Digital / 10 minute read

Are employee apps the new intranet?

Written by Matthew Hayward

27 May 2020

What is an intranet? 

While an organisation is more likely to have a website for all external communications, information and services, they may also have an intranet , which is an internal platform that forms a hub for employee engagement, acting as a resource and communication platform. Many intranets are clunky and inaccessibleoften locked behind company firewalls, lacking in engaging features and not mobile friendly. 


What is an employee app? 

 An employee app can either run alongside an existing intranet system or be a standalone application that can be personalised at both a corporate and individual level. Employees can have the app on their phone, receiving personalised, relevant, and time-sensitive information from their organisation or team. This helps them to stay informed about the company and can do their jobs more efficiently. This technology is delivered to devices, with push notifications helping with employee engagement and team collaboration. 


Why do we need employee apps? 

The corporate workforce demographic is changing. The proportion of millennials and Gen Z that make up workforces is increasing and will continue to do so on a linear basis. The way these generations engage with technology and expect to be communicated with is changing too (see our blog on How to engage a multigenerational workforce).  

 Outside of the corporate environment, the world is changing at a faster pace, and digital innovations inside a work environment are falling behind. The new workforce expects to see these innovations in all aspects of their life, and tolerance for outdated systems and unengaging processes is decreasing as the gap between internal and external communication methods expands (see our whitepaper on Perception vs reality)Employee applications may be the answer to this intolerance. 


Effective communication platforms should be guided by communication professionals 

 Most companies we come in to contact with have been steered down an intranet path by IT teams or have an intranet system that is a sequential step from a legacy platform. Platforms are often selected because of infrastructure and security requirements, and stakeholders that should have control, such as comms professionals and HR teams, are not fairly represented in the decision. Effectiveness of communication, engagement, interaction and the ability to change mindsets are a second thought – but this is what makes employee apps a thriving success. 


The half-way house solution is a slightly better intranet 

 More progressive intranets try to tackle this by adapting the traditional intranet, introducing better communication features, social elements and games. There are now  many effective intranet platforms out there. Any step away from traditional intranets that stagnate, is a positive move. Most large companies need an intranet in place – it’s a necessary evil, so organisations may as well make it as engaging as possible.  


The fact remains that intranets do not meet the demands of the employee of the future. Employees expect information in real-time, one click away. Content must be personalised to them and the experience should be effortless. 


Employee apps and what good looks like 

 An employee app can run alongside an intranet, gaining many benefits such as authentication and tapping into internal content / resources– but also transform the way in which employees communicate with one another.  

Drawing on our own experience, we found that mobile apps for employees get much higher levels of engagement. Apps are opened with much greater frequency, content gains more exposure and competitions, assessments, surveys and polls reach higher proportions of a workforce than the traditional intranet channels. 


So back to our original question- are employee apps the new intranet?  

For progressive companies, quite possibly. Without the baggage of legacy platforms and infrastructure, an employee app really could be the solution to replace all intranet functionality and create empowered and fully engaged workforce.  

 For large corporates and companies with a more traditional setup, employee apps will not replace intranets in the short term, but they can absolutely work alongside them to support internal communication and allow departments, such as HR, to make their information and interaction more engaging. In these cases, the apps are better positioned as employee engagement apps, and will not try to cater for everything within an internet. They should be lightweight and not require any content duplication.  

 For many, intranets are and will remain a necessity. However, with the dramatic shift to mobile, and the way in which new generations are interacting with content online, the intranets days are numbered. Employee apps will begin to be introduced by the forward-thinking companies, and soon become an expectation.