SBH Health System Employee Community Transformed with Workplace by Facebook

A collage of the SBH Health System journey to launch Workplace by Facebook

A collage of the SBH Health System journey to launch Workplace by Facebook

In healthcare making a difference for one person has network effects. For SBH Health System (SBH) in the Bronx, New York, implementing a Workplace by Facebook online employee community has produced several benefits for the hospital. In just 4 months the online community has:

  • Made organization-wide communication easier, faster & available via mobile phone
  • Helped the organization identify more engaged employees
  • Improved the employee compliance information experience
  • Increased nursing operations efficiency
  • Enabled a redesign of an improved crisis preparedness plan

SBH’s community has strong executive support across the organization, in addition to a nimble and creative community team. To further bolster skills, SBH’s team lead attended the Talk Social to Me Engagement Bootcamp webinars to learn engagement strategies and the nuances of applying them to hospital operations.  

Implementing Workplace by Facebook for our internal employee-only community has been one of the most transformative things that’s happened to our organization. For us, it’s been as big as the switch from paper to email or the advent of electronic health records.
— Michelle O’Gara, Assistant Marketing Director, SBH Health System
Michelle O'Gara, Assistant Marketing Director, SBH

Michelle O'Gara, Assistant Marketing Director, SBH

The User’s Choice

SBH is a busy safety net community hospital. Its 3,100+ employees range from unionized workers, millennials, people with no social media experience, part-time staff and more. Getting such a wide variety of users to experience the value of Workplace has been challenging. Executive sponsors wanted people to choose to use Workplace instead of mandating it.

46% of our employees now use Workplace and that is growing. Some employees are simply resistant; others use alternative mobile solutions like What’s App or text messaging. We do ongoing Workplace Wednesday training and as more people join in, letting them choose to use it will keep the growth sustainable.
— Michelle O'Gara

Tracking Engagement Via Keywords

Assessing tangible organizational outcomes can be a tricky aspect of community management. After the Talk Social to Me webinar about Return on Engagement, the SBH team brainstormed that they could track use of the keyword “Thank” to assess the level of employee engagement. In fact, a direct correlation was found between the individuals thanked and their level of engagement on Workplace.

Increased Nursing Efficiency

Recruiting and getting superusers engaged has also been a critical factor in the efficiencies gained. The Mar-Com team identified a nurse director as a superuser. Her influence touched a lot of employees.

We launched a Bed Huddle group to streamline how staff located, prepared and then moved patients into rooms as they were leaving emergency care. Previously, it was a more time-consuming process where staff had to walk the halls to find the resources—now they use the Workplace online group to post updates to staff of other hospital departments involved in the process. This saves time and ultimately improves the patient experience,
— Michelle O'Gara

Interactive Employee Communications

The employee community replaced an outdated wiki that had previously been used for staff communications and employee suggestions. Using the wiki was cumbersome and departments struggled to keep it current, especially the hospital's compliance offer who routinely shares a lot of updates. The wiki only offered one-way communication and was not HIPPA-compliant—a further constraint to its use. Now, the compliance officer uses Workplace by Facebook because its tools such as pop quizzes and polls offer more fun and effective ways to engage employees on the compliance information they need to know and use in their jobs. 

 Crisis Preparedness

A few weeks after the online community launched, SBH had a new opportunity to use the website as a critical communications linchpin:  A blizzard was predicted for New York. SBH’s crisis preparedness plan anticipated potential hospital operation disruption like power outages and designed a program to house those update communications in the online community to inform employees throughout service locations in real-time.

 Launching an employee community often presents myriad unanticipated challenges. Community builders should be resourceful, engaging, and ready to anticipate trying new approaches to solve the next challenges.

When I started the Talk Social to Me Bootcamp series, I felt like the work I was doing was a 7 out of 10 (where 10 is the best). Afterward, I feel like I’m working with new strategies and frameworks and that’s more like I’m doing level 10 community management.
— Michelle O'Gara

Talk Social to me is offering two webinars on how to build your user engagement data and measure success using Workplace by Facebook and Yammer. Please join us in May.

 

 

Best Practices for Employee Communities in Highly Regulated Industries

Photo used under Creative Commons 2.0 license. Photo by:  Seattle Municipal Archives

Photo used under Creative Commons 2.0 license. Photo by:  Seattle Municipal Archives

If you’re launching or (or possibly already have) an employee community in a highly-regulated industry, the myriad regulations that concern your leadership are definitely challenges. But even in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services, or education, employee communities are still viable. Social tools such as Workplace by Facebook are enabling communication to be the bedrock of cultural change and in turn, companies can be more agile and responsive to outside forces.

