15 intranet content ideas that support employee engagement

Modern intranets have many objectives. They help employees get things done productively and support a good employee experience. They deliver internal communications so employees stay informed and up-to-date. They provide access to content and information to help people carry out their role. They facilitate collaboration and provide access to knowledge and learning. And they reflect and nurture organisational culture and support employee engagement.

Employee engagement itself is a complex subject that often gets caught up in debates around definitions and measurement. There are also multiple factors which impact engagement. Intranets can successfully support employee engagement in several ways, including:

  • Reflecting and amplifying the positive aspects of organisational culture
  • Celebrating and recognising company, team and employee successes
  • Providing more information about company values, missions and purpose
  • Giving employees a voice and providing a platform for listening and dialogue
  • Establishing effective communications for senior leaders
  • Connecting employees and driving a sense of community across an organisation
  • Supporting personal development and career growth
  • Amplifying a one company identity and brand.

More specifically, there are numerous content ideas that support engagement and help make a company a great place to work. Let’s explore 15 intranet content types and features that support employee engagement.

1 Feedback polls

Using polls on an intranet is an excellent way to get a snapshot of employee sentiment on different topics. It can also drive intranet adoption through adding a light-hearted feature to the intranet homepage, especially if visitors can see the results once they’ve voted. Intranet polls play their part in driving employee engagement by making employees feel they are listened to, thereby supporting an open and relaxed organisational culture.

2 Customer success stories

Customer success stories are a staple of external-facing websites, but are not always featured on intranets. Success stories help to celebrate overall company success as well as individual team and employee contributions, and reinforce the message that employees make a difference, adding context to everyday actions.

3 Examples of living the values

Most companies have values or a mission statement. Let’s be honest, these can be pretty generic and are not always taken seriously by employees. News items or stories that actually provide examples of how an organisation is living its values and putting them into action are more likely to resonate than something more general and woollier. Content that helps an employee feel proud to be working at the company is going to support employee engagement.

4 Shout-outs and thankyous from peers

Peer-to-peer recognition is a strong way to celebrate individual achievements, generating a positive culture and sense of community. This is often done through shout-outs and thankyous from individuals to their colleagues, recognising contributions that reflect organisational values or instances where people have gone the extra mile. There are dedicated peer recognition solutions, but praise and shout-outs can also be delivered very successfully through social platforms like Yammer. Surfacing these on your intranet homepage can support engagement and culture amplification initiatives.

5 Employee blogs and photos

Having visible user-generated content on your intranet can raise adoption, but also demonstrates that the employee voice is valued, again underpinning engagement efforts. When you give everybody a voice, it sends out a strong message that opinions are valued. There are multiple ways to surface user-generated content on your intranet, but employee blogging is an excellent way to tick the box on engagement and generate lively content. Including photos submitted by employees even via a simple photo of the day feature can also be effective for engagement.

6 Podcasts

Podcasts are currently a very popular content format which are increasingly being used inside enterprises. Podcasts on particular themes can be a highly effective way to deliver targeted content to specific audience segments, supporting wider employee engagement. Podcasts have the advantage of being popular across different demographics, including frontline employees.

7 Authentic leadership comms

CEOs and other senior leaders have a major influence on employee engagement. Most intranets showcase leadership communications, but these can sometimes still come across as formal and corporate. Leadership communications that are more honest, personal, informal, authentic and even vulnerable, showing the real person behind the job title, are more likely to resonate with the workforce and better support employee engagement. During the pandemic, some CEOs started to communicate through informal videos shot at home which have been generally well-received, and which can work on the intranet too.

8 Q&As with senior leaders

Another good way to drive transparency and open communication with senior leaders is to publish questions from employees with relative questions and answers, or hold Ask Me Anything sessions and publish the related recordings or discussion threads on the intranet. Again, the more open and less sanitised these Q&As are, the more likely it is they will engage employees.

Q&A

9 Crowdsourcing input from employees

Modern intranets and social collaboration platforms provide opportunities for dialogue. Having two-way channels where employees are asked their opinion by senior management and, most importantly, where this results in action can positively influence employees feelings about their employer. Specifically, crowdsourcing input and feedback from employees to influence decision-making is key here; we’ve heard examples that range from the tactical (getting input on new uniforms for customer-facing staff) to the strategic (asking for input into new strategies). Surveys, polls, discussion threads and commenting can all be used to crowdsource employee input.

10 Internal opportunities

High levels of internal talent mobility and opportunities for staff career paths are highly desirable for organisations, as they help retain the best talent and reduce recruitment costs. Advertising internal opportunities on your intranet, including new roles, secondments and training schemes, is a common way to drive awareness of these positions, as well as promoting employee engagement through demonstrating the opportunities for career growth available to employees.

11 Access to learning

Employees ability to access resources that will help them in their personal development and career growth is an underrated source of employee engagement; it demonstrates an investment in and commitment to people. Being able to search and discover courses, learning material and training assets is a strong use case for any intranet. This is becoming increasingly possible with the tight integration between learning platforms like LMS365 and SharePoint intranets.

LMS365

12 Health and wellbeing themed content

Health and wellbeing is a significant theme in employee experience, and demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to its employees. An intranet can support wellbeing in numerous ways, providing health & safety information, tips and tricks, factsheets, health-related communities and more.

13 Events

An events calendar is a useful addition to any intranet homepage, especially if employees can register for specific events and add the details to their personal calendar a feature available in SharePoint Online. Event calendars also work very well to promote both learning through knowledge-based webinars, for example, and wellbeing sessions on topics like mindfulness.

Events

14 Ideation platforms

Ideation platforms are highly mature, and are becoming a common part of the digital workplace landscape. They work by inviting employees to submit ideas usually on a particular theme or responding to a specific challenge with the ability to vote on the best ones. A company may then choose to take some of these ideas to fruition. A snapshot of the latest ideas submitted, as well as the ones that are being actioned, shows employee ideas are being taken seriously.

15 Communities

Online communities on both work and non-work themes help drive connections and foster a real sense of community and engagement within your organisation. These can range from professional Communities of Practice, to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), to Communities of Interest on non-working themes. Whether a forum for discussing highly specialist engineering techniques or a place to swap cat videos, communities drive employee conversations and connections.

An intranet supports online communities in different ways; for example, your core intranet features may support communities or include feeds from a social platform like Yammer. A central directory of groups can also help users discover and join communities they are interested in.

Yammer

Engage your employees

Employee engagement is key, and the content and features you include on your intranet can make a real difference. If you’d like to discuss how you can use your intranet as part of your employee engagement strategy, then get in touch!

What’s on the Microsoft 365 roadmap for 2022?

One of the pleasures of working with SharePoint, Microsoft Teams and the Microsoft 365 platform in general is the continual investment Microsoft drives to improve the platform, introducing new tools and features. For example, in 2021, we welcomed the Microsoft Viva suite. Sometimes, these changes are modest but have powerful potential, such as extending the formatting options for SharePoint lists. However, it can be difficult and even overwhelming for admins and IT teams to try and keep up with all the changes.

In 2022, we’re expecting another very active year for Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and 365. It’s also going to be a big year for Microsoft Viva. In this post, we’re going to cover some of the changes we’re most looking forward to here at Content Formula, but really, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s coming.

The full detailed Microsoft 365 roadmap contains over 500 items in development at the time of writing, plus over 250 more being rolled out. The Book of News summary of main announcements from November 2021’s Ignite conference is a good place to start, showing a very active roadmap ahead. Of course, there will also be some surprises that haven’t been announced, or things that have been promised but haven’t yet appeared.

Here’s our pick of the 2022 Microsoft roadmap so far.

Additions and enhancements to Microsoft Viva

The Microsoft Viva suite of apps was a high-profile launch in 2021, and is getting huge interest from digital workplace, intranet, HR and internal communications teams. We think Microsoft will continue to push Viva hard in 2022, making it an increasingly accepted part of the digital workplace landscape.

Microsoft has announced a slew of changes that will continue to enhance Viva’s value. One of these will be a whole new Viva module related to OKRs (Objective and Key Results) emerging from Microsoft’s acquisition of ally.io, an OKR software vendor. The reporting within Viva Insights will continue to expand, with new areas covering management behaviours and meeting habits, the latter being an area where businesses still exhibit bad practices.

The power of Viva Topics is going to be extended, covering Outlook and Yammer communities while also trialling an intriguing Q&A concierge service which routes queries to relevant subject-matter experts; this will help expertise location and knowledge-sharing. The power of SharePoint Syntex can also be leveraged to build topics. The library of out-of-the-box connectors for different enterprise systems across all the Viva apps will continue to expand, with some significant additions Workday and DocuSign, in particular, launching in early 2022.

