man and woman talking

People like to either thank or blame millennials for some of the recent shifts in technology, but there’s more to the story.

A recent MillwardBrown Digital survey found that, generationally speaking, everyone is more or less moving in sync when it comes to technology.

And as a result, the modern workforce now expects the same experiences in the office as they get in their personal lives, which creates a daunting task for even the most nimble organization. Those that fail will experience subpar employee engagement — something that can have grave consequences on a company's ability to innovate and execute.

In the Beginning

This wasn’t always the case. In the mid-1990s, companies introduced intranets to boost employee engagement with technology.

Little more than digital replacements for the old break room bulletin board, those early solutions sometimes achieved their goal of getting the word out, yet never invited employees to have a conversation. 

On top of this, these intranets didn't adjust well to change: Their content and navigation systems became stale very quickly, and they became less and less useful over time. 

Then the social networks came along.

If It's Good Enough for Consumers …

Companies began to adopt the social capabilities that had caught on in the consumer world. The goal: to improve internal communication with employees.

Enterprise social networks (ESNs) emerged to answer questions that had been eluding businesses, such as “How do people actually work?”

Rather than the monolithic, top-down structure of old-school intranets, ESNs put relationships at the center. They allow employees to respond to their co-workers, collaborate on content and ask questions of management.

The collective expertise of the entire enterprise was suddenly available to all.

But despite these advantages, the “Wild West” nature of the ESN introduced new concerns for companies, such as the risk of losing data and documents as they moved from person to person across the organization.

Getting Interactive

Although ESNs were a huge advance, organizations need solutions that combine the structural advantages of early intranets with the social and collaborative benefits of ESNs.

Employees want their work communications supported by tools that behave like the consumer apps they use every day. Enter the interactive intranet.

The next evolution in intranets should work intuitively by automatically connecting new users to relevant groups and corporate news channels.

Employees should be able to collaborate across silos with experts in any group. Static information will be indexed with stronger metadata, allowing it to rise or fall depending on its relevance and importance.

By enhancing the connectivity inherent in ESNs and supercharging the broadcasting capabilities of portals, interactive intranets can finally deliver the desired business benefits of collaboration, while meeting the workstyle expectations of employees. 

By the Numbers

Leading enterprises across a variety of industries around the globe are moving to these types of interactive intranets – and reaping the rewards.

Some companies realize major benefits by replacing dozens or hundreds of separate intranets with a single interactive one.

By uniting massive workforces and helping geographically dispersed employees communicate and collaborate, these organizations report improvements in employee engagement, on-boarding, travel costs and overall productivity.

In fact, McKinsey reports that 90 percent of executives in companies that have implemented social technologies report benefits like these.

And, according to a recent Gallup survey, companies with engaged workers boast some impressive metrics — including 22 percent increases in profitability, 21 percent gains in productivity and 65 percent decreases in turnover. 

A survey of several hundred companies found that social, interactive communications and collaboration technologies resulted in significant benefits:

  • 15 percent increase in productivity across the average enterprise
  • 2 percent to 4 percent increases in overall revenue
  •  21 percent reduction in email
  • 16 percent decrease in meetings

While employee demands for the latest and greatest tools can sometimes feel like a burden, keep in mind that employees only ask for them because they want to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. 

Interactive intranets are already proving their worth, and companies should expect their workforces to keep demanding newer, more innovative tools. The only thing that’s certain is there’s no going back.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Roxanna Salceda.