In a 2016 McKinsey Global Survey on social tools, 93% of respondents said their companies used at least one social technology. In addition, the top three benefits of using social tools included:  real-time interaction, collaboration with specific groups, and cross-platform availability. Additionally, respondents believed those three features would be the ones that most improved how people work in the future.

If your company is in a highly-regulated industry, here are some simple ideas to get your planning started:

  • Use cases that present minimal risk. If customer privacy is important, choose to collaborate between groups where customer information and data won’t be discussed. Create spaces where people can discuss or disseminate information on company policies and practices rather than specific customers. Work with HR, legal, compliance and IT in partnership so they can have say and a stake in advance of your launch.
     
  • Visual reminders & learning examples. Tools such as “how to use the community” training events, visual display of dos and don’ts, a community playbook, and giving people ways to confidentially contact administrators when they see policy violations are ways you can ask your employees to help keep the community healthy. In your prominent display of terms of use, be sure to link to specific examples of both right and wrong.
     
  • Anticipate and map crisis response. Michelle O’Gara, Assistant Marketing Director at SBH Health System, a safety net community hospital in New York, recently attended a Talk Social to Me Bootcamp. She said, “We created a crisis response plan in anticipation of 2017’s winter storms here in the northeast. We had pre-planned how and who would take action and provide updates for our employees throughout our service locations if weather caused service disruptions.”
     
  • Monitoring. Inevitably, violations will happen and people will post information they shouldn’t. But chances are good they are truly accidents. With active monitoring, this material can be removed quickly. Teach your community Champions to actively monitor the parts of the community they work in. This distributes the community manager’s work and helps Champions experience a feeling of actively helping keep the community a positive place

In a regulated industry, it’s more important to focus on fostering a culture that welcomes employee engagement. When you plan and craft strong community use policies, you tackle the hard challenges of industry regulations in advance leaving more room for the community manager to encourage engagement, educate, and inspire employee participation. The pace of culture change will always be far outpaced by the speed of technology, but with the right strategies in place thriving employee communities are possible for every company.

Upcoming Webinars: How to Measure Behavior in Your Enterprise Social Network

If you’re running your company’s enterprise social network (ESN), you will inevitably be asked about the success of the platform—are people using it? How often and what for? What value are we really getting out of this thing, anyway?

It can be difficult to know what metrics to track on your enterprise social networks like Yammer and Workplace. After all, knowing how many views your post gets doesn’t really tell you how many people read it, or whether they understood it, or whether they shared it. At best, the number of views can tell you an initial level of interest. But after that, who knows? In fact, focusing on the metrics that matter for your ESN can be tricky, since what we need to focus on are the behavioral changes that take place when adopting such a platform. Much of the value of an ESN falls into the intangible category, such as creating opportunities to connect, humanizing your organization, or facilitating communication outside the hierarchy. But, no matter your focus, the things you set out to measure should always be tied to your overall goals, and embedded into your community strategy.

 

To help you think through setting your company strategy and measuring success for your ESN, Talk Social To Me has partnered with SWOOP Analytics to offer two free webinars on this subject in May: one focused on Facebook Workplace and another focused on Microsoft Yammer. Attendees will walk away with a clear understanding of the important metrics in Workplace by Facebook and Yammer, as well as simple, tactical day-to-day steps that every member can take to improve their collaboration habits.

Sign up for these free webinars today!

 

 

How White Labs uses Facebook Workplace during company expansion

3 takeaways from Community Engagement Bootcamp

Whether it’s introducing a new product, conducting an acquisition or expanding a brand’s footprint, it’s not rare for companies to experience growing pains. White Labs, an international yeast fermentation company based in San Diego, is no exception.

“It’s a stressful time,” said Julia Miller, human resources assistant.

The company is opening an East Coast production facility in Asheville, N.C. that will have full yeast production capabilities, an analytical lab, packaging, shipping and receiving, administrative offices, training rooms for educational classes and along with it will come a tasting room, and the company’s first restaurant. It means more demand on the human resources, marketing and executive teams, in particular.

It’s an example of why Miller, who participated in Talk Social to Me’s four-part Community Engagement Bootcamp, aims to use Facebook Workplace as a space to break up the workday’s monotony.

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we have to do during the week.
— Julia Miller

White Labs programmed a Pi Day celebration last month using Facebook Workplace to encourage employees from different departments to be PieFace! Showdown game participants. Employees also were encouraged to participate with their March Madness bracket on the platform. Basketball games were streamed in its San Diego tasting room, which allowed employees to follow along.

“It broke up what we were doing,” Miller said.

That’s not to say White Labs doesn’t use Workplace as a space to communicate more traditional business information. That’s the “usual norm” of the account, which launched in November 2016, Miller said.

The company’s marketing team, tasked with communicating the East Coast production facility expansion internally and externally, is extremely active on the platform. But before Talk Social to Me’s Community Engagement Bootcamp, Miller said sometimes it resulted in administrators making “blanket statements” to all employees.

