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More and more firms want a mobile social intranet solution. As such, they want to keep pace with the usage habits of their employees – who are already mobile – and finally reach their entire workforce in a quick and simple way. But not every employee app is right for every company, truly user-friendly, and actually accepted by employees.
In order to achieve a functioning mobile intranet that is right for your company, you have to consider a range of aspects before, during, and after its launch. Below, we have put together a list of the most important features and the key strategic factors that you ought to consider.
1. "Less is more" for mobile systems
If your employees access the company intranet from mobile devices, they only need a limited selection of the functions available on the desktop version. Keep it simple! A great deal of information (e.g. the house rules of company HQ or documentation relating to older projects) is usually irrelevant for “deskless workers” and employees who are out and about. Furthermore, particularly sensitive customer and employee data should not generally be accessible via smartphone.
You should consider the precise ways in which the system will be used when deciding which functions and information to include in the mobile version of your social intranet. Think mobile! A deskless worker, for instance, probably needs little more than company news, perhaps a wiki, certain services (e.g. the option of submitting sickness notifications and vacation requests), and a general platform for communication and networking.
An employee sitting in the subway or returning from a meeting with a customer should also be able to access their current projects and the associated communication. Although they won’t want to compose any long messages on their smartphone, they would still like to see what progress their coworkers have made. They might want to update the project status themselves or inform their team members about the key outcomes from the meeting with the customer. They might also search for a further colleague with a particular area of expertise within the company and invite them to join the project.
These are all important and time-critical tasks, but you don’t need all the resources that a social intranet has to offer. Not only is a pared-down version perfectly adequate for mobile devices, but it also makes your mobile social intranet clearer and therefore more intuitive.
2. Get your employees on board
In order to make your social intranet as user-friendly, coherent, and efficiency-enhancing as possible, it is imperative to get your employees involved – a principle that applies to both mobile and desktop versions of the system. First of all, employees themselves have the best understanding of what features they want and need, and when and where they will use them. Secondly, asking about their needs fosters productivity and loyalty to the company, because anyone who feels truly listened to is automatically more motivated to play their part.
With this in mind, you should ideally obtain feedback from your staff before launching your (mobile) social intranet, as well as at regular intervals following the launch: how, when, and where do they use the social intranet when they are on the move? What functions and information matter to them in terms of mobile use? What doesn’t matter? What possibilities would they like to see? What are their ideas?
You can glean this feedback by means of employee surveys. Alternatively, a feedback box embedded within the mobile intranet itself allows employees to share their concerns, complaints, and suggested improvements at any time. This ensures that you do not miss out on any ideas that could result in lasting improvement to your social intranet and take your company forward.
3. It's all about user-friendliness
Employees will only happily use your mobile social intranet on a regular basis if it is extremely user-friendly and intuitive. The user experience is paramount! The design, structure, user navigation, and usability must always be clear, accessible, and agreeable; in a best-case scenario, they should also largely take their cue from familiar concepts and, of course, work well. An excellent search function and the avoidance of seemingly endless texts are further key factors in terms of a good user experience.
A good search function, especially for people, makes it much easier to use a mobile intranet. Nobody wants to have to click through five different folders or dozens of employee profiles while sitting in a streetcar in order to find the necessary information or the right contact person. But anyone who finds what they are looking for after entering just a couple of words, or even letters, will soon have a sense of achievement. And this makes it worth investing the few spare minutes before the next meeting or while waiting for a bus in the current project.
As evidenced by this article, for instance, text is the preferred way for us humans to share or present complex information. The problem with text, however, is that too much of it can come across as very intimidating and sap motivation. And the upper limits for text are reduced dramatically on a small smartphone, meaning the solution is to strictly limit text length for mobile content. An especially useful approach is to break up the text with appealing images in order to give mobile users visual points of identification. In this way, you can ensure an optimum mobile user experience, even when presenting challenging content.
4. Promote usage with targeted measures
A new mobile intranet can only be as good as the percentage of employees who happily use it on a regular basis and contribute actively. Fortunately, you can easily develop specific use cases in order to foster this kind of user acceptance. For example, it is extremely useful to incorporate the most important and most frequently used applications and information in the mobile social intranet itself. If your employees are able to check their current shift plan here or document their working hours and workflows, they have good reasons to regularly log in via their mobile device.
