Internal knowledge networks or online communities within a company intranet often suffer from an image problem that drastically undermines their wide-scale adoption. Too many of us of a “certain age” remember the knowledge repositories of yesteryear. Intranets were those awful, clunky intranets that managers forced employees to upload content to during the dot.com bubble so that they could “knowledge capture” during a time when employees were fleeing fast to the many start-up companies promising fame and fortune to all. Those systems were difficult to use and were entirely one-sided – offering value mainly to the company and little to the employee who participated.
Now, however, due to the modern collaboration tools, company intranets are a completely different animal. When well done, they can serve as an interactive go-to network of peers-in-the-know and best practice content and discussions of important trends and issues that impact a knowledge-worker’s ability to do their job well. They can be easy and even fun to use and serve to support a company culture in an ongoing way. But, we are scarred from the past and often avoid using these internal social tools like the plague.
Often times, one of the greater obstacles to adoption (provided that we are talking about a good implementation that has clearly defined business goals, adequate staffing, viable technology and a staffing model that is appropriate) is overcoming staff perception about them. Yet it is the rare company that applies the principals of effective marketing strategy and tactics to help staff see the value.
If you have a new or underused intranet consider working with the marketing group to create an internal marketing and awareness campaign to help evangelize the community within the organization. Make participation fun and rewarding – it can be professionally-based but rewards systems for contributions can go a long way as can scavenger hunts and deadline driven participation events. Ensure key stakeholders are actually visible on the community as those in authority are often the last ones to engage online and this sends a negative signal to employees who are being asked to participate but see no senior footprint. Consider creating positive performance incentives to support ongoing participation – make it part of team MBOs on a weekly or monthly basis and not just at the end of the quarter where folks will just upload a bunch of stuff so they can report executing the objective.
And finally, make sure the programs and collaboration efforts on the internal community are truly useful and well aligned with helping staff solve business problems. Launch discussions and knowledge exchanges that mirror issues and information needs that are often expressed verbally or informally. If the internal community is useful, usable and engaging – they will come and they will stay.
Thank you for reading Building Online Communities for Business by Leader Networks. We are a research and strategy consulting company that helps organizations succeed in social business and B2B online community building.
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