Millers’ Top Three Takeaways from TSTM’s Community Engagement Bootcamp:

Julia Miller, human resources assistant at White Labs

Julia Miller, human resources assistant at White Labs

1. Planning is essential to really drive business strategy.

Work with different divisions of the company - legal, human resources, executive team, to cover all bases - in creating a community manifesto. Incorporate existing programs into the platform.

White Labs recently integrated aspects of its employee recognition program into Workplace. Employees were encouraged to nominate those who represent one of the company’s core values for its quarterly Core Values Awards program. Nominations previously happened through email.

2. Give people the freedom to bring what they want to the table.

Miller said it’s healthy to have a mix between “work” and “play” in Workplace. “How can we be better because of what’s going on outside of work and how can we become better because of what’s happening at work?” she said.

A member of our lab team posted a ‘Who wore it best?’ poll when she noticed two employees wearing the same Hawaiian shirt. She quickly posted in on the Team San Diego page and created a poll. Our CEO happened to be in the office that day and walked into our brewery coincidentally wearing the same shirt as well. What started as a simple post to highlight a twinning moment turned into three members of our team campaigning with other employees to vote for them. We had every member of our San Diego team vote and the three members wearing the same shirt took turns going live to plead their cases as to why they deserved to win. It was a simple and fun way that broke up the monotony of the news feed at the time and emphasized something fun in place of a more serious business-like post that is the usual norm.
— Julia Miller

 

3. Frame information for your audience.

Go beyond using Workplace as a broadcasting platform. Think of how to cater communications to different groups of people instead of “making blanket statements and assuming what people are thinking of it,” Miller said.

I feel like all of it was an ‘AHA’ moment.
— Julia Miller, of Talk Social To Me's Community Engagement Bootcamp

TSTM’s Community Engagement Bootcamp taught participants how to kick employee engagement into high gear through a series of four interactive webinars, weekly homework exercises, and online access to experts providing personalized help.

For more information about how Talk Social To Me can help with your online community, reach out at hello@talksocialtome.com.

Introduce Working Out Loud in Your Employee Community

Have you seen people online talking about “Working Out Loud?” Maybe you’ve stumbled across a hashtag such as #WOL. What is Working Out Loud, anyway?

A concept originally created by author John Stepper, WOL is building meaningful relationships with others based on generosity and shared purpose. In short – the idea is to give your time and energy to others openly, without expecting anything in return.

Photo used under Creative Commons 2.0 license. Photo by:  wetwebwork

Photo used under Creative Commons 2.0 license. Photo by:  wetwebwork

So, how does this apply to your fellow employees at a company? A company’s mission and vision already brings a sense of shared purpose, WOL can help employees and teams work more openly to reach those mutual goals so everyone succeeds. Community managers are the connectors who catalyze reciprocity, social capital, and sharing in the community by using Working Out Loud as an engagement technique. If employees give their time, ideas, opinions and support to the work of others, especially in a visible way inside a community, then others can as well. The community manager’s role is to then tell, share and draw attention to those stories and pivotal events that happen to attract new teams, departments, and business units into the fold.

Externalize Employee Work

If your company is transitioning to or re-ignite its employee network, WOL helps you start small and establish a culture of learning from and helping each other. These are the foundational behaviors of intra-company collaboration. But how can community managers actually model and foster WOL in corporate cultures that may have policy or cultural barriers? Here are a few tips to getting Working Out Loud started at your organization.

  • Begin with existing organizational groups and shared goals. Teams that already work closely together, perhaps even in a region or satellite location are ideal. Leveraging existing trust and familiarity among the team paves the way for daily experiences to be externalized. It’s also a more a familiar way to bring your first teams into the community. Over time connections between people who would otherwise never have interacted before get created. At Talk Social to Me, the team works across four time zones, but because we WOL, we are in sync with each other’s work at every moment.
     
  • Employ strong governance. For many companies, WOL itself isn’t what makes users wary or even fearful of sharing information, even accidentally, in communities. Instead, it’s conservative corporate culture that inhibits engagement and informality. A community manager can help be present to represent solid policies and governance that are established up front. With the help of an organization’s legal, human resources and information technology groups, users are assured in advance of a “buttoned up” community management process. A great way to make this information available is via a community playbook.
     
  • Create WOL education. In addition to governance, comfort with WOL comes naturally from users who’ve had strong education as well as specific examples of what to do and what not to do, and why. Make sure your users understand that your community is secure and that there is a difference between private vs. open groups. Who can see the information being shared is important to create employee trust. This means using groups to invite collaboration and commentary that makes sense.
     
