Modern intranets are so much more than a place to store documents. Next-generation platforms provide channels for employees to connect with peers, contribute to enterprise-wide discussions, and react to content posted by senior leadership. With the addition of social capabilities, the modern intranet has now replaced the office water cooler as every enterprise’s go-to platform to communicate, connect, and come together.
What exactly is a social intranet? These platforms take the social functionality users have become so familiar with via networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and extend these capabilities into the digital workplace.
You can think of a social intranet as a platform that performs the same functions as social media applications, but within the digital workplace. Rather than communicating with millions of users across the globe, social intranets are designed to enable employees to connect with colleagues within their organization. A social intranet encourages information sharing and makes it easy for team members to interact with one another and work towards their shared goals.
Given the crucial role that social functionality plays in many modern intranet experiences, it might be hard to believe that platforms ever existed without it. However, back in the early 2000s, users couldn’t comment or like anything they saw on their corporate intranet. Solutions were starting to evolve beyond simple, static webpages, with some including task management tools and calendars, but social functionality was nowhere to be found.
It wasn’t until the next decade that social intranets started to break onto the scene. As society became more familiar with consumer social channels, enterprises began to envision recreating a similar networking experience within their own workplace. Early social media integrations gave way to blogging and discussion forums, with more sophisticated social experiences added in the years that followed.
In the 2020s, social intranets have arrived in full force. Modern platforms still offer blogging and discussion forums, in addition to a host of new capabilities. Social intranets now allow users to build their own identities through their user profiles, stay updated via news feeds and activity streams, and comment and react to the content they see on their intranet. Superior platforms offer a social experience that parallels what users have grown accustomed to through personal usage of apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as the promise of further evolutions to come.
How to launch a social intranet
Culture building. Knowledge sharing. Collaboration and innovation. The benefits of a social intranet, where everyone from frontline to head office has a voice, are clear. But how does a global enterprise go about launching a social intranet?
Social intranets now have the capabilities needed to empower users to build meaningful relationships with their colleagues across the globe. Social functionality will be particularly crucial in the hybrid era, since many employees may not have a chance to interact with their colleagues face to face.
How exactly does a social intranet recreate the water cooler experience virtually? Modern employee experience intranet platforms come with a host of powerful networking capabilities that cultivate connectivity, including:
Discover more social intranet features your employees know and love.
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Integrations with third-party apps like Slack and Teams help to bring all channels into one place, uniting every conversation happening across the enterprise. Microsoft in particular is a staple of the modern workplace, with their COO claiming that 4 out of 5 Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft 365 in some way. A large part of this demographic will leverage one or more of Azure AD, SharePoint, Teams, and Yammer to connect their employees and make it easy for people to collaborate remotely.
Effective enterprise social networking with Office 365
Many organizations that are moving to, or have recently adopted Office 365 are excited to have the opportunity to launch, or expand, a social network. In practice, few actually know what this means, where to start and how to get started with an effective enterprise social network.
By meeting users where they already work, social intranets that seamlessly integrate and interact with the Microsoft Suite and other collaboration tools are more likely to generate adoption and engagement.
"The effectiveness of social networks is directly correlated to the integration into the user’s normal day-to-day flow."
Social intranets are valuable tools for connecting people, encouraging open conversations, supporting collaboration and knowledge sharing, and boosting employee engagement. One of the less immediately obvious capabilities of a social intranet, though, is its ability to give you a clearer picture of your people.
Features like commenting, #hashtagging, and bespoke reactions are a double-edged sword. Not only do they give users more ways of interacting with content and colleagues, but they also give enterprises more accurate and consistent ways of measuring engagement. Going beyond what surveys and forms can provide, social engagement analytics give you an image of employee engagement on a daily basis, creating more data to shed insight on trends happening across workforces.
What your intranet can tell you about employee engagement
An engaged workforce will be the ultimate advantage in the new world of work. However, despite widespread improvement efforts, more than half of employees aren’t satisfied with their workplace experience. How can you be sure that your own engagement strategy is up to par? Your intranet is full of insights that can help you build a picture of employee sentiment across the enterpirse. Here's what to look for.
It’s evident that a social intranet can help build camaraderie amongst employees, but what are the big-picture benefits that stakeholders can expect? A social intranet provides many payoffs, including:
Collaboration in the hybrid age can feel a bit more challenging. If employees don’t have colleagues to turn to, how can leaders expect them to come together to get work done?
Social intranets make it easier than ever to collaborate with team members, whether they’re sitting down the hall or located across the world. Users can comment on project updates, tag relevant collaborators, and even pinpoint the best contact for a specific question by leveraging their people directory.
With the rise in remote working comes an uptick in loneliness. Over half of all employees experience some sense of isolation when working from home.
Social networking functionality can reduce these sentiments and help employees build stronger connections with their peers around the world. Social channels based on specific interests and causes give colleagues a place to come together and bond over shared passions, while commenting is an easy way to ask a question or get to know someone.
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Most leaders understand that an engaged workforce is a key competitive advantage. What’s often less clear is what enterprises can do to boost employee engagement and enhance the workplace experience.