Microsoft Teams goes from strength to strength

The success of Microsoft Teams has been remarkable, and is an integral part of the digital workplace for many organisations. Microsoft continue to add to it, and the 2022 roadmap should see another round of enhancements, many of which cement Teams as the all-in-one communication system for employees.

One of the most far-reaching of these enhancements is further development of Microsoft Teams Connect – the feature that enables external collaboration. It will be easier to schedule meetings in a Teams channel that is shared across multiple organisations and individuals, providing a welcome addition to enable projects involving third parties and contractors. Chat will also be extended to allow individuals to use Teams with anyone outside a work network for personal calls while still sticking to organisational security policies, thus extending Teams popularity.

There are also some enhancements to Teams analytics in the pipeline. A new device-specific analytics board will be of particular interest to organisations who have rolled out the Teams mobile app, while a board that provides data and analytics per physical workspace will be useful in co-ordinating hybrid working or improving adoption in specific locations.

Other improvements and additions include:

  • The ability to join BlueJeans and GoToMeeting calls from a Teams Room, joining existing support for Zoom and Cicso
  • More support to use Teams as part of a hotdesking solution
  • More apps for Teams being added by partners
  • Some improvements to chat, including the ability for a user to send memo reminders to themselves on a chat thread
  • An improved design for the Teams app store
  • A new virtual green room for Teams events
  • A slew of improvements for event organisers, including better Q&A, having multiple moderators and more.

Microsoft Mesh for Teams

Support for augmented and virtual reality has been steadily improving in the background, although outside some online events, specific learning sessions and niche scenarios, these 3D experiences are yet to really seize the imagination of organisations or digital workplace teams.

Despite this, large tech providers are staking a lot of future investment on AR, VR and 3D experiences, particularly for remove events, meetings and collaboration. Facebook has changed its name to Meta and shared their plans for an immersive AR / VR world called the Metaverse, which is painted a little like Second Life on steroids. Microsoft’s response is to continue to roll out Mesh – its mixed reality framework – that is now being extended to Microsoft Teams.

The introduction of Mesh in Teams allows participants to meet in 3D scenarios as avatars that display their reactions. Microsoft says this means users can maintain their presence in meetings without turning on cameras, and interact socially in more informal spaces for those much-discussed water cooler moments. The adoption and utilisation of these features in 2022 is going to be fascinating to watch, partly because we genuinely don’t know if they will take off or not.

More power for the Power Platform

Along with hybrid, low-code and no-code have been the digital workplace phrases of the year, and that looks set to continue in 2022. Microsoft are investing in a round of improvements to the Power Platform.

Some of these are designed to help organisations leverage the apps and workflow of the Power Platform more easily within the Teams experience, particularly Power Virtual Agents, to bring bots more directly into channels or target them to specific security groups. A Power BI app for Teams is also now available.

A new capability called process mining within Power Automate generates analytics and process maps across processes and workflows, aiming to provide insights on the success of processes, analysing the time spent on steps and where there are bottlenecks. We think this forensic approach will be of interest to many teams, and support continual improvement.

There are a range of other smaller improvements, too numerous to go into in-depth here, which include some interesting developments to drive citizen development. For example, within Power Virtual Agents, bot developers will be able to have conversations inside the bot authoring experience – a simple feature which could allow citizen developers to seek advice or collaborate with IT experts and their peers. This ability to collaborate and comment is being extended across the other Power Platform apps too, with notes and feedback similar to commenting in Office. Again, we see this helping to drive citizen development or offer support in cases where central IT resources are seeking input from business process owners or teams.

Upgrades to Microsoft Stream

Video is now a popular medium in many organisations, complementing internal communications, leadership communications, learning and even employee blogging (logging). Previously, Microsoft Stream the video sharing platform within the 365 platform has made it easy to embed videos within SharePoint intranets or communication sites, but the actual Stream user experience has been more of a separate app experience.

Now, Microsoft Stream is being rebranded as Microsoft Steam classic, and Stream built on SharePoint is being introduced. Video and audio files will be stored in the same way that other files are stored in SharePoint, making it even easier to integrate Stream right across the 365 suite. It also means that video and audio files will align to other SharePoint governance put in place for content services, covering permissions, compliance and more. This will bring video more efficiently into the overall 365 experience, including within a SharePoint intranet, and remove any associated barriers around video sharing and podcasting.

SharePoint Syntex additions

One of the roadmap areas we’re most excited about is an expansion of SharePoint Syntex – the AI feature that can be applied to content in various imaginative ways. In the next generation of Syntex, there is better support for using the software to construct Microsoft office documents so you can build model documents, for example, with different data and sections based on information from other elements. For example, you could automatically build standard NDA or contract documents based on information generated from your CRM system, with some variation dependent on who the contract concerns, as may be the case for UK- or US-based businesses.

We can see great value in high-volume documents areas such as contract management, invoicing or procurement processes. Used in conjunction with other parts of the Microsoft 365 suite, there are certainly some intriguing combinations that could transform inefficient processes. The ability to leverage Syntex for document searching using Syntex-generated metadata is also being extended.

Get in touch!

The new year is going to be another big one for Microsoft 365, Teams and Viva. We’re excited for all that is to come! If you’d like to discuss your strategy and plans for 2022, then get in touch!

7 reasons to use SharePoint for policy management

Pushing out mandatory policies and tracking reads is perhaps the most requested feature in policy management. But before we get into that, let’s look at the other commonly requested features and examine how SharePoint (and Office 365) addresses these.

Having one source of truth for key policies, procedures, forms and other key organisational documents is important. Employees and managers need to regularly access information such as your staff handbook, IT usage policy, holiday request process, social media guideline or supplier due diligence checklist and more and be confident that these are accurate and up to date. In regulated industries such as financial services there can also be strict guidelines for interaction with customers or processes which must be followed to reduce risk.

Most organisations provide access to policies via their intranet but all too often these are:

  • Scattered across different department sites and are hard to find
  • Do not get updated with the very latest version
  • Simply do not get read, even if they are mandatory to read
  • Are not trusted by employees so they request a copy or rely on a version on their own file network or inbox, that may not be up to date.

Policy management is important. Not managing your policies and procedures carefully or making them easily available in one central place leads to risks for organisations and individual employees, as well as inefficiencies. Sometimes it can also be an requirement for industry regulators or other external third parties, and may even be the subject of an external audit.

Seven reasons why SharePoint policy management is the best approach

If your organisation is using Microsoft 365 or SharePoint on-premises, then it makes sense to leverage the power of SharePoint to help better manage your policy documents.

1 SharePoint is likely to be your existing and secure document management solution

If you use SharePoint or SharePoint Online, then that is likely to be at the root of how most people manage documents their documents and files in your organisation. Documents can be easily shared, collaborated on and there is also effective version control, meaning that you can avoid issues such as duplication and ensure there is one source of truth; this is a critical factor in manging your policies. Leveraging SharePoint for policy management also means that your existing users will be already familiar with the system in place used for managing documents. Of course, SharePoint will also be fully secure.

2 You can automate lifecycle management processes

Lifecycle management is absolutely key to successful policy management. For example, you need to make sure that policies have owners who regularly review the documents they are responsible for. SharePoint is excellent from this perspective and you can leverage its integration with Active Directory as well as Power Automate (Flow) to create clear ownership, notifications and workflow to ensure polices are kept up to date and also create views that show admins the status of policies.

3 You can get a complete audit trail

As well as lifecycle management you can also get a complete audit trail of updates to your document, showing when and by whom. This transparency is very important for minimising risks, underpinning accountability, and even for external auditing purposes.

4 You can easily provide access to all

It is critical to provide easy access to policies for your employees. As most organisations already use SharePoint for their intranet or for communication sites, it is easy to integrate a policy document library into the channels that employees already have access to.

5 You can integrate it into your search

Policies also need to be findable and discoverable. Again, most organisations are leaning in on SharePoint or Microsoft search options to allow employees to find what they need. Using SharePoint for policy management means that these documents will be included in your main search, perhaps through the intranet.

6 It can integrate with your wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem

If you are on Microsoft 365 you will likely be using a wide variety of different collaboration and communication tools such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams, Outlook and SharePoint team sites. The obvious integration between a SharePoint-based policy library and the rest of the Microsoft 365 platform means its easy to embed and share key policies from the library in the places where every day work happens.

7 You can track usage and get data

Using SharePoint for policy management means it is also possible to track usage and get data on different policies, for example numbers of views or when they were last updated. By leveraging integrations with Active Directory and PowerBI you can also start to create reports and track critical data such as whether a mandatory document is being read and by whom.