  • Evangelize. Community managers have an important and visible role as the host of a large, virtual party. The community manager has the responsibility to model as well as evangelize great WOL behavior and bring good examples to everyone’s attention. Drawing attention to these examples is something everyone can learn from, recognizes those exemplary community members and helps foster these “early adopters” so they can become future champions that help scale as the community grows.  

Remember, start small and be sure to invest in time to teach people how to WOL. How much time? Well, communities are built on relationships--your company culture and your leaders play a critical role in encouraging employees to make the shift. Once trust is established, WOL principles start will bring forth network effects to the employees who are participating.

One Surefire Way to Drive Engagement in an Employee Community: Take an Idea and Make it Happen

Ok, senior leaders. This one’s for you.

We get a lot of questions about how to drive engagement in a company’s enterprise social network. Companies put a lot of work into building fancy launch campaigns, creating fun reward programs for Champions, and printing posters about the benefits of the online employee community. These activities are valuable, and they create excitement, and they signal that the collaboration party is getting started.

However, there's a better way to foster the long-term adoption of and engagement in your community, and it doesn't involve a team of designers or event planners. Ready for it?

Pick any good idea shared by an employee and make it come to life, fast.

This tactic is particularly easy for a very senior executive to create instant value for not only the community, but for the company as a whole. Ask for ideas, or browse the community to find suggestions shared by employees on-the-ground who talk to customers and build your products every day. The best ideas usually come from those who know customer needs, and I promise that if you ask for suggestions inside your community, you as a senior executive will receive them en masse.

Once you've found an idea that resonates with your goals, and that can be enacted quickly, work fast to make it happen. Take your employee's idea, assign it to a team that can take swift action, and ask for results in the immediate term. For inspiration, look no further than Tesla's Elon Musk, who converted a frustrated customer's rant on Twitter into a policy change in less than a week.

Senior leaders are in a unique position to drive the priorities for many teams. When a leader spots a good idea shared by an everyday employee in the company's social network and turns it into reality, that leader is validating all employees' use of the social network while building better products and experiences for customers. I would argue that this type of idea-validation to idea-action is one of the single best ways to keep your employees happily collaborating.

So, senior leaders, are you ready for the challenge? Let us hear about how your employees' ideas were found inside your company social network and brought to life.

We're Hiring a Community Manager + Client Relationship Specialist

About Us: Talk Social to Me provides best-in-class enterprise social network strategies and programs for some of the world's biggest brands. With a vendor-neutral approach, we help organizations launch Workplace by Facebook, Yammer, Jive and more with clear strategies and tangible outcomes. Our community professionals are the best in the business - they know how to work with executives, managers, and everyday employees to make communities thrive. We move quickly and we "teach to fish" - our goal is to educate companies and help them thrive before moving on to the next project.

Who We Need: We're hiring a contract (about 30 hours/week) community manager who will help 2-3 clients with their employee communications and engagement initiatives. This role will be responsible for the success of short-term technology pilots as well as helping influencers create effective online employee community programs. This community expert will have 1+ years managing a program, community, or team on Yammer, and must know the Yammer product inside-out. An understanding of other Office 365 products is beneficial.

Technology and Clients: Your first job is supporting a growing Yammer community for a household brand by providing 1x1 consultations with key groups and managers who want to onboard their teams. Think of yourself as a Yammer concierge, blending personalized strategies for important teams with your deep knowledge of the Yammer product. Your goal: help teams shift critical business activities into Yammer. Your second job is preparing to support one or more pilots of Workplace by Facebook. We know that you probably don't have experience with this product, but we're willing to train if you have experience on one of our other key platforms.

How it Works/What's in it for You: This is a remote, contract position starting in February 2017 - we prefer that you be located in the USA so that you can support our clients in their business time zones. Because you'll be working from home, you'll need to be a self-starter who can juggle multiple client projects at once without daily in-person management. This role is perfect for someone who wants a flexible schedule, so long as they can be largely available during traditional business hours EST - PST. We practice what we preach, so be prepared to communicate largely through one of our many enterprise social networking tools on a daily basis!

Apply: Please send us your LinkedIn profile and anything else you might find relevant about your work on communities. We appreciate a sense of humor and business value. Be creative! Our team is fun, nimble, unique, hard-working, and flexible. Email: hello@talksocialtome.com

Financial Info: Depending on your experience and the number of hours available, this role will pay $30-$55/hour/USD. Please advise us of your rate and justification.

Thanks! We look forward to hearing from you!

An Enterprise Social Network Pop Quiz - How Much Do You Know?

Welcome, enterprise social enthusiasts! If you're looking to bring outside help into creating your employee community strategy, we have developed a quick Pop Quiz that you should administer to anyone offering their services. These questions will help you vet your candidates (you can use them even when hiring a full time community manager) and your consultants.

 

Ready to go? Here are the questions.

