Intranet and employee communication technology trends for the future

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Experts at Forrester Research and Firstup highlight the top five trends and forces shaping today’s leading employee communication technologies.
employee communication technology trends

The way of work has changed significantly—organizations are tasked with finding the right balance between remote and hybrid work environments, impacting the employee journey from start to finish and ultimately making work better for every worker. Organizations need to employ the right technologies to help automate these processes and ensure success in achieving these initiatives.

In our latest webinar, Mike Vilimek, VP of Product, Solutions, & Alliances Marketing at Firstup, talked with Cheryl McKinnon, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, about their latest research demonstrating that organizations must take a holistic view of the technology elements that affect employee experience. 43% of leaders say their top business priority over the next 12 months is to improve the experiences of their employees and business partners!

The Digital Employee Experience

“The sum of all of the perceptions employees have working with all technology they use to complete their daily work and manage their relationship with their employer across the lifecycle of their employment”

Forrester – The Rise of DEX Teams

The video is now available to watch on demand, where you’ll learn more about the key trends to watch for in 2023… and beyond:

  • Consolidating and providing the necessary tools for a modern digital workplace.
  • Putting improved analytics and data into the hands of communicators so they can continually improve.
  • The rise of digital employee experience teams made of IT, HR, internal comms, etc., to collaborate and break down silos negatively affecting EX.
  • An increase in inspiration coming from marketing automation and bringing it into comms.
  • App integration with common enterprise tools is reducing “context-switching,” which is shown to be a productivity killer.

Find out what percentage of organizations believe they will have a permanently higher level of remote workers in the near future, the must-haves in technologies for employee communications and intranet tools for the modern workplace, and why nearly all surveyed reference customers in “The Forrester Wave™: Intranet Platforms, Q1 2022” reported a move away from a custom system towards a packaged app that provides resiliency, agility, continuous user experience improvement, feature enhancements, issue resolution, and security patches.

With two-thirds of organizations already having adopted “anywhere” work, employers need to understand the technologies and strategies needed to support a level playing field for home, hybrid, and remote workers, providing them with the right information, at the right time, in the right place, delivered in the way that is most useful to them.

Top attendee questions—answered

Cheryl has provided written responses to some questions we received from attendees during the live webinar.

Q1: If you had to pick the top 2-3 metrics that are most important to watch/follow, which would they be?

Response: Internal communication professionals and their content creator peers are increasingly looking for metrics that help them continually improve the information they deliver to their audiences. Basic engagement data – log-ins, page clicks, searches executed – are important starting points, but these alone rarely provide insight into the value of the communication or if it is hitting the mark with readers. Success metrics to watch are a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. 

  • Qualitative data may include employee feedback on content – likes, thumbs up/down, number of shares, or comments. We’re seeing rising interest in sentiment analysis to determine whether employees are satisfied or dissatisfied with the information provided. 
  • Employee consumption metrics – such as views, click-throughs, % of article read or video watched, and time of day viewed – shed light on the content’s relevance and usefulness. Drop-off rates may guide communicators to shorten text or video. Understanding peak hours of reading time can streamline the scheduled delivery of news. Many communication platforms are enhancing authoring tools, such as allowing test drives of alternative article titles or email subject lines to see what drives more employee engagement.
  • Application and device metrics – consumption of content via mobile, enterprise apps, email, collaboration channels, etc. – also provide insights to communication owners so they can understand where and how information is being used. Personalization of content includes “bottom-up” personalization whereby employees choose their preferred methods of reading or viewing. Traveling or field workers may lean toward mobile, whereas home-office or in-office workers may prefer a web UI or content pushed into a preferred team collaboration channel. These metrics help communication pros tailor content type, timing, and reach to meet users where they spend their time.

Q2: What if people prefer other systems as a starting point, like salesforce or ERP systems? Is the goal of the digital workplace to personalize and orchestrate, so people are served up information and resources no matter what system they start from (vs. intranet as the start)?