Book a demo

But what about mandatory policies and tracking reads? Introducing Xoralia Policies

Overall, using SharePoint for policy management is the way to go. Having deployed many policies libraries on SharePoint and intranets over the years, we decided to combine all our knowledge into an app which can help customers fast track to a secure, user-centric and robust policy management library.

Xoralia Policies is a brand-new app designed, developed, and managed by Content Formula. It provides organisations using Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online a quick-to-deploy central policy library than can be accessed via a SharePoint-based intranet or SharePoint site. Xoralia Policies can also be installed by on-premises SharePoint customers.

The app is a simple but complete solution that provides:

  • Easy, central access to the latest version of organisational policy and procedure documents for all staff
  • Robust policy management with assigned content owners and regular reviews across different departments and functions
  • The ability to track the progress of mandatory reads for particular documents, as well as other useful analytics
  • All you need for auditing purposes.

How it works

In a nutshell, Xoralia Policies works in five simple steps.

Policy management software - SharePoint, Office 365 & MS Teams

 

Main features

1 An attractive, central policy library

Xoralia Policies acts as a central policy and procedure library that can be reached via a SharePoint-based intranet or via a SharePoint site, such as a communication site. When accessing Xoralia Policies users are presented with an attractive and intuitive interface that has been designed to help employees find that they need.

Each policy is listed with salient details including the title, the owner, the document format, the date it was last updated and any related instructions, such as whether it must be read. These instructions are personalised to the user. A handy summary at the top of the page also lets a user the number of policies that they have to read.

2 Complete auditability

Organisations may need to demonstrate to regulators or other external bodies that they both have robust processes in place to manage their policies but also that all employees have read policies that are considered to be mandatory. Xoralia Policies leverages the power of SharePoint to provide a complete audit trail of document changes, and also shows clear review policies in place with the ability to track these. This should satisfy both your own internal and external auditing requirements.

Xoralia Policies also has the ability to ensure employees are carrying out mandatory reads. If a policy is mandatory to read, employees can access the document within the app and then make a simple declaration confirming once it has been read. In-built analytics show policy owners and admins the percentage of those who have read the policy.

3 Robust policy management with automated notifications

At the heart of Xoralia Policies are robust policy management features to ensure that documents are kept up to date and your library remains the one source of truth for policies. Each policy has an identified owner and a defined regular review period.

Notifications ensure that owners are reminded to review the policies they own; Xoralia Policies also has a simple dashboard that shows a policy owner their policies that are due for review or have expired. Transparent ownership and review information displayed on each policy also encourages accountability.

4 Analytics for mandatory reads and more

Xoralia Policies also comes with powerful analytics. Xoralia Policies shows policy owners the percentage of users that have read a policy, while administrators can access a more detailed analytics dashboard showing the status of all mandatory reads as well as other salient analytics relating to document status, for example. There are options to use Power BI for more detailed and custom reporting.

These analytics can help teams to prepare for audits, making interventions where necessary, but also get a better understanding to building engagement with employees.

5 Strong findability

Findability is critical. Employees want to be able to find the right policy quickly and effortlessly. The app includes a strong search facility where an employee can enter keywords to find the policy they are looking for. Additionally, employees can filter by different categories including mandatory and non-mandatory reads, the function who owns the policy (IT, HR, Legal etc.) as well as custom tags defined by you.

6 Easy set-up and deployment

The app is quick and straightforward to implement. Because Xoralia Policies can be applied to an existing SharePoint library it means you can convert an existing policy library to the app. It can also be deployed from within any SharePoint intranet or other SharePoint site.

Simplified Policies takes a few days to implement. Content Formula can handle the whole implementation or work in partnership with your IT function to deploy the app.

7 Options for customisation

If you have special requirements around managing and presenting your policies, there are options for customisation. Call us to discuss.

Book a demo

Customer case study

Policy management software example

 

Gama Aviation provides global business aviation services and support to individuals, corporations and government agencies. The global workforce require access to one source of truth for technical documents, polices and procedures. Building on the Wizdom intranet already introduced by Content Formula, Gama Aviation chose to upgrade their existing policy library to Xoralia Policies to take advantage of the improved UI, mandatory reads capability and decentralised policy management.

Content Formula worked closely with Gama Aviation’s IT function to enable them to carry out most of the implementation themselves. The new policy library is now accessed through the Wizdom intranet and is already getting good feedback and frequent visits.

Policy management software example

 

SharePoint is made for policy management

When it comes to managing your policies and ensuring your employees can find and access them, SharePoint is a strong option.

If you’d like more information about using SharePoint for policy management or about Xoralia Policies, and would like a product demo then get in touch!

What are digital experience platforms (DXPs) and employee experience platforms (EXPs)?

Digital experience and employee experience are terms that have become increasingly common in the digital workplace world, as well as in related fields such as digital customer experience and HR. Accompanying this are the concepts of the digital experience platform (DXP) and the related employee experience platform (EXP), both terms that are seeing ever-wider use. For example, Microsoft has gone to market using the term EXP to describe its Microsoft Viva suite of apps.

But there is some confusion about exactly what digital experience platforms and employee experience platforms are. In this post, we’re going to define and unpack these terms, as well as cover some of their key characteristics.

Defining DXPs and EXPs

As with terms such as digital workplace and employee experience, there is no consensus on the exact meaning of DXPs and EXPs, although there is a broad understanding of their general meaning. For example, when we wrote about What is digital employee experience?, we ended up covering seven different definitions!

The terms DXP and EXP are being used extensively in marketing material from technical providers, so definitions tend to be characterised by the features and capabilities of the product being promoted, meaning general definitions can be further muddied.

Gartner provides a decent definition of a DXP, describing it as an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints.

These digital touchpoints can include websites, apps, portals and more. When sources use the term DXP, they are generally referring to external-facing channels aimed at customers who buy products and services, such as Sitecore, Adobe, Liferay and Bloomreach.

Using this definition, an employee experience platform can be considered as a specific type of DXP, but one that is firmly aimed at an employee audience and their needs. Josh Bersin, a well-regarded HR thought leader, wrote about EXPs back in 2019, categorising them as a new category of workplace software. Bersin described EXPs as meeting companies desire to integrate their entire end-to-end service experience, and as being platform that lets a company design [a] multi-step, multi-flow experience, integrate it with all the various IT and HR applications needed, and abstract the user from the complexity behind the scenes.

EXP is a term that is increasingly being used to describe software that can include the delivery of an intranet and related content across multiple channels. For example, LiveTiles has occasionally described its suite of products as an EXP.

Seven characteristics of a DXP and an EXP

Getting into a debate about the semantics of exact definitions of DXPs and EXPs can be a bit of a navel-gazing exercise. It’s more worthwhile looking into broader meanings by defining some of the main characteristics of the two. These match many of the key qualities teams are looking for when choosing a modern platform to build and deliver digital experiences for customers and employees.

Here’s our view of seven key characteristics of DXPs and EXPs.

1 They’re integrated sets of distinct capabilities

DXPs and EXPs are platforms. This means they are distinct from being standalone apps and will have a variety of distinct capabilities, features and apps (or the equivalent) that can be deployed, as well as allowing integrations to be built in. Although these features might be experienced separately, they should also be integrated so they can work together seamlessly. For example, we would consider SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams as platforms, but our Xoralia Policy Management library might be viewed as an application. A DXP or EXP will therefore have multiple features that deliver different capabilities to make up one, coherent digital experience.

2 They’re multi-channel

A DXP or EXP can serve and be accessed through multiple channels, such as web browsers, web apps and mobile apps. An increasing number of EXPs can also be accessed through Microsoft Teams.

The aim for these platforms is often to deliver a consistent experience across different mediums to suit different user preferences and use cases. For example, the ability for EXPs to provide mobile access is important for frontline employees. As new channels emerge, DXPs and EXPs will need to keep up. The move for EXPs to be accessed through Teams, for example, is a trend we’ve seen over the past two years.

3 They have multiple use cases

Because DXPs and EXPs are platforms which can incorporate a wide range of features both native and through integrations they can meet a high number of use cases through a range of content and experiences. An EXP, for example, might be able to deliver internal communications, communities of practice, employee feedback surveys, peer to peer recognition, access to policy and procedure libraries, enterprise search, collaboration, wellbeing analytics, access to learning, HR self-service, employee onboarding, idea management and more!