1.     What does AMA stand for in the world of community management?

Answer: "Ask Me Anything." It's an online, virtual Q&A program that successful communities run to highlight key individuals and give them a chance to answer questions from anyone in the community. They make your superusers feel recognized and they help humanize your members.

2.     Describe an appropriate scenario to send an Announcement message.

Answer: Community Managers should limit their Announcements, which are broadcast-type messages, so once or twice a week at most. Since they are forced upon users, meaning that users can't opt out of them, you want to save them only for the most important messages about key initiatives or company news.

3.     Does the 90-9-1 rule of participation inequality apply to enterprise social networks? If not, what’s a more appropriate breakdown?

Answer: No. That number came from the consumer web in 2006 and doesn't apply to internal communities, where the idea of social capital is different. Participation can be defined in many ways, but other models suggest 70-20-10 or 40-40-10. (Note: make sure your candidate has a source for their numbers as there are a variety of models out there depending on how adoption is measured).

4.     What are 3 key differences between Workplace and Yammer or Slack?

Answer: A few differences may include Facebook Live, default groups, business system integration capabilities, group calling options, analytic capabilities, group manager features, and document management. More macro-differences should also be discussed and should focus on chat vs. community (Slack vs. Workplace) and social collaboration vs. community (Yammer vs. Workplace).

5.     What is the best way to provide day-to-day platform support for the user base of Workplace without breaking the bank?

Answer: Build out a designated "Help and Support" Group for users to crowdsource questions and answers. A company's IT help desk should never be the front line for product questions. Groups dedicated toward peer support are the easiest and fastest method of scaling troubleshooting and self-directed learning.

6.     Name three companies where you have personally helped launch an enterprise social network.

Answer: These will vary, of course. Ask for war stories, successes, community manager names, and details. The more specific information you can get, the more secure you should feel in your choice of team members.

We hope you find this helpful - and let us know what your go-to interview questions are!

 

 

A Facebook at Work Progress Report: How It's Changed and Where It Fits

This post was originally published on CMSwire on September 13, 2016.

The past nine months have felt like a lifetime in the social software industry. 

We've seen customer communities slip away, new features introduced and removed, and partnerships grow between unicorns and legacy vendors. 

With that in mind, I wanted to revisit some concerns and predictions I made last year in a three-part review of Facebook at Work.

Much has improved with the product during this time, while some elements have remained the same. The product still needs work — what product doesn't? However, I believe it has made significant progress in becoming a viable enterprise-ready community platform, especially given the deprecation of human-centric capabilities in the competition.

An Important Distinction

Facebook at Work has the opportunity to build communities inside the enterprise in a way that no other vendor does today.  

Notice I wrote “communities” in the enterprise rather than “social.” I’m intentionally separating social collaboration features that help teams and individuals socialize their workflow (like what Microsoft does with Yammer and Office 365 Groups) from a massive online community of people connecting together. 

I am an avid believer that a community is a central destination where an organization’s informal social network is harnessed, where people can become “human” to colleagues, organically discover conversations and share ideas openly, learn informally and build relationships across boundaries. 

This is where Facebook at Work can make the greatest impact. Most traditional enterprise vendors currently appear to be peddling social “productivity solutions,” that promise to extract more work out of employees with less time and effort. The robot-ization of our workforce directly contradicts the original intent of making the workplace human, social and personal — the reasons why I believe so strongly in community for community’s sake.

Critical Updates

Facebook at Work cleared up two critical items I had called out as concerning:

  • Your personal profile is not a launch point for your work account. No longer must people worry about the accidental intermixing of their suit-wearing weekday persona and the “look at my kids!” parenting-fest that embodies their online life outside of work
  • Single Sign On and Active Directory integrations are available. Word has it that integration is simple and quick.

What Facebook at Work Gets Right

Facebook at Work has evolved or introduced the following features, which improve the experience for users and administrators. The improvements provide better community management opportunities, which we all know will lead to greater achieved value.