Response: While still in relatively early days of mainstream adoption, the overall trend is for digital workplaces to serve up content, communication, and essential tasks into a range of employee touchpoints. Enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM, service desk tools, and collaboration channels will be, for some employee roles, their day-to-day center of gravity. While other employees may spend more time in collaboration channels or email interfaces, these essential enterprise apps are where critical work is performed for employees in IT, customer service, sales, accounting, or other crucial operational roles. Orchestration capabilities – those tools to allow targeted delivery of content and comms to target groups in their preferred interfaces – are at the heart of a modern digital workplace and increasingly modern intranets and employee comms platforms deliver these essential features. No longer are intranet owners seeking to push everyone to a standard company or departmental home page as a starting point… but they are seeking to deliver relevant, tailored information in familiar contexts.

Q3: What are your thoughts on the mobile experience? Should employees be allowed quicker access to independent apps, or should they be directed to one app?

Response: Each approach has pros and cons, but the specific use cases and employee personas should guide the strategy for each organization. For example, in environments such as manufacturing, there may be shared tablet devices with apps to track processes, complex inventory, or scheduling systems. In this case, independent apps may make sense. However, when serving the content and communication delivery needs for deskless/frontline employees, a more coordinated approach may be more efficient, mainly when employees rely on their own devices, and loading up several different work apps may be onerous. An app that can deliver information but also enables access to specific workforce tools – such as time off booking, timesheet submission, and expense claim reimbursement – can be easier to manage both on the part of the employer and employee. Frontline roles – such as delivery drivers or customer-facing jobs in retail, banking, or customer service – can all be part of the personalization/audience segmentation tools that the employee comms/intranet app can provide, thus helping deliver more tailored and focused information transmission relevant to those workers.

Q4: How does the prospect of a looming recession affect the pace and acceptance of these trends?

Response: The next year brings uncertainty to businesses in many sectors, and we already see cutbacks in several sectors, including high-tech. Investing – or at least maintaining – in programs and technologies to stabilize employee engagement and improve their experience will be as crucial as ever. Organizations that are compelled to reduce headcount – even temporarily – must do even more to support those staff members being asked to do a bit more during workforce volatility. Difficult times increase the need for timely and relevant communication and provide easy, low-stress access to the information they need to get their jobs done. Internal communication professionals can play an important role in providing updates on company plans, highlighting successes, and being empathic to those workers continuing to serve customers and deliver on the company mission.

Q5: If you had to pick a 6th trend, what would it be? What didn’t make it on the list that, from your point of view, is still valuable to mention?

Response: The sixth trend would be the rise of a parallel – but closely-related – interest in knowledge management. Knowledge management rises and falls periodically as a corporate objective, but it is on an upswing now (over the last 2+ years of hybrid/flex work). Business leaders recognize that their companies are swimming in data and documents, but getting to the most valuable information is still challenging. Answers to questions may be hidden in the middle of a 100-page PDF guide, or users may struggle to figure out which version of a document to trust for the up-to-date policy. The orchestration approach to content and communication delivery we see in modern intranets could be one approach to improve trust and access to the company’s crown jewels. Knowledge assets typically need curation and review to ensure they are the best examples of templates, winning bid responses, or pitch decks. This curated and trusted information can be delivered to employees who need it using personalization, audience segmentation approaches, and distribution into common consumption channels, just like other internal communications.  

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Firstup is the world’s first intelligent communication platform. More than 40 percent of Fortune 100 companies use our platform to connect with their people, design and deliver personalized communications, and gain engagement insights throughout the employee journey. With Firstup, employers can view engagement data in real time, by organization, department, or employee. That helps leaders better understand their workforce, make informed decisions, and provide better experiences from hire to retire. Companies like Amazon, Tesco, Ford, and Hilton use Firstup every day to improve outcomes for their employees.

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