4 They’re user- and people-centric

DXPs and EXPs are about experiences which are firmly focused on the user, and which deliver value to them. The front-end experience should be well-designed, intuitive, easy to use and make people want to return. The overall platform should be geared towards user needs and user journeys, ultimately easing pain points and helping individuals complete transactions, find information and save time. These might sound like obvious, foundational principles for all digital experiences, but it’s worth remembering that there are still a lot of poor digital experiences out there!

Because experience platforms deliver a range of capabilities and have multiple features, the user experience needs to be consistent, smooth and uninhibited across these, avoiding the ultimately confusing and frustrating fragmentation that happens when having to use multiple applications.

5 They’re a single pane of glass for integrations

A DXP or EXP should provide that single pane of glass for everything a customer or employee needs to do or find. This is usually delivered through a breadth of native features, but also through integrations.

A trending theme in digital employee experience is the ability to create one environment where employees can access all the information and applications they need for the working day. The idea of a one stop shop – the single pane of glass or front door to the wider digital workplace – is a persuasive one, helping to save time and reduce the number of different applications that employees need to visit which can be a source of pain and frustration. An EXP should be able to deliver this capability by allowing easy integrations with other applications which allow information to be displayed, simple transactions to be performed and notifications to be viewed.

Similarly, a DXP should provide one place for everything a customer needs to do, including viewing content, completing e-commerce transactions, asking questions and more.

6 They’re personalised

A central tenet of modern digital experiences is that they are personalised to the individual user, whether they’re a customer or an employee. This means a DXP or EXP recognises the person accessing the platform, and returns content and experiences relevant to that individual’s profile and preferences. For EXPs, this means that content and experiences can be targeted to different employee groups, often based on their Active Directory profile data. It might also be possible for employees to configure their own experiences, for example, by changing the layout of the homepage, subscribing to content on different topics and adding their own favourite links. For DXPs that are aimed at customers, the personalisation element is not necessarily based on a person authenticating into the environment.

7 They are flexible, configurable, extensible and customisable

A DXP or EXP does not deliver a limited range of fixed experiences. They offer the opportunity to create a range of difference experiences by being flexible, configurable, extensible and customisable. You should be able to create excellent customer and employee experiences suited to the needs of your users, with benefits that will be felt at an organisational level.

Still confused? Get in touch!

There’s a lot of noise about Digital Experience Platforms and Employee Experience Platforms, but we think DXPs and EXPs as terms and concepts may be around for a while. While there are no agreed specific definitions, we’re seeing some common characteristics which we’ve detailed in this article. If you’re still confused and want to discuss anything relating to your DXP or EXP, then get in touch!

10 digital workplace and intranet trends for 2022

2021 was another important year for digital workplaces and intranets. Remote and hybrid working continued to dominate, ensuring business continuity during another year of the pandemic. Technology options also moved forward with the release of the Microsoft Viva suite, for example, and intranet and digital workplace teams worked hard to support employees. Microsoft Teams continued its huge adoption path. Employee experience was high on the agenda for internal communicators and HR functions, while IT teams embraced the need to drive a streamlined experience for employees and simplify the application landscape through a single digital workplace environment.

Here at Content Formula, we remained extremely busy throughout the year, and were proud to continue to deliver successes including the launch of a global intranet at Entain and a mobile intranet app at Yorkshire Tea, among many other projects. We also rolled out and evolved our Xoralia intelligent policy management solution for SharePoint which has been very well-received.

But what about 2022? What will the coming year bring for the intranet and digital workplace world? We think it will be another important year. Here are our thoughts on ten digital workplace and intranet trends to expect in 2022.

1 Competition will continue to stimulate the intranet software market

The intranet in-a-box software market is now relatively mature, with a great deal of choice for teams. Many of these offerings extend beyond just being an intranet, focusing on the wider digital workplace as well as capabilities that cover other areas of employee experience. It’s hard to believe it’s now five years since we announced our partnership with LiveTiles (then Wizdom) – still one of the major intranet and employee experience software providers.

One of the strong characteristics of the market is the competition between providers, ultimately leading to investment in products, feature-rich offerings, better customer service, competitive pricing, innovation and choice. We think this is going to be a prominent theme throughout 2022. Consolidation in the sector will fuel more product development; for example, two major providers – Staffbase and Valo – just announced they are joining forces. Much of this competition comes from Microsoft itself, whose support for intranets using SharePoint out-of-the-box, alongside the growing influence of Microsoft Viva, is forcing tech providers to up their game.

2 Intranets and digital workplaces will continue to support hybrid working

Unfortunately, the pandemic is still ongoing, and remote and hybrid working is the reality for many of us. However, hybrid working is becoming a choice for many organisations who see opportunities to both reduce real estate costs and offer a style of working that is attractive to employees. While many have returned to the office, opinion polls continually show that the majority of employees also want to have opportunities to work from home where they can be more productive and better balance their working and non-working lives.

Hybrid was quite possibly the word of 2021, but we think it’s going to continue into 2022 as intranets and digital workplaces do the heavy lifting to support remote working. Back in September 2021, we produced a checklist for intranet and digital workplace teams with the ways they can support the return to the office and hybrid work, including guidance on social distancing, integrations with various apps such as desk booking and more. We think we’ll see more and more content and capabilities appearing which support hybrid working for the short- and long-term.

3 External social media and the consumer world will influence the digital workplace

External social media channels and the consumer mobile app world have always had an influence on the digital workplace, with popular features and apps eventually appearing in one form or another in digital workplace tools. The adoption of social features in intranets is a key example.

In 2022, we think we’ll again see the influence of the consumer world on intranet features. This is probably most prominent with the advance of podcasts aimed at employees – an increasingly popular content format for internal comms teams. Podcasting looks set to rise in popularity in 2022. We’d be intrigued to see if TikTok somehow finds its way into the enterprise, perhaps through the encouragement of more employee-generated video sharing on intranet, collaboration and video-sharing platforms.

4 Microsoft Teams will increasingly become the digital workplace of choice

Nobody could have predicted the huge impact that Microsoft Teams would have on the working world. It has changed the digital workplace landscape, and Microsoft are not done yet as they continue to invest in this exciting platform. With Teams adoption so high across many organisations, it is becoming the fundamental digital workplace experience for many employees. Subsequently, many are looking to integrate more and more external apps into Teams, as well as existing Microsoft 365 tools including the SharePoint intranet.

We’re starting to see some organisations referring to Microsoft Teams as their digital workplace. Depending on how you define the digital workplace, we can see it becoming a core point of entry into the digital workplace in the same way that the intranet homepage is. In 2022, integrating apps and intranets into the Teams experience will undoubtedly be a major direction of travel.

5 Microsoft Viva will enter the equation

Related to the growth of Teams as the de facto digital workplace entry point is Microsoft Viva – the new employee experience platform launched in early 2021. This includes four apps accessed through Teams (Viva Learning, Viva Connections, Viva Insights and Viva Topics) that deliver a range of capabilities across communications, knowledge management, learning, collaboration and more.

While it’s still relatively early days for Viva, with functionality being released throughout 2021, 2022 looks set to become the year Viva will be adopted at scale, emerging as a staple of the digital workplace. We’re seeing huge interest in its intranet and digital workplace capabilities, and there’s more to come as Microsoft adds features such as support for integrations into Viva Connections. In particular, Viva can complement a SharePoint intranet by bringing content into Teams, as well as surface learning via Viva Learning.

6 The digital divide for the frontline will continue to narrow

Traditionally, frontline employees have tended to lag behind their desk-based colleagues in terms of access to digital services and communications. There are multiple reasons for this, including a lack of digital identities and being less prioritised by organisations.

The good news is that each year, this digital divide has continued to narrow due to the accessibility of some great employee apps such as LiveTiles Reach. Mobile intranets and apps are now far better supported and more commonplace, with some internal communications teams also thinking outside the box. For example, customer experience solutions provider TTEC commissioned us to develop an innovative solution to deliver targeted messages to their frontline call centre staff.

While this is not a new trend, we think that in 2022, the digital gap between knowledge workers and frontline staff will continue to narrow, triggering a positive impact on frontline productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

7 HR and people-centric content and features will influence the intranet

In 2021, we saw increasing numbers of intranet, HR and internal communications teams focus on people-centric features and content, thus supporting a strong employee experience. Learning is one of these themes (and explored in more detail below), as well as employee wellbeing and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). In fact, some organisations are producing an entire HR intranet that echoes these themes.

We think people-centric intranets will be a significant theme in 2022, with more and more teams creating content and adding relevant capabilities. For example, to support wellbeing, an intranet might include events and activities, wellbeing tips, analytics and community, while also acting to reduce information overload, supporting health & safety and more.

