Originally published on Unily. Intranets have historically tended to focus on internal communications initiatives, such as instilling a shared culture among all employees. However, a new breed of digital workplace platforms are making it easier to realize other business objectives. For example, many Unily customers are beginning to tackle employee productivity issues too. This reflects a key technology trend we predicted, that organizations will once again want a return on their technology investment. What is new, is that compared to the past, more parts departments of a typical business want to see greater improvements on how each employee works. A flexible low-cost technology platform can help democratize access too by targeting important and relevant content and tools to each and every employee, no matter what division, function, geographic region they belong to or language spoken. As such, wider business goals that were once hard to achieve are becoming possible with the help of a well-designed digital workplace. Three Unily customers Informa, Flight Centre and Shell illustrate this. Take Informa, a Unily customer for over a year. They are in business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge management and events with a wide variety of brands. These include market analysts Datamonitor, academic publishers Taylor Francis, event organizers of the Monaco Yacht show, to owners of the historic maritime intelligence publication Lloyd’s List. One major challenge for them was how to unify such a diverse number of product brands into a common Informa culture, across all their 43 countries they operate in, including an aggressive acquisition strategy too, that has had a big impact internally. Joe Dilieto, Informa’s Digital Communications Manager, said they had set out from the start to ‘encourage collaboration, communication and connection with employees across all Divisions’. This meant encouraging sharing ‘knowledge and experience’ among staff by using their digital workplace to be the one ‘gateway to daily applications and tools’ used by everyone. But Dilieto admitted that it wasn’t an easy goal to achieve when there is so much change happening all at once. Internally, he said the hardest challenge to solve was ‘being aware of the technology landscape that is being used across our business.’ So how could a digital workplace help with that? Dilieto said that he had created a technology framework, aimed at helping each employee by guiding them to ‘use the right apps and collaboration tools’, cutting out anything irrelevant, only providing them with what they need. The business benefit, as he continued, would be that ‘our colleagues will be working smarter.’ This also meant continued focus on using the digital workplace to drive communications to Informa staff too. Dilieto made it clear that ‘being aware of what is happening in the business and why it is very important.’ Flight Centre are another Unily customer who were looking to improve their productivity. They are similar to Informa in that they are comprised of many different consumer brands, including eight leisure and corporate travel brands, and over 80 Flight Centre stores across the UK. Tessa Buckman, Internal communications director, who has just launched their digital workplace this May, explained to me what benefits they set out to achieve. She said they wanted it to give their staff ‘the ability to quickly find the information they need to perform in their roles, wherever they are, on any device.’ This would help them in other ways too, such as making everyone more self-sufficient in their work. Buckman gave an example, ‘We also wanted to reduce the pressure on our support teams by helping our frontline employees easily find quality answers to their questions online.’ How did Buckman and her team at Flight Centre arrive at these objectives? They surveyed employees to prioritise ‘what information or functionality the intranet could provide to make their lives easier.’ One key issue the survey revealed was that employees didn’t ‘trust in the information published on the intranet’. Responding to this meant Buckman created a governance strategy to ensure their content ‘stayed relevant and up to date.’ Shell are another Unily customer with similar challenges. They are a large complex organization, with 140,000 employees across the world, with four major businesses operating exclusively from one another, with a very diverse number of employees, working in oil fields, ships, petrol stations to scientists. Amber Fisher, Internal Communications, manager who is running their digital workplace project, told me their core objective for their new platform was to create ‘a more social, mobile and digitally enabled experience to enhance employee productivity.’ Like Flight Centre, Shell also adopted a similar employee-centric approach to define what to do. Fisher explained that they conducted an ‘extensive [period of] research with employees to understand their digital pain points and needs.’ Both Flight Centre and Shell were adamant to keep their digital workplaces fit for purpose, and as Fisher summed up as being ‘driven by employee needs’. This is where the main difference is compared to how organizations used to go about designing their intranets. As many Unily customers to demonstrate, involving employees in the design process is now a precondition for success. For example, at Shell, Fisher and her team established a User Advisory Board. As she explained, it is ‘comprised of employees from diverse countries and roles, to provide us with feedback as we developed the new solution.’ As Diletio said, faced with figuring out ‘what’s the best tool to use’ is a key challenge. As he continued, being able to ‘learn something from how our colleagues actually use technology’ will equally have a major impact too. Doing this will significantly help achieve better productivity. Since, it will help work out the best way to target staff with specific and relevant content and tools given their specific needs. Something, as we have seen, is one of the key ways to help boost productivity using a digital workplace. Our Unily customers continue to demonstrate, striving to achieve productivity-led goals must balance delivering relevant technology with ensuring employees are pivotal to the design process. Getting this balance right will help you achieve the best results.