employee morale, boosts productivity and fosters more engagement overall.

Bring remote teams together

Build a community of self-service

Previous approaches to company intranets were made up of collections of web pages and links to disparate documents and systems. Over time documents would become outdated and links would be broken or expire, leading to frustration for employees and HR admins. 

Modern intranets like Workmates are designed from the ground up to be a repository of vital company information—secure, accessible and easy to maintain. The community approach to sharing and managing information gives employees self-service access to content and applications they need at any time and from anywhere.

Workmates takes community a step further, making information easy to find with powerful search capabilities and easy to promote with viral content sharing from intuitive libraries and repositories. Plus the integrated employee directory makes finding and sharing content with groups, teams and individuals a snap.

Build a community of self-service

Offer personalized experiences

Another limitation of past intranets—most could only support a one-size-fits-all approach. Modern intranets can assign pages, portals and channels to any employee based on their role, department, group and other key criteria. The more relevant the experience the more interested and engaged employees will be in the information available to them.

Offer personalized experiences

Seamless integration

From document management to payroll systems and applications, modern intranets make it simple to integrate critical applications for seamless information sharing and access. 

For example, Workmates integrates with ADP and Ultipro payroll systems, enabling HR teams to automatically create new employee profiles and update data from a single interface. As a result, all teams can be confident they are working with accurate information at all times, and employees have more trust that their data is secure and up to date.

Seamless integration

Your intranet success starts today

HR Cloud’s Workmates employee experience now delivers all the advantages of a modern, social intranet and so much more. To learn more, download our complete Workmates feature guide or request your brief, no-obligation demo of Workmates today.

About Author: This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software  increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.

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