8 Citizen developers will become more commonplace

Last year, one of our digital workplace priorities for 2021 was to nurture your citizen developers. While progress in this area has perhaps been gradual rather than rapid, we are seeing more organisations start to formalise approaches to support power users and citizen developers in leveraging the full power of low-code and no-code solutions, including for intranet development.

The Power Platform on Microsoft 365 (Power BI, PowerApps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents) presents exceptional opportunities for non-IT professionals to create simple apps, dashboards, workflows and automation, as well as for established coders to carry out rapid application development. We expect citizen development to evolve this year, with more organisations dipping their toe in the water.

9 Learning will continue to come into the heart of the digital workplace

For years, learning and training were on the periphery of the digital workplace usually stuck in a Learning Management System (LMS) with poor usability and no single sign-on. No wonder adoption and course take-up were either poor or merely viewed as an annoying box-ticking exercise. This has started to change over the past two years, and we see 2022 being the year learning really comes into the heart of the digital workplace.

There are lots of reasons for this a renewed emphasis on e-learning due to the pandemic, the need to upskill employees digitally, an emphasis on employee experience, learning being an obvious area to focus on for maturing digital workplaces but it’s also because of the solutions available. For example, the LMS365 learning platform integrates so seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams that it is easy to access learning through a SharePoint intranet, Microsoft Teams or mobile app. Microsoft Viva Learning is also seen as an opportunity to surface learning content in Teams. We think that in 2022, learning will start to enter the daily flow of work for more and more employees.

10 Intranets will keep on delivering value

We don’t know how many times over the years we’ve read a declaration that intranets are dead. But as we enter 2022, intranets are very much alive. Customers are still asking us for support in creating amazing intranets, and the ones that have launched tell us they are getting great value. Intranets will continue proving valuable in 2022.

The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, the fundamental premise behind an intranet a website for employees that helps them get things done, keep up to date, find information they need and connect with colleagues is still a very good one. Secondly, intranets keep on evolving with new features and capabilities. Over 25 years, they have absorbed personalisation, collaboration, social, mobile, transactional, video and some digital workplace capabilities. They are now evolving so they can be accessed from anywhere, including through other applications such as Microsoft Teams. Long live the humble intranet still going strong!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022

2022 will be another exciting year for intranets and digital workplaces. If you’d like to discuss any of the trends in this article or your 2022 intranet and digital workplace plans, then get in touch!

We hope you’ve enjoyed the blog over the past twelve months. All of us at Content Formula wish you a very happy and healthy 2022. See you next year!

Webinar video: Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Ensuring that employees read policies is an important factor in compliance for all organisations. You may be considering using SharePoint to manage your policies or your organization may be using it now, but in either case you may be asking the question Is SharePoint the best approach?

During this webinar, we will show you how to get the most out of SharePoint when managing your policies and help your organisation to stay compliant.

We will explain why SharePoint is the best approach and cover:

  • Common organisational scenarios in policy management
  • How to get the best out of SharePoint
  • Is SharePoint enough?
  • One of our customer case studies

25 business processes you can automate using Microsoft 365

Business automation and process improvement are key reasons why organisations launch Microsoft 365 and create intranets. They want to reduce costs, save time, increase productivity, speed up end-to-end processes and remove frustration for users.

Microsoft 365 customers have an incredibly powerful platform from which to start automating business processes, both simple and complex. Using different combinations of features and capabilities, you can make a real difference to your digital workplace, organisational efficiency and employee experience. The opportunity for business automation extends to some of the products that work alongside Microsoft 365, such as LiveTiles intranet, LMS365 or the Xoralia policy management tool, mainly because they are based on 365 technologies like SharePoint and Power Automate.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft’s continuing investment in the 365 platform and Microsoft Teams means new opportunities for automation are opening up. For example, the Microsoft Viva suite of apps is providing exciting opportunities to increase productivity and improve employee experience, while Power Virtual Agents allows every organisation to leverage the power of bots. In fact, when we first published this post, we included 19 opportunities, but we’ve since expanded this to 25.

Let’s look at some of the processes you can automate, based on what we’ve seen with clients and other organisations. Just to be clear, there is a lot you can potentially do these ideas are just for starters!

1 Updating key business policies

Many intranets have a central library of key business policies. It’s important that these are kept up to date; there may be regular reviews in place to ensure this happens. Automated reminders to content owners based on review dates introduce an automation layer to support an effective central policy library.

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate.

2 Monitoring mandatory reads

Sometimes, it’s important for employees to read particular content for compliance, regulatory or risk reasons: perhaps a new policy, an important update or a critical communication. Monitoring who has confirmed they have read the content can be a real administrative burden. Automating this process saves vast amounts of time and effort. This can involve sending targeted reminders based on Active Directory (AD) groups to those employees still to confirm the mandatory read, and producing real-time progress reports.

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Azure Active Directory

3 Adding document metadata

Having the right metadata for documents helps with findability, but also gives users important information about the content; it may define displays in web environments, and support other outcomes such as targeting. Getting the right metadata on a document is something some organisations struggle with, especially if it all needs to be done manually.

Automation can really help add accurate document metadata. For example, if there is metadata associated with a project and a new document is added to the project workspace, the document may be able to inherit that metadata. There are also opportunities to use AI to suggest the right metadata to add through the SharePoint Syntex service.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint, SharePoint Syntex

4 Archiving content and data

Governance around the archiving and deletion of content and data is critical for keeping your digital workplace tidy, aligning to company retention policies and enhancing findability. Adding some automation to this process really helps so that documents, content and spaces are automatically archived based on different criteria (including review or approval from the content owner).

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint

5 Updating employee profiles

The employee directory and profiles are a staple of the intranet environment, but the best ones always represent the one source of truth of HR data so that profiles are always accurate, and employees don’t have to complete information across two systems.

Updates to your HR system containing individual employee data should always be reflected in individual employee profiles. For example, an update to a job title in the HR system should also be displayed on the intranet, ideally in real-time.

Potential tools to use: LiveTiles Directory, Delve, Custom-built solution, Active Directory

6 Requests and approvals

This is perhaps the most common form of process improvement driven by intranets and Microsoft 365, using forms and workflow to deal with requests involving everything from booking travel, to organising annual leave, to requesting stationery, to ordering lunch for a client meeting. Usually, these requests need to go through an approval process. In many organisations, there will still be request and approval processes which are done using email or even paper that are just waiting to be automated. Increasingly, requests and approvals are being dealt with through chatbots that might be accessed through Microsoft Teams, or even through a mobile app for frontline staff.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, SharePoint, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams apps

7 IT and facilities performance monitoring

Performance monitoring of different systems is an obvious area to automate, using dashboards to provide reporting and notifications when things don’t look right, based on different rules. We’ve seen many examples of this, including the monitoring of load times on different web channels or servers, or reporting on the temperature of different parts of a building.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, LiveTiles Intelligence, SharePoint, Azure application insights

8 Microsoft 365 adoption reporting

Unsurprisingly, digital workplace teams are always interested in driving adoption of Microsoft 365 and its constituent tools. With so many tools and channels in operation, automated reporting of the use of different applications and channels via a customised dashboard is almost always of interest to teams. Increasingly, some of the behaviours of Microsoft 365 are being rolled into the new Viva Insights tool which focuses on collaboration, productivity and wellbeing, offering some organisation-wide analytics.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft 365 out-of-the-box, Viva Insights

9 Logging support calls

There are already systems like ServiceNow which allow users to log issues and automatically raise tickets for IT, HR and other support services. The ability to raise tickets is usually a prerequisite for running any scalable helpdesk or support service, and integrating this automation into your intranet or Microsoft Teams can be helpful. Increasingly, support calls are also being logged through chatbots. More lightweight processes might not always warrant investment in a separate system. In these instances, using your intranet platform or Microsoft365 may make a lot of sense as an affordable system to log support calls, and automation can really add value.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, PowerApps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams Apps

10 Centralising notifications from different systems

Information overload is still a real issue for many users, especially with an overwhelming email in-box. Many users find it hard to keep on top of all the automated notifications, alerts, approvals and actions needed across a number of disparate systems.

