From Intranet to Employee Experience Platform: Understanding the Evolution
Since the early nineties, intranets have been a staple tool for internal communications inside large organizations. But workplaces have shifted dramatically since the pandemic — and intranet products have evolved with them.
Out of this challenging environment, we’ve seen the employee experience platform (EXP) develop and emerge. This solution builds on its predecessors, but with new, refined capabilities that support modern workplaces and their people.
Need to understand how EXPs differ from earlier intranet products? Or start with understanding what is an employee intranet? Or not sure whether an EXP is right for your organization? From local network portals to the connected work platforms used today, let’s explore how and why intranets have evolved over the years.
The First Intranets: Static Portals
Intranets became popular during the 1990s when companies realized they could use linked networks (similar to the internet, but locked down) to create a local platform for internal communication. These early intranets were managed by engineering and IT departments and offered very little in the way of content authoring or social networking. Because they were hosted via local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs), intranets were only accessed via on-premises desktops.
Early 2000s: Social Intranets
In the early 2000s, commercially successful intranet products became more widespread, including SharePoint (file hosting system) and Jive (enterprise social network). During the next two decades, increasing competition in this space helped to drive innovation, with a growing number of features and integrations available. Meanwhile, website users (and by extension, intranet users) began to do much more than just consume information.
Intranets became increasingly social and collaborative, allowing users to create and manage their own content, build forms, participate in communities, and customize pages — without relying on their IT department.
The Pandemic Era: Digital Workplaces
In early 2019, only 8% of U.S. employees with remote-capable jobs were working exclusively remote. By May 2020, the pandemic caused this number to increase to 70%, with a further 18% of employees working hybrid.
Many organizations needed a fast solution so that their employees could work from anywhere, and digital workplaces soon became an essential tool for the remote workforce.
An important distinction between employee intranets and digital workplaces is accessibility — digital workplaces allow employees to log into their digital workplace on any device (including mobile), at any time. Other new features included improved search capabilities and video communications, making it easier for employees to find information and connect with one another.
Research has found that organizations that successfully sustained operations during the pandemic had a more flexible, diverse, agile company culture. This helped them leverage technologies to integrate their intranet, social media, and online communication platforms into their work processes. As a result, they could:
- Build relationships – Developing stronger bonds and trust between employees and stakeholders, both during and after the crisis
- Share knowledge – Increasing knowledge transfer and improving collaboration (despite having a distributed workforce and leadership)
- Feel confident – Making better informed decisions and responding quickly to events
Today: Employee Experience Platforms
At the end of 2022, 26% of U.S. employees with remote-capable jobs were still working exclusively remote, but a substantial 53% were working hybrid.
Although the pandemic situation has stabilized, organizations are facing new challenges:
- Many employees still want flexible work options
- People are burnt out and disengaged
- The Great Resignation continues, with some 43% of survey respondents saying they're likely to leave their job in the next year in search of new opportunities and higher pay
As employee journeys become increasingly digitized, the employee experience platform (EXP) has emerged to fill critical gaps in the employee experience that were unmet by existing intranets or even digital workplace tools.
New features inside EXPs include personalized communications, orchestrated journeys, digital assistants, communities, and integrated apps. These are enabling a number of benefits, like improved employee engagement, communication, knowledge-sharing, productivity, collaboration, and retention.
EXPs are helping to deliver the experiences that today’s workforce needs — whether they’re in the office, working remote, or hybrid.
Interested in learning more about the evolution of modern intranets and employee experience platforms? Download our free Ebook, How Employee Experience Platforms Drive Digital Transformation.
Inside, we share more insights, including the role leadership plays in employee experience platforms and specific ways EXPs can elevate employee engagement.
How did we go from intranet to employee experience platform?
Download our free guide to understand today's modern intranet and how it can help your business succeed.