  • Facebook Live —Live streaming video for CEO Town Halls, breaking news and announcements from the field provides an interesting and exciting addition to internal social capabilities. There is a danger of it being over-used, but with some governance in place, live streaming video creates a new engagement channel for employees
  • Auto-Following Key Groups — Community managers can dictate a set of groups that every single user will be placed into upon account creation. This is a major victory for community managers, because they can ensure that every employee sees relevant content from curated groups from the moment they join. There are no hierarchies or permissions based on department or level — the community is flat and ensures a well-managed first experience for everyone
  • Turning Off Viral Invitations — Admins can turn off the ability for users to invite each other while they’re setting up the initial community. This is critical to seeding content with ambassadors and other early adopters while planning for a formal, strategic launch
  • Variety of Administrative Roles — Facebook has introduced several levels of administration roles, from the ever-powerful Network Admin to content administrators and even data analysts who only have access to the community metrics. This will help community managers divide and conquer the workload of tending to the community without fear of an accidental onboarding of the entire accounting department
  • Editing Posts After Publication — Because #winning. Yammer users especially will know how important this one is
  • Integrated Tutorials and Support Articles — This is a really cool feature. Your community automatically has a group, populated by default with constantly refreshing Facebook at Work videos and help articles. Everyone sees in-context ideas and support for the Facebook at Work product without ever having to leave their feed or ask for help. This is really a genius way to provide instruction to new users, and it’s one of my favorite features.
  • Translations — Nothing says relevance like being able to easily translate posts into your native language
  • Promoted Posts — Those who prefer totally organic and serendipitous information-sharing may not like this feature, but I do. Community managers can promote key posts to appear more prominently in users' news feeds. I see this working well for senior leadership posts that deserve a wide audience, for crowdsourcing information from a broader community, for taking a poll or getting widespread feedback when the poster doesn’t have a huge reach, or simply promoting important workplace information that everyone should see. Yes, one could abuse this, but community managers are there to shepherd a community, not let it grow without any structure. When used correctly, promoted posts can ensure the timely communication of key news

Where Facebook at Work Misses the Mark

You didn’t think this would be an all-out Facebook at Work lovefest, did you?

The product still needs some work to be community manager friendly. The company has shown interest in hearing from users about where it can improve, so here’s my list of things that need to change — from the nitpicky, to the “seriously guys, this one is important.”

  • Group Management — Users who create groups can add a custom header, add and remove users, receive flagged messages and edit privacy settings. What group managers can’t do is send a broadcast message or announcement to their group, essentially making them list moderators without a lot of programmatic control. As groups are the heart and soul of a community, group managers should be able to do much more. Which leads me to the next issue …
  • Group Level Analytics — Don't exist. Group managers need to know what’s happening, how the group is growing, who the influencers are, and what’s being viewed and shared. Without these insights, a group is an unmanageable black hole
  • Update: A Facebook representative informed me a CSV export is available for administrators. Overall community administrators can export a list of groups that notes the name, privacy setting, number of members, number of posts, reactions, etc. for each group. A list of all network users is available as well with similar quantitative details: users are "ranked" by their influence and contribution rate for the overall community, although I'm not sure what the calculation entails.
  • This is a step in the right direction and gives community managers the chance to spot strong and weak groups, inactive users and potential influencers. However, it does not change my analysis that meaningful group-level analytics (detailed insight into one single group's activity, behavior, superusers, etc.) are unavailable. The representative did say that more is possible via the API.
  • Data Export — This is whereI grumble the most. There’s no way to export data in any format from Facebook at Work (unless, I suppose, you pull it from the API). Other enterprise social tools allow community managers to export content in CSV format. Community managers use this information in many ways, from creating reports to targeting disengaged users via email and reaching out to influencers. It’s also critical for e-discovery and information holds. Facebook at Work needs to offer a simple download tool for overall admins and group managers in order to support effective programming and information management
  • Hashtag Organization — There isn’t a clean way to organize and manage hashtags. Yes, you can click on a tag and see all of the associated posts. But if you’re an organized community manager, you like to know which tags are popular and where to find trending content. A simple way to surface hashtags and their associated posts in a non-stream-based view would be a big improvement for the structurally-inclined
  • Icons … I Just Can’t — Call this issue a pet peeve. When a group is created, Facebook at Work allows the group manager to choose the icon that appears in the left hand navigation bar. If you don’t choose one, it automatically assigns you one. Now these icons are, for the most part, just silly. In addition to a globe and a person, you might choose a skateboard, a fish, a broken heart, a Red Solo Cup of country music fame, a beach ball, animals, a sun and a skull. We are not decorating junior high school backpacks here, people. We are setting up enterprise communities. When one of my clients created a group about tackling impoverished children’s health, do you know what it assigned as the random default icon? The skull, in an unfortunate twist of bad luck. The iconography (which cannot be changed, by the way) is terribly inappropriate for a corporate environment and sends a signal that the community is just a bit less serious than it really is
  • A Bit of Bugginess — A few bugs pop up here and there, apparently stemming from the extraction of public versus enterprise features. For example, with a few clicks, you can get to a blank “Activity Log” that looks to list out your account’s apps and games. We know that Facebook isn’t launching Candy Crush for the enterprise any time soon, but it should work on removing those accidental dead ends that remind users a bit too much of the personal side of Facebook.

Can Facebook at Work Take Hold in the Enterprise?

No perfect solutions exists for workplace communities. And not every company is seeking a community. Some may want to drive productivity gains while others value the relationships that people build with each other. 