Having a focused activity stream, list of notifications or notification dashboard from systems in one place (universal inbox) that can allow users to organise all the things they need to do, and ensure approvals are made more speedily. Here, there are an increasing number of options to deliver this capability within Microsoft Teams, to frontline staff via a mobile app or through a chatbot facility where employees can complete simple transactions.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, PowerApps, Microsoft Teams Apps, SharePoint, LiveTiles Everywhere, Power Virtual Agents

11 Financial reporting and monitoring

Financial reporting is an obvious use case for a dashboard which can have considerable value for senior management and finance departments, helping to drive accountability and support decision-making. However, dashboards with simplified financial and performance data such as sales can even be presented to users on the intranet homepage as a way of keeping everybody up to date. This form of automation almost always has value.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, SharePoint

12 Marketing automation

Marketing automation is on the wish-list of most marketing functions, but is not always put into operation. Marketing automation can be powerful in saving time and supporting your sales funnel. It can range from the simple (sending out an automatic email based on the completion of a website form) to the sophisticated (sending out a targeted message based on a range of user behaviour). Reporting on the success of your efforts is also automated.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Dynamics, Outlook

13 Tracking assets

IT departments often need to track and manage the assets which are given out to users, including devices, equipment, software licenses and more. It’s incredible how many teams still rely on spreadsheets and email for this exercise, even though there may be some workflow in place to issue devices for new employees. Automating this process allows you to use one source of truth for keeping track of your assets alongside stakeholder and user reporting. You can also potentially integrate this with the process for users requesting new assets, as well as the employee onboarding and offboarding process.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power BI, Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power Virtual Agents

13 360 appraisals

360 appraisals tend to be a process-heavy exercise involving data input from different users, reporting, approval workflow, notifications and the need to store all the data in a core system of record. In other words, 360 appraisals are ripe for automation and improvement! Appraisals can be cumbersome and time-consuming, so anything which makes them easier for everybody is welcome.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, PowerApps, SharePoint

15 Document building

Building model documents based on different criteria is a theme often found in knowledge management. It’s of real interest in certain sectors, especially professional services, but also functions such as in-house legal teams. Being able to build automated documents like contracts and agreements based on different metadata (e.g. client name or document type) can help maintain document standards, as well as save huge amounts of time.

Often, the model document produced is a starting point which must still be completed and checked, but the process automation adds a lot of value.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, SharePoint Workflows, Microsoft Office, Power Virtual Agents

16 Know Your Client

Know Your Client (KYC) is a standard process carried out by some companies as part of the due diligence and procurement process to onboard new clients, suppliers and vendors, and minimise risks involved. KYC may involve interrogating external databases with company information, and performing credit checks. The extent to which KYC processes can be automated varies, but there is usually scope for speeding up the process, such as using a chatbot to gather initial information or running the process through Teams if that is the system where most work gets done.

Potential tools to use: Virtual Power Agents, PowerApps, Power BI, Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, Microsoft Teams apps

17 Resource planning

Resource planning for projects, teams and initiatives can be challenging, particularly if relevant information is scattered around different systems. For example, you may want to view core information from your HR platform, timecard systems and details of expertise from people profiles to help you assemble the right team and check availability.

Automating reporting with data from various systems to help with resource planning and specific views to aid team selection can be very powerful, helping you to create the best teams while ensuring capacity. This can be extremely valuable for managers and frontline teams where shift work is involved, or for businesses with a lot of seasonal work or intense projects.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft Planner, Power Automate, Microsoft Shifts

18 Project management

Project management is a broad activity which is key to the way many companies operate. Microsoft 365 can help with many aspects of project management, including providing the base for some automation. For example, some companies might choose to automatically create a collaboration space whenever a project is set up in their financial management system or equivalent, or choose to integrate real-time budgeting and financial or timecard information within their project space. This helps to embed collaboration and dashboards right into the project management processes, as well as drive efficiencies.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Planner, Power BI, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Project, SharePoint Online, Outlook

19 Employee onboarding

Having a formal employee onboarding programme drives efficiencies and make new starters feel welcome, supporting better employee retention. With so many checklists and tasks to complete and information to provide, there are myriad processes which can be automated or semi-automated even before a new hire’s first day. Ensuring that employees fill in the necessary forms before they start and in their first few weeks (and ensuring this information goes to the right people and systems) is a great starting point. They might need to read a policy, take a course, review information on the intranet, complete their contact details, supply particular forms and more. Some organisations particularly with frontline employees choose to invest in a dedicated employee onboarding app for this.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, LMS365, Xoralia policy management tool, Power Automate, SharePoint Online, LiveTiles content targeting, Power BI

20 Employee offboarding

Employee onboarding gets a lot of attention, but offboarding also involves multiple processes, including ensuring equipment is recovered and sent back, completing any necessary paperwork, making adjustments in different systems, carrying out an exit interview or even issuing an invitation to join the alumni programme. This is another process where automation can streamline interactions, workflows and reporting.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power BI

21 Collecting data from the field

Sometimes, field workers or mobile employees may need to file reports with data collected when they are out and about, such as engineers making site inspections. Ideally, data should be gathered and inputted directly into mobile devices. Automation can make sure this information appears automatically in documents, databases, dashboards and even workspaces.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Microsoft Forms, Teams Apps, Power Virtual Agents, SharePoint, Power BI

22 Learning and development administration

Learning and development is a critical part of employee and organisational life. However, it can take a lot of administration effort, particularly when enrolling employees onto mandatory training (which can occur annually), monitoring progress and completions and reporting sometimes even to external bodies – for compliance reasons. Automation makes a lot of sense in enrolment and tracking, especially when targeting different courses to different Microsoft AD groups. Although it’s early days, learning automation might also involve Viva Learning in the future as its capabilities evolve and develop.

Potential tools to use: LMS365, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Viva Learning, Xoralia policy management tool, Azure Active Directory

23 Keeping groups and lists up to date

Group and list management is often a time-consuming activity and can incorporate multiple aspects of your digital workplace, including e-mail distribution, content targeting, personalisation, security and permissions, subscriptions, employee directories and more. Groups can be highly dynamic, based on joiners and leavers, internal moves and individual preferences. Ensuring your Azure Active Directory groups are fully up to date and mirroring your needs is key. Here, automation is a must, including synchronisation with your HR system of record, as well as facilitating elements such as default membership of different communities, enabling topic subscriptions on your intranet and more.

Potential tools to use: Azure Active Directory, Power Automate, SharePoint

24 Meetings

We spend so much of our time in meetings, yet very little automation outside of what happens when you use Outlook tends to be applied to meeting booking, even though this is an area where there are multiple opportunities to improve processes. Automation could be applied to booking equipment, creating a space, sourcing tools such as whiteboards (if for a virtual meeting), diary management, sending out reminders, constructing minutes, determining agendas, regulating the number of people in the office (due to COVID restrictions), gathering pre-meeting data and even organising travel arrangements.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Outlook, Microsoft Forms

25 Knowledge Management

Viva Topics is an intriguing new part of the Viva suite of employee experience apps that uses AI to automate the presentation of content and identification of experts on different topics, and presents this information to users. In a way, this represents the partial automation of knowledge management, and is an exciting prospect. However, it comes with a caveat: Viva Topics is not plug-and-play, and requires active and ongoing knowledge curation, plus a necessary level of content, to get value out of the tool.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Viva Topics, SharePoint

Microsoft 365 is a productivity and automation platform

You can do so much with Microsoft 365, providing a digital workplace where you can drive automation, reporting and more. In fact, there’s so much to automate, it can be hard to know where to start! If you’d like to discuss using Microsoft 365 to automate key business processes across your digital workplace, then get in touch!

7 secrets for a successful mobile intranet

A mobile intranet is a critical part of the digital communications ecosystem of any organisation. It is especially important for any company that has a significant deskless frontline workforce. For employees with no easy access to a computer during the working day, and sometimes no corporate digital identity, a mobile intranet app available on a personal device can become their major channel for digital communication, as well as the most efficient. The mobile intranet connects employees who work in factories, shops and out in the field, or who are on the go with their employers and each other.

Successfully delivering a mobile intranet is not always straightforward, and some organisations end up with low adoption and low value. Many of the necessary prerequisites for the success of a standard browser-based intranet, such as governance and the right operating model, also need to be in place for the mobile equivalent. However, there are specific approaches to consider for a mobile intranet too.

In this post, we’re going to explore seven secrets for a successful mobile intranet implementation and launch.

1 Focus on the right features for a frontline or mobile workforce

Intranets have multiple purposes and support a wide variety of organisational processes. Mature platforms and integrations mean there has been a blurring between intranets, digital workplaces, collaboration platforms and employee experience platforms. Generally, a mobile intranet may feature slimmed down versions of the capabilities of a desktop intranet, although it might include similar access to all the content included.

When you select what to include on your mobile intranet, always ensure tools and content are suited to the needs of your frontline workforce, and capabilities that are useful for work on-the-go are featured. Previously, we looked at eight must-have features of a mobile intranet, all of which are relevant to frontline staff, including:

  • Ability to remove barriers to access for all, including your frontline employees
  • Strong news delivery
  • Social collaboration and community tools
  • Content and reference pages
  • Employee directory
  • Event calendar and registration
  • Integrations that make sense for on-the-go employees or solve frontline use cases
  • Easy administration and robust analytics.

