Understanding intranets versus employee apps

One of the biggest tasks HR or Internal Communications departments face today, is figuring out the difference between intranets versus employee apps, and which one to invest in. Both of these channels are effective in providing essential employee communications, but there is a difference between the two, each with it's pros and cons. It is important to understand how these channels work, which provide the most engagement, and which will satisfy the goals of your internal communications objectives.

Intranets are very common inside of organizations of all sizes. They act as a central hub for employee and employer related content such as important news, messages, initiatives, policies and much more. As employees become more decentralized and mobile, it's important to make sure your intranet can keep up with a changing workplace environment. Intranets can be very effective in instantly digitizing information to users who have access to computers and electronic devices that will allow for intranet information to be displayed correctly. In fact, many intranets will simply be formatted to be mobile friendly, so that through a responsive design they will be able to be accessed via mobile devices. In many cases, this is enough for companies that want basic communication with their employees.

However, current research is showing that intranets may not be enough to actually push the needle on employee engagement. Conversely, the employee app platform is becoming a more popular alternative to intranets for a multitude of reasons. Let's examine a few common reasons why we see employee apps becoming far more effective than the traditional intranet in this blog post, intranets versus employee apps.

  • Content. Typically, the type of content that is pushed through the intranet channel is very "heavy" and it requires time to absorb and interpret. It's hard to get users to engage in such content when time is precious and the availability of this content is unknown until you actually engage and explore the intranet system. Intranets can have a lot of content on a variety of topics and solutions that employees can find useful, no doubt. But as study show, it takes more than just a handy tool to get people to actually engage and participate. Consider the following when deciding on intranets versus employee apps:
    • The content that is typically pushed through employee apps is "smaller" in nature to what you would see in an intranet. But don't think that it is any less impactful. In fact, it can be a lot more powerful through the mobile channel because it is cleaner, smaller, bite-sized and it easier to comprehend. Mobile format tend to be a lot more engaging in the sense that they are easier to look at, they can be multi media such as with videos attached and they tend to be visual as well as entertaining. They can be gamified and made intrinsically motivating, so that your users want to engage versus having to engage. If you've got a millennial workforce, this is critical--otherwise they just won't engage!
    • Think about how easy it is to take a quick buzz-feed type of survey, or watch a streaming video and answer a few quick questions, while being rewarded with points and leader boards. The experience is quite different than that of your typical intranet.
    • The employee app platform is conveniently suited to solicit two-way feedback and participation from users. For example, a very popular tactic in employee mobile apps right now is storytelling. Having the ability to let your employees submit photos videos and text on a variety of subject matter, makes knowledge sharing and best practice bench-marking simple. Best of all, employees can use this tactic on-the-go, and do it while they are in the midst of their daily tasks and responsibilities. This is a key differentiation between intranets versus employee apps.
  • Access. Intranets require users to be in front of computers and have access to workstations that allow them to access the content. This is difficult in many cases where you have decentralized workforces, that often are just not in front of computers all day. In a blue-collar workforce in particular, such as retail and manufacturing, this becomes a big factor between intranets versus employee apps.
    • With an employee mobile app, users can be literally anywhere. They can receive and absorb content via that little computer we all have in our pockets these days, our mobile device. Whether iOS or android, mobile phone or tablet, employee apps can hit the sweet spot on internal communications at the right time and the right place to the right person. By using geo-location technology you can push digital content to users when it matters the most. For example, why not push an employee survey to an employee when they are more likely to engage, such as entering a workplace or specific location? When you combine geo-location targeting with employee segmentation, it becomes very powerful to create content relevancy and engagement.
    • Software-as-a-service (SaaS) employee app platforms can also have web based desktop counterparts that can be used for those who wish to be in front of their computers and not using a mobile device. So in this case, intranets versus employee apps--why not have the best of worlds?
  • Targeting. Although intranets can have the ability to segment content to make it more relevant to the employee, it is often times a cumbersome tactic that is underutilized in current internet systems. Many organizations will simply employ a "one-size-fits-all" approach to blanket mass communications.
    • Employee apps that have targeting tools build in such as geolocation and multilevel employee segmentation, push content in a much more meaningful and thoughtful manner. This is the difference between getting engagement and creating disengagement. If your employee communication channel can custom tailor content to users based on their role, responsibility and their exact location, it becomes far more impactful and useful.
  • Efficiency. How easy is it to upload and maintain the content on your current intranet? This is a common complaint we hear from a lot of HR and internal communication departments. It takes a lot of time and resources to manage these heavy-weight, often cumbersome platforms. This is often a key factor is weighing intranets versus employee apps.
    • No matter what size your organization is, efficiency is key to creating,operating and maintaining your employee communication channels. This is where employee apps can really help streamline efficiency. By combining many different tactics into one platform, you can communicate effectively to your employees through features such as news, streaming video, surveys, rewards and recognition, instant messaging, social feeds, document sharing and a lot more.
    • Employee app platforms typically only need a few people to manage the platform itself, and only a few hours a week at most to maintain it. Furthermore, it is far more cost-effective for smaller to midsize companies that want to effectively communicate, but just do not have the resources or the budget to do so with an intranet.
  • Analytics. The key driver to employee communication content success, is measurement of how well the content you are pushing is being absorbed by your employees. Are they comprehending the subject matter? Can you extract insights that show just how well your employees are now performing?
    • When you use rich, feature-driven employee app platforms, you can combined many tool sets into one platform and extract insights all based on how well these tactics are performing. This will help get the big picture fast on metrics such as engagement, knowledge scoring, content efficiency, location and much more. By doing so, you will measure your return on investment of your employee communication channel (eROI). Does your current intranet provide you with top line inside state gives you the big picture fast, with the ability to do deep dive reporting into granular metrics?

These are just a few of the many things to consider when you are deciding on your employee communications channel of choice. This is why you must know the difference between intranets versus employee apps. Intranets and employee apps are very powerful tools, but you must know the difference between the features that you can push inside of one versus the other, and you must know how to effectively use the tactics inside of each technology platform so that your employee communications and engagement strategy is successful.

Remember, your tactics are only as good as your strategy, so plan it carefully and thoughtfully to ensure maximum success when deciding to go with intranets versus employee apps.

Would you like to see an example of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) employee app platform? Check out hubEngage.com and see how you can easily deploy powerful tactics inside of an employee mobile app very quickly. Design your app, employee features, measure analytics, all in real time using this powerful tool. Try a free demo of an employee app on your own device today, see how powerful this tool can be for you, and if it's the right fit for your organization when deciding on intranets or employee apps.


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