As community managers know, it’s not the tool but the people and programming that make enterprise social a success.

At a time when traditional enterprise software vendors are selling their social wares for the benefit of productivity and efficiency, Facebook at Work has an opportunity to own the standalone community market. Free from the pressures that other enterprise software vendors face, Facebook can aim to be the relationship-building and humanizing product that seems to be lacking elsewhere. 

No, Facebook at Work can’t digitize your company’s workflow, but it can help foster positive relationships amongst colleagues. It cannot replace your intranet, but it can bring individuals to life in unexpected ways. Yes, it might be “yet another tool” that isn’t integrated into other systems, but it’s one that people will want to use for conversations that they may not be having today. 

So, if you fear the robotization of your workforce, and want to prioritize your people and their relationships, Facebook at Work might just work for your community-building needs. Just be prepared to wait for important and necessary improvements. And watch out for that sneaky skull — I’m convinced he’s following me.

From Idea to Action: Accountability for Innovation in your Employee Community

Have you ever posted an idea in your employee community or enterprise social network, only to see it get lots of "likes" and "great idea!" comments...without further action?

Without a formal innovation program, amazing ideas posted in a social network can quickly become a graveyard of lifeless words. According to HBR, "when left unmanaged, informal networks tend to inhibit innovation more often than they enable it."

To community managers, that statement can be frightening. Enterprise social networks are supposed to fuel innovation and spark ideas - they're designed to make every voice heard. Aren't ideas delivered straight from employees' brains into the CEO inboxes the best way to create innovative change?

The challenge, researchers have found, is not in the sharing of amazing ideas inside a community. It's actually DOING something with them where we run into problems. Again from HBR: "Company executives shouldn’t expect informal, interdivisional networks to spontaneously produce innovations; they must consciously manage the structure of these networks to promote innovation at all its various stages."

What does this mean for community managers? Ideas contributed by users must be curated, acted upon, and implemented (or not), all with ongoing communication to your employee base about what's happening and why. If companies want to integrate meaningful innovation from their employees into the organization, a company's online employee community or social network can serve as the channel. Community managers must work with various stakeholders to shepherd these ideas appropriately and close the loop for idea generators if we want them to keep innovating. That means acknowledging each idea, building governance around when and how certain ideas are moved to the next stage of evaluation, involving key business leaders in reviewing them, and reporting back to the community on the status of each idea.

 

Case Study:

Jive Software does this well. Its Jive Customer Community, where all customers can connect with each other to discuss best practices and needs, has recently developed governance around customer-generated ideas. A dedicated space for customer ideas allows anyone to post, upvote or downvote an idea about product enhancements. Once any idea has reached a threshold of points, the Jive team agrees to review it formally. Additionally, a Jive community manager comments on ideas and makes connections between posters of similar ideas to help them build alliances and boost point totals.

Today we learned that our idea about customizing the title of "badges" that users can award each other has earned enough points for formal review. As a Jive customer, we were excited that our idea (which is critical to our client's adoption of the platform) is being reviewed. Now, we have clarity and a sense that our voices are being heard. Jive's ideation program is a perfect example of how fostering innovation in an online community requires stewardship and accountability, and that the results can make employees and customers feel much more aligned to the business.

How does your community manage ideation? Is anyone accountable for managing innovation in your enterprise social network?

Salesforce Lightning Bolt and the Accidental Community Manager

Last week, Salesforce.com announced a new online community framework, Lightning Bolt, which essentially allows customers to pick and choose only the most relevant features when creating an industry-specific online community of employees or customers. Building on pre-existing templates from Salesforce, customers and third party developers can now stand up instant, purpose-built communities designed to create engagement and action around a distinct and specialized topic, product, or industry.

 

With what feels like hundreds of community platforms out in the wild to choose from, what makes Lightning Bolt different than everything else? There are some interesting distinctions that community folks should take note of.

  • Tried and true templates. Salesforce partners like Accenture and Deloitte have created templates specific to certain industries (insurance and health, for example) that will help businesses focus on the exact type of collaboration that they want to happen. The upside? Templates will make it clear exactly what users and administrators are in the community to do. Features will be pared down to only what is necessary for the business case, meaning that if project management or ideation modules aren't needed, they aren't there. The downside? Any time you throw the Big 4 Consulting firms and their Just-As-Hefty cousins into the mix, things can get get pricey. Customers will need to watch out for possible upselling and additional development/design fees if customizations are requested.

 

  • Integration. Lighting Bolt-powered communities are built on and totally integrated with Salesforce's CRM systems, which means that any company keeping customer records can supercharge their customer insights by adding a community. I imagine that Salesforce is expecting big things from the analytics that will come from this integration, and as a Community Management pro, I'm excited to see the kind of data that is created around customer community engagement and how this relates to customer profitability, spending habits, and more. At the same time, it's a little big-brotherish, but fascinating nonetheless.