2 Go for a mobile app over responsive design

SharePoint Online and in-a-box intranet software such as LiveTiles are now responsive, ensuring they are optimised for viewing through a mobile device. While this is good news for mobile intranets, it is rarely a good standalone approach. To drive adoption and value, you need to have a mobile intranet app that will:

  • Deliver a controlled user experience for your intranet
  • Make it easier to take advantage of the native features of a mobile device
  • Allow for better governance, and meet security and compliance needs that won’t compromise your user experience.

Most intranet software will have its own dedicated mobile application, such as the SharePoint app. Intranets are increasingly being viewed through Microsoft Teams, and your Teams app could actually become your mobile intranet app too. A mobile intranet that is only delivered through responsive design is unlikely to get good adoption.

3 Make your mobile intranet available on personal devices to reach frontline staff

A major use case for a mobile intranet is to reach your frontline employees. In many companies, frontline employees do not have access to a desk, a corporate owned-device or even a digital identity. To make a mobile intranet work for this population, it must be available on personal devices, both Android and iOS. This is the only way to realistically achieve good adoption with this demographic; kiosks, shared terminals or home access will not work so well.

Some organisations get nervous about doing this due to security concerns, but also because they don’t want to intrude on employees time outside of work. In countries like the US where some sections of the workforce are on the clock employees, and Germany where workers councils are deeply involved in decision-making, there may need to be more careful consideration. However, there are many examples where a mobile intranet available on personal devices has proved valuable and popular with frontline employees, and has been highly successful in delivering organisational benefits.

4 Take advantage of native device features

Mobile devices have a range of native features that we are all accustomed to using when interacting with apps in our non-working lives. A mobile intranet app can take advantage of these features to boost effectivity, including push notifications, the ability to upload photos, voice detection and even GPS detection. In particular, push notifications can prove essential for important alerts, although they should be used sparingly. The ability to submit photos can also be useful for creating specific intranet apps focused either on engagement or transactional processes, such as reporting on-site issues that are best illustrated by a photo. Intranet chatbots also work well on a mobile device.

5 Focus on an easy onboarding and authentication experience

If you are launching a mobile intranet app, you must make it easy for users to load it onto their device and authenticate into it. If this process has numerous difficult steps to go through, it can be a barrier to adoption and a major headache for the intranet team.

For users of corporate mobile devices, this is usually in your control, and there will be a standard way to distribute apps. For employees adding an app to their personal device, it gets more complicated. Most intranet software providers will have convenient ways to do this – often through the Google Play or iOS app store – with a relatively straightforward way to authorise and authenticate the device and person. When launching your mobile app, make sure this process is as smooth and simple as possible.

6 Always get compliance and security teams involved early

Compliance and security constraints can scupper the success of a mobile intranet, negatively impacting the user experience. For example, if a mobile intranet requires VPN access, or a user has to type in a long password each time they enter the intranet, it is going to be difficult to drive adoption. Mobile intranets and apps can make compliance teams and senior executives nervous, particularly when they are accessible on a personal device.

Security, regulatory and compliance needs must be met, and can impact what is on your intranet. By engaging early with compliance and security teams, you can usually achieve the best possible experience for your mobile intranet.

There is actually a lot of middle ground that can allow you to deliver an excellent mobile intranet experience that meets all your regulatory and security requirements with very little compromise on the UX. This is often achieved by removing a small amount of content or a particular feature from your mobile intranet that is difficult from a compliance point of view, leaving the other 95% of your intranet still delivering value. Ensuring MDM approaches and app governance is in place and adding the right Terms & Conditions when employees sign-up can also make a big difference here, ticking the boxes for legal and compliance functions.

7 Consider content and links in the mobile experience

Even if you have a beautiful, responsive mobile app or an adaptive design, the success of your mobile intranet is dependent on having the right content. Most intranet content is not designed to be read on a mobile, resulting in long text and endless scrolling, or the use of imagery which is hard to view or read on a mobile. (There are lots of issues with posting images featuring text on your intranet don’t do it!)

It’s not always easy to achieve, but make sure to consider content from the mobile point of view. Generally, taking a mobile-first approach to content for example, with more concise text broken up into shorter areas with indicative subject headings is actually good for the desktop view too. If you have a policy, for example, a clear, short summary with the salient points will be welcomed both by your mobile intranet users and those with desktop access.

Most intranets now act as a convenient gateway to the wider digital workplace. Providing links to other systems is very useful, but you may need to provide a different view on the mobile intranet as you might need to link to different apps or not link to systems that are unavailable or not optimised for mobile devices.

Making your intranet mobile

Making your intranet mobile is essential, particularly if you have a frontline workforce. Use these tips for a successful implementation. If you want to discuss your mobile intranet, why not get in touch!

3 ways to deliver low code SharePoint intranet development

Low code development can be a great approach to deliver capabilities on a SharePoint intranet, helping to rapidly create a feature-rich environment at relatively low cost. When resources for your SharePoint intranet are tight or you are under pressure to deliver with ambitious deadlines, low code development can help overcome some of these challenges. In this post, we’re going to explore three of the main ways to deliver low code intranet development on your SharePoint intranet.

What is low code development?

Low code and no code solutions are platforms which empower IT developers and non-IT professionals alike to rapidly build apps, dashboards and sites that previously would have required a more traditional software approach. Using a combination of out-of-the-box templates and connectors, as well as intuitive authoring interfaces, these solutions enable development with minimal or no code needing to be written.

Note that there is a distinction between low code and no code in that the latter is designed for use by non-IT professionals, but in reality, this distinction can be a little fuzzy. For example, IT professionals might use a no code solution as part of their development. From here, we are going to refer to low code development to describe no code solutions too.

The attraction of low code solutions is compelling for both IT functions and business teams. By employing a decentralised, citizen-development approach to app design, they allow for the creation of more business-specific apps than would normally be possible with the constraints of current IT resources, and facilitate more rapid development at lower cost. All in all, low code development can play a part in digital transformation, and in enabling automation at scale throughout enterprises.

Microsoft 365 is an excellent platform for low code development, and many of the tools within the 365 suite are designed to be used via a low code approach. An intranet, with its enterprise reach and array of different features and content covering multiple uses, is also a good candidate for low code development. Carrying out low code development for an intranet based on SharePoint or SharePoint Online has real value.

You can carry this out in three main ways:

  1. Using modern SharePoint or SharePoint Online out of the box
  2. Leveraging the Power Platform
  3. Formatting SharePoint lists.

Let’s explore each of these areas in more detail.

1 Using modern SharePoint or SharePoint Online out of the box

SharePoint Online and modern SharePoint straight out of the box is revolutionising the intranet world by providing a viable platform on which to build an enterprise intranet, either straight out of the box or in conjunction with an in-a-box product like LiveTiles. Both approaches allow you to use low code development, leveraging the native features of SharePoint.

Using a communication site, it is very easy to add and rearrange different web parts to a site or individual page simply by selecting the web part of choice, and using drag and drop. These web parts cover both SharePoint features like document libraries, lists, news, calendars, images and content spotlights, and elements from other 365 tools such as Yammer feeds. The range of easy formatting and configuration options for each individual web part allows for huge flexibility. Organisations can also deploy their own custom web parts.

The ability to add and configure so many web parts with ease means central intranet teams, IT functions and decentralised intranet site owners can create and configure sophisticated SharePoint intranet sites and pages at speed, covering the vast majority of information needs without deploying any code.

2 Leveraging the Power Platform

The low code heart of Microsoft 365 is the Power Platform, a suite of four apps that support a low code and even citizen developer approach through libraries of connectors, an intuitive authoring canvas and the ability to reuse what has previously been created. Because of the seamless integration between different tools within the 365 suite, each of the four apps provide opportunities for low code development with a SharePoint intranet:

PowerApps

PowerApps allows you to create specific apps that can be available as mobile apps, or be integrated into your intranet, such as an employee onboarding app to display tasks for new hires that could be embedded into the new hires section of your intranet.

Power BI

Power BI enables powerful data visualisations, dashboards and reports that can integrate with your intranet to dynamically present organisational data, such as sales figures or health and safety reporting, and can also be used to manage and present intranet and engagement metrics.

Power Automate

Power Automate provides the ability to create automation and workflows between multiple systems that can power many capabilities across your intranet, including the ability to trigger any necessary workflows from forms that employees submit via the intranet, or present automatically updated information within pages, perhaps from another system.

Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents chatbots can be launched to integrate into the fabric of your SharePoint intranet, providing information to employees or delivering simple transactions.

3 Formatting SharePoint lists

Here at Content Formula, we’re long-term fans of SharePoint lists. Lists are one of the most powerful and flexible features of SharePoint, and are an excellent vehicle for storing and maintaining structured information that you might want to publish somewhere on your intranet, such as a directory of offices, an inventory of equipment or a list of relevant first aiders across each office.

Up to now, SharePoint lists have been quite basic in their look and feel, resembling online spreadsheets. But in the past few months, Microsoft have opened up options to format SharePoint lists, introducing attractive views for information presentation. Perhaps most excitingly, there is a growing library of pre-formatted SharePoint lists, some of which are offered out-of-the-box in SharePoint and include an asset tracker, an issue tracker and a travel request log.

Elsewhere, there is a substantial collection of list formats created by the developer community, which are available in GitHub with JSON code ready to copy and deploy. These cover use cases from budget trackers to London Underground train timetables, and are free and ready to use. Formats can also be tweaked right down to the column level to make any required changes.

We think list formats present an exciting and currently under-utilised opportunity for low code SharePoint intranet development. You can deploy these formats easily and quickly within SharePoint pages, saving hours of coding and creating a range of attractive and compelling information resources. When some of these lists are combined with flows from Power Automate, they are akin to intranet apps.

By creating and saving these list formats, you can start to create an organisation-specific marketplace of attractive, custom formatted list templates that your intranet publishing community can deploy directly onto pages. Alternatively, they might be saved as web parts and then deployed to different sites.

Go low code!

Low code intranet development is possible with SharePoint, with a variety of different options. It can help reduce costs, dramatically reduce the time to market and increase the business value of your intranet. It also engages owners of different parts of your intranet who can configure their sites to better serve user needs.

If you’d like to discuss low code intranet development, then get in touch!

10 main features of an HR intranet

HR intranets or similar people-related portals are excellent ways to support the strategic objectives of the HR function. Here at Content Formula, we’ve worked with numerous HR teams who have invested in an intranet which has gone on to make a tangible contribution in supporting their organisation’s HR or people strategy.

An HR intranet might be a completely dedicated intranet focused on HR and people-related content and features, or a similar HR hub within a wider intranet. In this post, we’re going to explore the main objectives of an HR intranet, and run through the typical features and content that support them.

What are the main objectives of an HR intranet?

At a very high level, most HR intranets are specifically designed to:

  • Support employee self-service and related manager self-service, allowing employees to get things done on a self-serve basis without having to ask HR, relieving pressure on busy HR support teams
  • Improve HR and people-related processes by making them more efficient, increasing take-up, standardising them across the enterprise and minimising risk
  • Support important HR policies and initiatives including learning, wellbeing, Diversity & Inclusion and flexible working
  • Drive a strong employee experience to make the organisation a great place to work, supporting talent retention and attraction.

Let’s explore the features and content that help deliver these four main aims.

1 Access to HR policies and procedures

HR functions will have numerous HR policies and procedures that employees and managers will need to refer to from time to time when they need to complete tasks, make decisions and carry out HR processes. An HR intranet provides an opportunity to create a single source of truth for all your HR-related content that employees will trust is always up-to-date. It’s the place to access the staff handbook, find out what needs to be done to register for maternity or paternity leave or explore the company’s bonus scheme.

HR intranets deliver this through various features including content pages grouped into relevant HR themes, as well as an authoritative central policy library with all the latest policies and how to content and documents. A decent search and intuitive information architecture are also important to ensure employees find the HR content they need.

2 Personalisation to ensure relevant HR content

A core capability of modern intranets based on SharePoint is the ability to support personalisation and target content to employees based on their Active Directory profile. This means employees see the content that is relevant to their role, location, division, department or similar attribute. Personalisation is really important in HR intranets, especially in larger global companies where HR procedures, policies and systems can vary from country to country. Managers also need to be able to access HR information relating to managing their team. It is imperative that employees only see the HR information that is meant for them and their location; personalisation is a must-have intranet capability that delivers this, although there is a dependency on having complete and accurate AD profiles.

3 Integrations to support employee self-service

HR and people-related systems are numerous, and can include a core HR system like SAP or Workday, a time-recording and expenses system, a benefits portal, a learning management system, a system to log a ticket with HR support desk, an appraisal and performance review application, a wellbeing app and many more. One of the most valuable elements of an HR intranet is delivered by integrating some of these applications with the intranet, meaning employees can access personal HR information and complete simple transactions without even having to visit these disparate applications and systems.

For example, the intranet might not only act as the front door to reach these systems, but also display information through integrations, such as how much annual leave a person has, the benefits choices they have made or the status of an HR helpdesk ticket. They may also be able to actually book their annual leave, log a helpdesk ticket or make their benefits choices, all from within the intranet. Increasingly, these transactions are being delivered by chat bots.

Some HR intranets also include an inbox which displays automated notifications and reminders from different systems, including the ability for managers or HR staff to approve requests as part of their workflow. Overall, these integrations help support employee self-service, drive efficiency, initiate quicker approval processes and result in less frustration for employees who no longer have to log in to multiple systems and rely on email.

4 Support learning and training

HR intranets themselves don’t tend to directly deliver learning and training, but can play an important role in making it easier for employees to access learning resources. For example, we often implement LMS365, a learning platform that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365. This integration means that you can create pages on an HR intranet based on SharePoint that act as an informative and attractive front end to LMS365 and encourage more adoption; employees may not even realise they have left the intranet and entered into the learning platform. You can also integrate LMS365 courses and assets into an intranet search. An events calendar on your HR intranet can display learning events and encourage people to register.

5 HR communications and updates

A good HR intranet should provide communications and updates relating to HR through news and reminders about core processes such as annual appraisals, the employee engagement survey and more.

6 Support employee onboarding

HR intranets tend to focus on moments that matter throughout the employee lifecycle, including when a person first joins a company. Employee onboarding is a core HR process that supports better employee retention. New hires are more likely to stay if they have a strong onboarding experience, and an HR intranet can help by gathering the resources new starters need to refer to all in one place, making the process of joining less overwhelming and more welcoming.

An area of an HR intranet targeted to new joiners can include a schedule of onboarding tasks they need to complete and when, links to all the information about the company, lists of contacts and even a welcome message from the CEO. The ability to target notifications and reminders in your HR intranet and integrations can also cover specific tasks and activities for new hires, such as completing relevant learning.

7 Ensure health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing have been priority areas for HR functions for a long time now, but the pandemic has placed even more focus on them Some teams are including a specific wellbeing hub on their HR intranet which brings together wellbeing-related content, resources and features onto one specific page or microsite. Typically, this will include:

  • Information on health-related benefits
  • Wellbeing related content, including tips and tricks, often produced by third parties
  • An opportunity to book wellbeing events and activities such as online mindfulness sessions
  • Access to a wellbeing community for discussions
  • Health and safety policies and procedures.

8 Employee resource groups to support Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion is a crucial priority for organisations. An HR intranet can support D&I by providing information about initiatives and policies, as well as specifically supporting spaces for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are groups of employees that join together based on shared characteristics to support each other and positively promote D&I policies. Common ERG demographics include women, LGBTQ+ people, ethnic groups, military veterans and more. An HR intranet can provide information and resources about establishing ERGs, but also support discussion groups, usually through social collaboration features including integration with a platform like Yammer.

9 Create dialogue to check the employee pulse

Increasingly leaders are realising the importance of listening to employees and establishing dialogue in order to engage employees and help inform decisions, but also spot problems and issues that need fixing. Intranets are an excellent channel for HR functions to get a sense of employee sentiment and understand issues that are impacting staff. There are a variety of different intranet features that can help get a pulse check on how employees are feeling, including:

  • Discussion feeds and communities, such as those powered by Yammer
  • Quick polls and more in-depth surveys
  • Commenting on blogs and news articles
  • Overall analytics to see what content staff is engaging with.

10 Nurturing organisational culture to drive employee experience

HR functions want to create a great place to work in order to retain and attract talent, and intranets can help nurture organisational culture that contributes to this. Internal communications an integral part of any intranet play a part here, alongside the ability for employees to post updates from across the organisation, celebrate successes and thank their peers. Information about company purpose and values, as well as updates on CSR activities, can also play a part.

Need to discuss your HR intranet? Get in touch!

An HR intranet can provide real strategic value for HR functions and organisations through a combination of features and content. If you’d like to discuss your HR intranet or how an intranet can help your HR department, then get in touch!

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