But content such as the latest company news and the details of an upcoming Christmas party, for example, also boosts the motivation of employees to engage with the mobile social intranet. Although this content is only of minor relevance in terms of employees’ day-to-day work, it increases their sense of belonging and their loyalty to the company. What’s more, it can be provided easily to all employees, such as by means of push notifications to their private smartphones (“bring your own device”). In turn, these push notifications are ideal catalysts in terms of boosting the range and, ultimately, the acceptance of the mobile intranet.
Furthermore, speedy coordination with an employee’s own team, rapid clarification of approval and workflow-related processes, joint scheduling, the booking of meeting rooms, and the submission of vacation requests/sickness notifications are good examples of tasks that can be easily completed on the move or from home. And once people notice that the mobile social intranet really does save them time and make their working life easier, they will be happy to use it frequently.
5. Find the right software
You should not fall for the misconception that all employee software packages are suitable for all companies. The chance that a “one-size-fits-all” solution will deliver your company’s desired result is extremely remote. The ideal mobile intranet is completely different from one company to another. Therefore, good employee apps will allow at least some customization to reflect your needs.
Whatever software program you choose, it has to offer both a good desktop version and a coherent mobile version. That’s because two separate solutions will always lead to difficulties with synchronization, as well as related issues surrounding constant availability and the ability to find data. And who really wants to spend time searching for older – yet still relevant – project information in the chat thread of the mobile version, within the desktop version, and in their e-mails?
Other factors are also of fundamental importance. It goes without saying that all companies want software that ensures strong, compliant data protection and fast load times. It should be as intuitive as possible, allowing you to avoid costly, in-depth employee training sessions.
A further hallmark of good software is a well-planned and well-functioning “onboarding” process. In this process, your coworkers install the software on their mobile devices, configure their user profiles, and seek out the right groups and organizational units within the intranet. The aim of this organizational structure is to avoid ending up with a situation in which hundreds or even thousands of colleagues all chat with each other via the same channel. Instead, employees should receive only the information that is truly relevant for them and that they actually want to see – while sharing information themselves with the right groupings. This prevents data garbage and ensures that the mobile social intranet serves to improve communication and processes within the company.
6. Change takes time
As already mentioned in the second tip in this list, configuring the ideal mobile social intranet for your company is an ongoing process. But regular evaluation is not only required in terms of selecting just the right functions and information for the mobile version, as other problems and sources of dissatisfaction may also arise. It may be the case that employees are still attached to old communication habits or don’t want to switch between their private and work smartphones. In order to keep track of these developments and find solutions in a timely fashion, it’s a good idea to conduct regular surveys and monitor user acceptance on an ongoing basis.
As all these changes and optimization processes take time, it makes little sense to expect quick results from a mobile intranet, e.g. in terms of productivity, effectiveness, or employee motivation. The changeover requires time and dedication. With the necessary patience, however, and a willingness to keep fine-tuning, your company will ultimately reap the rewards.
In a nutshell: a good mobile intranet requires hard work, but it's worth it!
There are many good reasons in favor of a mobile social intranet. Unfortunately, there are plenty of pitfalls in the process of finding the ideal mobile intranet. But taking into account a few central strategic principles is half the battle.
You should, for example, ensure that you opt for a software program that is precisely tailored to your needs. This should offer not only an outstanding desktop version, but also a sophisticated and streamlined mobile solution. When making detailed decisions about how to streamline the desktop social intranet for use on mobile devices, it is a very good idea to involve the company’s employees and survey their opinions on a regular basis. As users, they know best which functions they need, when and where they need them, and whether the structure and user navigation of the mobile intranet work for them. And employees will only be happy to use the mobile intranet on a regular basis if the user experience is positive and if the information important to users is put at their fingertips in the mobile version.
But even if you get everything right before and during the launch of your new mobile social intranet, it takes a little while before the adjustment phase ends and the positive impact is felt. That’s why you have to be patient when implementing change of this kind at your company. But if you invest the necessary time and effort, you will be rewarded with more motivated and productive employees who identify more strongly with your company. A very worthwhile objective!