Creating an internal social experience is a step in the right direction. A recent study found that the more employees use internal social media, the more they feel engaged and the more transparent they perceive their workplace to be.
A social intranet also gives every employee a chance to raise their voice, which further enhances engagement and is even linked with significant performance benefits.
Given the high costs associated with turnover, employee retention is at the top of every enterprise’s priority list.
Employee recognition can have a powerful impact on turnover reduction, given that 63% of employees who feel seen at work believe it is very unlikely that they will look for a new job. Employers can take advantage of social networking to ensure every team member feels seen. Launch a peer-to-peer recognition scheme that allows employees to award their colleagues with Kudos and express their gratitude for a job well done.
Reduce your employee churn rate with these intranet tips
The “new year, new me” mentality has reached the workplace. According to Indeed, the number of new job searches jumps 43% during the start of the new year and ZipRecruiter finds hiring soars by 30%.
Some might think that social intranets could be distracting and inhibit productivity, however that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Employees need to be able to check in with one another, receive quick project updates, and ask for help when needed. With a social intranet, users can efficiently identify the best contacts to reach out to for assistance and even tag team members, so everyone knows what kind of progress they’re making.
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In the second episode of our all-new podcast, our host Paul Seda invites Unily’s Kaitlin Auriemma, Kaz Hassan, and Matthew Boyd to the show to tackle the issue of employee productivity in the remote work era. Grab your headphones and get down to the details of employee productivity with the latest episode of the Unily podcast.
While simply launching a social intranet is a step in the right direction for improving employee experience, what can you do to take it to the next level? There are several tips to ensure employees are taking full advantage of your internal social experience, including:
Each of your employees has their own digital comfort levels and varying degrees of experience with social media. Rather than assuming everyone will figure it out, go the extra mile to ensure your social experience is intuitive and accessible to all. Include training resources on your intranet, ideally in a central location like your homepage. Make sure to add learning content specifically for social functionality, such as explainer pieces that walk users through the basics of liking, commenting, and sharing.
What’s the easiest way to get people talking? Ask them about their interests and passions. While you might not be able to poll every user on their hobbies, create dedicated social channels around issues that are likely to bring people together, such as environmental sustainability and diversity and inclusion. Even users who may be hesitant to post on your main social feed will be inspired to weigh in on the topics that matter most to them.
4 tips to get the most out of your enterprise social network
If implemented and maintained effectively, the value of an enterprise social network can be huge for a global organisation. It provides new ways to communicate, collaborate and bring people from disparate parts of the business together.
Some employees will dominate the comments section, while others might prefer a more subdued approach. Regardless of an individual user’s preferences, encourage everyone to contribute to your social experience. Introduce completeness gauges to incentivize users to fill out their profiles, tag colleagues who might be interested in relevant content, and create a Kudos leaderboard for a little friendly competition.
Your social intranet should reflect all of the unique voices and interests’ employees have across your organization. Rather than sticking to top-down comms, encourage everyone to add their insights via user generated content. Employees can share their stories and even include videos and images for a richer experience. In addition to giving everyone a platform, content from multiple users will prevent your comms from feeling one-note and make your platform more engaging.
If you want to give everyone a voice, you need to make sure your social intranet is accessible to all. Mobile functionality is crucial for engaging deskless team members, such as those working on the shop floors or colleagues who may be on the road. Ensure that your social intranet is mobile accessible and that your deskless users can easily comment and react to the same content that their desk-bound colleagues see. Mobile push notifications are also a must to keep users updated when they’re on the go.
Discover the power of a mobile intranet
2.7 billion people work away from a desk. That’s 80% of the global working population. These employees need more from their organizations, from their technology, and from the employee experience. This in-depth guide details everything your enterprise needs to deliver a consumer-grade mobile experience that connects and engages everyone from head office to frontline.
Between enhancing employee engagement and boosting productivity, social intranets can accomplish a lot of good. However, there are a few intranet “don'ts” that leaders should keep in mind to ensure their enterprise’s social experience is as positive as possible. Mistakes to avoid include:
Of course, you want to everyone to feel comfortable raising their voice, but you also need to make sure social content reflects your organization’s culture and core values. Social moderation and prohibited language makes it easy to keep conversations on track and enables leaders to take a light-touch approach so that everyone can share their insights.
If your leaders aren’t active on your social intranet, the rest of your workforce is likely to follow suit. To drive participation and spark new conversations, encourage your C-suite to leverage social functionality and set the tone for your entire enterprise.
Social governance models to unlock the value of your social intranet
Enterprise social technologies can have a transformative effect on workplace culture but achieving this requires considered planning and strategy. To truly realize the potential value of a social intranet, enterprises must implement a governance model that's tailored to their intranet goals and company values.
Your social intranet isn’t a place to call out mistakes, air grievances, or turn up the rumor mill. Instead of telling employees what they can and can’t post, encourage everyone to take advantage of your social functionality to recognize deserving colleagues, build stronger bonds, and put your corporate values into practice.
A social intranet will keep employees connected, engaged, and inspired in the new world of work. If you’re looking to launch a platform that will build camaraderie amongst your hybrid workforce, get in touch with our digital workplace experts to begin your intranet journey.