4 Reasons Why Intranets May Inadvertently Be Slowing Your Team Down
SVP, Employee Experience Strategy
But, of course, innovation in communications has exploded since then—it’s never been easier to stay connected.
And intranets—with their poor search functions, cumbersome interfaces, archaic document repositories and top-down comms protocols—are beginning to fall out of favour.
For many, an intranet is still the foundation of a strong internal communication strategy. But go beyond headquarters, and you’ll get a different story.
Here are four reasons why intranets may be slowing your employees down (and you might not even realise it).
1. Intranets Are Notorious Time Wasters
Intranets were initially designed to help users save time accessing information and messages.
It’s ironic, then, that they’ve become notorious for their poor search options, jumbled collections of documents (most of which are redundant or out of date) and long load times.
Daily users often waste chunks of their day accessing communications and looking for relevant information. Often, it’s a gatekeeper’s sole responsibility to upload and publish content. And weeding out-of-date information often falls by the wayside due to other duties and the intranet’s overall system limitations.
On top of that, most intranets were only designed for desktop users, meaning deskless employees must use a back-office computer (or another method away from the job site) to access information and communications, which keeps them away from customers or other duties. And in workplaces and industries such as healthcare where time “on the floor” is critical, any time spent accessing updates or viewing rostering changes can take focus away from more important, possibly life-saving work.
All in all, it adds up to a lot of wasted hours that could be recouped with proper search functions that make it easy for daily users to access communications and documentation “in the moment,” and controls that allow gatekeepers to publish and upload relevant content (and remove or edit anything that’s outdated) more easily.
With the employee experience already suffering globally, software that makes managing workload and doing the job easier is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity.
2. Two-Way Communication and Collaboration Is Difficult (or Non-Existent) with Many Intranets
Disseminating new information and sending messages between staff and the head office shouldn’t be a struggle. But many intranets make it unnecessarily burdensome to stay in contact with employees—whether they’re in the field, out on the assembly line or working in-store. Which only exacerbates already common workplace communication problems.
Often, predetermined gatekeepers with editing permissions can publish information and talk to users through one-way communication—meaning headquarters can send messages down to employees, but staff members have no way of sending messages back up the chain (to clarify directives or get tasks approved by superiors).
That often leads employees to seek out other—sometimes unapproved—methods (such as email, text messages or consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp) to ask questions, give progress reports, submit proof of task completion or share any safety issues (such as a broken pipe or malfunctioning piece of machinery on an assembly line that needs to be reported and repaired immediately). The result is a drawn-out feedback loop that dampens productivity.
3. Intranets Offer Limited Visibility into What’s Happening at Each Location
Unlike communication platforms that provide two-way communication capabilities, intranets offer limited insights into what’s going on inside your business or at the job site from one day to the next.
The top-down structure, lengthy feedback loops, lack of real-time insights and (in many cases) lack of survey capabilities for capturing employee feedback and state of mind can lead to a loss of consistency, control and visibility into what employees’ work experiences are really like. It’s often impossible to know if messages and instructions were even received much less whether they were implemented in compliance with brand guidelines or other company directives.
This is especially important in retail, where the way products and promotions are arranged has as much of an impact (if not more) on sales as the people doing the selling. When headquarters is unable to see how products are positioned or what each store looks like, merchandising compliance suffers, which can tarnish a brand’s image.
4. Most Intranets Aren’t Designed with Mobile Users in Mind
There are roughly 3.8 billion smartphone users worldwide (depending on which figures you accept).
But despite the ubiquity of mobile devices, intranets are still often found only on corporate desktop and laptop computers. While many employees still have access to a traditional computer, employees in some industries—such as transportation, shipping or city maintenance—are always on the road, going from one location to the next and mostly working out of their vehicles, so accessing a computer isn’t an option.
Some intranet providers claim to offer mobile versions, but they’re usually either stripped to their bare essentials or designed as a semi-responsive, web-based version with reduced usability.
That makes it difficult for employees to do their jobs properly—especially frontline and deskless workers, who make up most of the global workforce and have to deal with inadequate software every day.
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Whether employee feedback or a simple check-in on a virtual timeclock, workforce management provides more avenues for employer to employee communication than any other aspect of HR.