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A key goal of intranets today is to streamline company processes to ensure efficiency of the workforce. This is true regardless of where an employee is working from, whether it be in the office or out in the field. Features implemented include responsive design, comprehensive search, document management and social intranet tools to boost collaboration and engagement among users.

Serving organisations and businesses with a variety of job roles, these intranet features are set based on needs and specifications of the users. 

One of the rising components of intranets is its social side. Social intranet tools include blogging, forums, wikis, corporate directories, social feeds, Q&A sections and team workspaces. 

Social intranets increase engagement among employees in an organisation. In a Harvard Business School study looking at the association between ROI and engagement, it was revealed that for every 1% increase in employee engagement, the ROI for social intranets increased by 100%.

Employees, Collaboration and Engagement

Engagement and productivity are directly related when it comes to intranets. It’s one of the reasons why many companies today focus on finding effective ways to improve collaboration and engagement with their employees. It is said that collaborative and engaged workers exhibit enthusiasm, inspiration, confidence and empowerment.

According to research, although 90% of leaders think engagement strategies have an impact on businesses success, only 25% of those leaders actually have a strategy. Those with an engagement strategy see more revenue on average compared to competitors with low engagement levels.

Disengagement not only affects ROI; it also contributes to employees feeling under-appreciated in the company, leading to high staff turnover rates. In contrast, 87% of employees who are engaged tend to stay in their respective organisations. And surprisingly, only 40% of the workforce knew their company goals, strategies and tactics - this is also a result of disengagement.

Traditional intranets tried remedying these problems but they failed at certain levels. Old intranets were more focused on information handling than the importance of collaboration within the workplace, however thanks to today’s technology, employee engagement and the dissemination of information need not be complicated.

For more information on mastering collaboration within your workplace, read our online collaboration guide.

Social Tools for Your Intranet

The variety of social intranet tools can overwhelm organisations. What was once a lofty dream among developers and organisations has now become reality; about half of intranets now have some form of social integration. Social tools have become an avenue for business communication and marketing, be it external or internal.

A professional services company, Towers Watson, conducted a survey involving mid-sized and large companies and found that 56% of employees are employing social tools in their intranet to initiate internal communication, collaborate and build the community. Common tools included instant messaging, blogs, employee profiles and audio and video streaming. A huge percentage of users found these tools very effective.

Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Towers Watson, stated, "By its nature, social media is designed to build community and could help engage employees on key topics such as performance, collaboration, culture and values. As the need for global collaboration increases, we expect more companies will join those already leveraging social media to creatively communicate those messages."

Modern employees now firmly believe that their companies should do more to become social enterprises. This, they believe, will help contribute to overall employee satisfaction. Social enterprise and internal communication is believed to help users complete their tasks efficiently and help in role and task identification.

Many users consider the prime function of an intranet to be connecting and sharing. The social tools in an intranet are believed to give the following benefit based on employee surveys:

  • Sharing of ideas
  • Connecting with more people
  • Fostering a sense of belonging
  • Fostering employee engagement
  • Reducing email
  • Increasing user generated content
  • Reducing meetings
  • Providing better resources
  • Increasing productivity and employee satisfaction

Among the many social tools, most experts choose the following as their top tools since they help establish the above mentioned benefits of intranet:

Blogging: This is one of the widely sought features of social intranets. Most employees find it beneficial to publish their own content which can be localised based on the department an employee is in and be moderated by people within the department. The blogs contribute to the company wiki and internal information source. Although the Internet can offer a wide array of information, the establishment of blogging in intranets helps localise and personalise the content and address the needs of the searcher from within the company.

Forums: A threaded discussion tool or forum tool in a social intranet which helps in employee engagement. Aside from blogging, this also helps employees find answers on specific topics and even prods them to speak up and offer their own insight on the matter. This, for example, may be used by IT department employees to share technology updates or by Project Managers to give an overall view of their current projects.

Wikis: This knowledge-based tool for social intranet offers employees the chance to edit team documents. Together with search functionality, the wiki tool will allow users share their knowledge while assisting in current queries within the organisation.

Corporate directories: By enabling an 'expertise finder', a social intranet tool, you can search and identify employees within the company and access details about their expertise. Employees get the chance to create profiles and include their skills as well as other information. To further enhance the feature, social tagging and ranking may be included in the social tools. Tagging helps in keyword search and improves the influence of a search result. The better the credentials, the better the profile ranks in searches.

Social feeds: Social feeds are one of the key features of a social intranet. Social feeds provide realtime updates and help establish internal communication momentum, as well as providing visibility of employee skills.

Q&A section: The Q&A module is one of the rising features in many social intranets. Let’s discuss it in detail below.

Q&A Module as a Social Tool for Businesses

The Q&A tool harnesses the power of crowdsourcing and puts it right in the intranet of an organisation. It provides the following capabilities:

  1. Ask questions. Within the intranet, users may ask their questions and wait for answers from the community. This question may be asked if the above features do not already provide an answer to the question.
  2. View unanswered questions. This feature is for those who may have an answer to a question. Users who are in the mood to answer may go to this section and give the best responses they have.
  3. Vote for best answers. This helps in establishing the best and most useful answer based on user opinions. This helps reduce spamming and trolling while rewarding those who dutifully answer with helpful responses.
  4. Self-service environment. Instead of relying on direct contact with concerned people, Q&A intranet users may opt for the self-service environment. They pose a question, look for their own answers and act upon their concerns. This rising tool is now a main feature among big companies like Apple and EBay.

Experts now view the Q&A section as a powerful tool to boost sales on websites. It helps helps potential customers answer their pre-buying questions about a product. The feature focuses heavily on productivity, saving the searcher valuable time. It is these web facing benefits that are now being brought within the organisation and feature on their intranets so that employees can save time searching for answers and thus increase productivity. Giving employees the answers to their questions right away helps reduce frustration and increases satisfaction with the intranet.

Key Take-Aways

We have always known intranets help improve company communication. Now that social intranet tools have been integrated by many companies, there’s no doubt intranets are continuing to become more useful and increasingly important in business.

The key things to remember:

  1. Intranets are on the rise. They are proven to increase engagement and internal communication for organisations
  2. Better engagement means better productivity and increases in ROI
  3. The effectiveness of an intranet is further upheld by its social intranet functionality
  4. Social intranets are shown to increase collaboration 
  5. One of the key features of social intranets is the Q&A module which aims to answer employee queries through peer answered questions.

If you are planning to integrate (or enable) social tools in your intranet, you're on the right path. Keep these key take-aways in mind when developing and using your new social intranet tools and you’ll experience a boost in employee engagement, collaboration, company productivity and intranet ROI.

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