For the last 21 years, Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) has produced an annual list of what it identifies as that year's best intranets. The 2022 list, released last week, shows companies across a range of industries striving to address the changing needs of their employees.

In the announcement, NN/g noted this year was particularly challenging for those designing and maintaining these offerings, pointing out the intense pressure IT, HR, and corporate communications — the teams normally responsible for the intranet — have faced to provide an offering for remote workforces, but also (and probably more challenging) hybrid workforces.

The full list of award winners is here (paywall), but more important are the criteria which separate the winners from the rest. The authors of the report highlighted a few common traits the winning intranets shared that are particularly useful during the pandemic, but which are relevant at any time. Those traits include:

  1. Readiness and functionality that enables them to change as needs change — NN/g stated the difference between surviving and thriving over the past 12 months in respect to intranets was a willingness to change the intranet and not just the ability to change it. While this characteristic is not new, the enterprise response to COVID-19 and the emergence of new work models have made this a key attribute.
  2. Understanding of employees — The second criterion was built around Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs but adapted to analyze employee needs rather than general human needs.

While organizations need to meet basic employee needs, such as comfort and the tools necessary to accomplish work, the authors note employees also need to feel they have job security and a manager they believe they can rely on.

While the pandemic didn’t change that, it made it more difficult for organizations to meet those basic needs, leaving many struggling in response. Employees who previously were preoccupied with high-level needs like getting a promotion and growing their careers turned their focus to holding onto their jobs, managing understaffed teams and potentially juggling work duties and family duties while working from home.

Some organizations were able to respond to this within days, weeks or a few months of the pandemic's onset. The corporate intranet became a key element in meeting those needs. 

An intranet's “excellent features and workflows” supported these efforts in the short term and many of the same features and workflows will likely be adopted on a permanent scale. What we see in this report is how companies respond to the changing needs of their people and the critical role intranets played to connect businesses and colleagues during the continued work from home period in 2021. 

Move Over Employee Engagement, Here Comes Employee Thriving 

Employee engagement has as many definitions as there are people, which makes measuring and understanding the state of the workforce challenging to say the least. Microsoft recently took a deep dive into its own numbers to try and understand where the real indicators lie.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article titled "Why Microsoft Measures Employee Thriving, Not Engagement," authors Dawn Klinghoffer and Elizabeth McCune shared how elusive it was to pin down a definition of employee engagement, even with Microsoft's analytics and internal research at their disposal. Klinghoffer is head of people analytics at Microsoft while McCune is the director of employee listening systems and culture.

The authors concluded that rather than pursuing some nebulous idea of employee engagement, companies should instead measure employee thriving. Their rationale was that even when they found high employee engagement scores, many employees still were struggling.

"To us, this was a reflection that we hadn’t yet set a high enough bar for the employee experience, and it motivated us to do better in measuring what matters,” they wrote. Microsoft defines thriving as “to be energized and empowered to do meaningful work."

Klinghoffer and McCune found employees seen as thriving talked about work cultures that were inclusive, with autonomy and flexibility as well as support for their well-being. Employees who weren’t thriving talked about experiencing siloes, bureaucracy and a lack of collaboration.

But they also uncovered another factor related to collaboration: using a combination of sentiment data and de-identified calendar and email metadata, they found employees who worked five fewer hours per week, spent five fewer hours a week collaborating and had 17 fewer employees in their internal networks were also happier.

Klinghoffer and McCune don't go as far as suggesting that collaboration is inherently bad, but rather suggest that managers need to be aware about the impact collaboration has on their workers.

Workers Unhappy With Their Collaboration Tools

Ottawa, Ontario-based productivity app provider Corel has also been looking into collaboration and specifically, problems related to it in the workplace.  

While the Microsoft research above looked at the negative impact of collaboration on workers, Corel surveyed 2,027 office workers in the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Australia to establish how a lack of collaboration across an enterprise can impact the productivity of the workforce. The survey found a clear, and negative, impact, with 54% of office workers saying they believed poor collaboration is costing revenues, and over 60% stating the reason behind the poor collaboration is lack of effective tools.

Learning Opportunities

While many recent surveys point to poor management or poor workplace processes as the drivers of collaboration failure, the poor tools angle — even given the source — is interesting. Generally, we hear a great deal about the added value specific tools provide and little about the failings in the tools themselves. Corel's survey found:

  • 27% of workers believe their business is not investing in the tools they need.
  • 25% says the tools they do have offer poor functionality.
  • 22% they are not using available tools.
  • 21% are not getting the training needed to properly use the tools.

The survey also asked what the workers expected their collaboration tools to do:

  1. 39% said collaboration tools should enable workers to work on the same project seamlessly
  2. 32% of employees said they should enable work anywhere and on any device.

While it would appear to be common sense that workers need the right tools in order to achieve business goals, what this survey suggests is in many cases that is not happening. In cases where employees may have the right tools, they aren't being trained. Given the complexity of some of the current tools and suites, training on existing tools would seem a better investment than rushing to change tools which may or may not be the root source of the problem.

Miro, Google Meet Integrate

San Francisco-based visual collaboration platform provider Miro this week announced the launch of Miro for Google Meet. Created in partnership with Google Workspace, the integration allows Google Meet users to access Miro boards while attending meetings.

The integration allows teams to work both visually and verbally within one window, eliminating the need for toggling or app switching. The whiteboard is available during the meeting but also after for asynchronous collaboration. Google Workspace had first discussed this potential integration last year.

Miro for Google Meet is the newest addition to Miro's Google Workspace integrations and add-ons, which already include Miro for Google Calendar, as well Miro integration for real-time collaboration across Google Docs, Sheets and Slides directly in Miro board. 

The new integration is available to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers.

YOOBIC and Legion Integrate

Finally this week, New York City-based YOOBIC, which develop workplaces for frontline teams, has announced a new partnership with Redwood City, Calif.-base Legion Technologies, which develops an AI-powered workforce management (WFM) platform.

According to the companies, the integration of their products aims to give organizations that have a large hourly-paid workforce, better transparency and visibility into team performance and management. According to the Yoobic 2022 Frontline Employee Experience Survey:

  • 60% describe their job as understaffed.
  • 72% feel unduly worn out after work.
  • 52% do not receive adequate training.

Add into the mix that hourly workers had an Employee Net Promoter Score of -7 according to Legion’s recent State of the Hourly Workforce Report and you get the driver behind the partnership.

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