SalesForce released a new enterprise social networking service today called Chatter with the aim of encouraging people to do what they do on Facebook et al with their colleagues.
It’s one of those issues that’s considerably easier to suggest than to implement as the two environments are very, very different. In community building there is an oft used rule of thumb that for every 100 people looking at a social community, 90 will just read, 9 will reply to topics and just 1 will start new discussions. As with all rules of thumb this isn’t going to be the case every time but it’s worth considering that whereas Facebook, LinkedIn et al have the numbers to make this work, in your own internal network your numbers will likely be much less.
As with most things in life, it’s worth investigating what you wish to get out of this before you get started.
If it’s gaining a more social understanding of your employees then it’s probably safe to say that use of existing platforms such as Facebook is likely to yield better results. There are already many ‘I work at …’ style groups on Facebook so that would seem a good opportunity to mingle with your employees in their natural habitat.
If however you’re looking to improve your corporate knowledge base and encourage knowledge sharing then this offers much more potential. Of course building a platform does not mean people will come, so here are a few steps you can take to encourage knowledge sharing within your company.
Tips for encouraging knowledge sharing
- Outline your vision for this. You first need to create a culture of knowledge sharing so need to communicate the vision that this is a positive thing both for the individual and the company.
- Reinforce through actions. You then need to reinforce this vision through actions. Reward positive behaviour, not just financially but through praise and recognition.
- Start with the natives. There will inevitably be people who will take to this like a duck to water. Start with these people and get them sharing knowledge extensively.
- Use success stories to cross the chasm. Use any success stories that these early adaptors achieve to help sell it to the rest of your employees.
- Lead by example. You have to do what you’re asking people to do so you should be one of the main users of your internal network.
- Embed into human processes. If you can get these positive behaviours included within inductions for instance it will help reinforce behaviour and create the right kind of knowledge sharing culture.
Don’t forget to look outside as well as inside
If you can get that far then you’ve done very well, but don’t restrict yourself to improving the knowledge sharing within your company walls. There is a whole load of knowledge outside of your company. Communities of practice exist in a vast array of areas that can see your employees tapping into the knowledge base of thousands of peers from around the world. The CMI for instance is soon to launch a management community that will be a great place for managers to learn from others. Look out for these kind of opportunities and encourage staff to learn from these communities. This kind of social media is miles from the waste of time that Facebook et al can appear to be.
I’m a great believer in the power of communities and getting employees to talk to one another is a great thing. It would be interesting to hear from people that have done this successfully.