 

  • Total control. Unlike Facebook Pages, which arguably can host a community of product enthusiasts, new Lightning Bolt communities appear to be totally white-labeled without the ads that people see on Facebook's all-encompassing social networking site, or the distraction of competing shiny-object notifications (Michael "liked" your photo!). Total control also means opening up the option for communities in regulated industries where a more broad approach isn't appropriate. Lightning Bolt customers own the space and own the experience from end to end. However, companies will need to realize that they're asking customers and employees to log into another website for a distinct purpose. This leads me to the one thing that nobody is talking about regarding Lightning Bolt...

 

The Rise of the Accidental Community Manager

Much of the hype around Lightning Bolt is around the speed of deployment - it's fast and easy to create a community online. But the reality is that a community isn't a place - it's a group of people - and a group that needs to understand why they're participating and what the value of the community is. Companies deploying online spaces on Lightning Bolt need to remember that the community experience is about more than features. Companies will need to design their community programs, not just the platform.

Salesforce is bringing the ability to create online communities to smaller organizations that may not have any experience in this realm. One of the templates being promoted is for insurance agents, for example. A small business owner-agent may be tempted to create a community space to build loyalty and engagement in her hometown where her customers mostly reside. Customers aren't just going to visit and talk with themselves, however. The owner-agent needs to find ways to excite them, have ongoing dialogue with them, and be responsive to their questions. Indeed, what Salesforce pitches as a quick and easy way to build a community will actually create more work for small businesses that will need to learn the art and science of community management.

Ultimately, I love that every business owner is able to create a community that meets their business' needs. Salesforce Lightning Bolt is another opportunity for businesses to be engaging and human with their customers. Companies taking the plunge into online community development with this platform need to remember the human size of communities first, however, and ensure appropriate staffing, programming, and engaging dialogue opportunities to ensure their success.

Have you tried a Lightning Bolt community yet? How is it working for you?

So You Need a Community Manager…WHERE TO LOOK?

You're building out an Enterprise Social Network. IT is on board. Communications is ready to participate. HR loves the idea of more employee engagement. Best of all, your team has funded a role for a full time Community Manager. Great news! You're setting the stage for community success.

Now comes the question about where to find the right person for the job. 

You could hire from within, bringing someone who knows your culture and norms into the role. They'll need to really get involved in Community Management groups and activities in order to get up to speed on today's best practices. With myriad resources from vendors, conferences, and practitioners out there, your internal #cmgr will have much work to draw upon.

Or, you could look outside of your company and find a seasoned community manager ready to make a move. The benefit to this approach is bringing in someone who already knows the best approaches to community management, who can predict the hurdles you'll have to face, and who already knows other practitioners and vendors. This could save you 3, 4, maybe even 6 months of ramp up time on your initiative.

How would you find such a person? Traditional job postings won't work if you want to reach the best community managers out there. Here are a few tips and resources for finding the best candidates:

  • Search Twitter for the #cmgr hashtag. This is, of course, shorthand for "Community Manager" - those using it will be in the industry.
  • Read through a few #esnchat threads, and take a look at conversations on Twitter hosted by @esnchat. This is a fantastic weekly chat every Thursday at 2pm EST hosted by a group of seasoned community managers. You'll find dozens of #cmgr types congregating there.
  • Search LinkedIn for groups about community management as well as vendor affinity groups for Yammer, Jive, or another vendor that you're considering for your tool.
  • Post your job to The Community Roundtable's job board - The CR is the premier networking and knowledge-sharing group for community managers today. Hundreds of members strong, @theCR (on Twitter) harnesses the best of the best.

Community Managers, do you have any other tips for prospective companies looking for your expertise?

Back to the future: top advice from 2013 to today

Sometimes, articles that I've written pop back up on Twitter a few months or even a few years after their publication date. I love learning that Community Management professionals are searching for specific content, and that something I've written has been helpful!

In case you've missed some of (what I think is) the best advice I've shared over the past few years, here's a list of the most useful and popular Talk Social To Me articles as shared across social media:

I think that these are still relevant and useful today - enjoy! Did they help you make a case at your company?

Your Collaboration Program Didn’t Fail. It Just Needs to Evolve.

We’re all familiar with the Scary Analyst Headline: "Gartner Says 80 Percent of Social Business Efforts Will Not Achieve Intended Benefits Through 2015." Companies across the globe have trembled under the shadow of this warning, wondering if their efforts will be doomed into the darkness of Collaboration Failure. 

We’ve now codified best practices and documented every point of potential challenge, from a lack of leadership participation, to ineffective community management, to too much or too little training and unclear governance. “If we methodically address all of these areas, we’ll be successful,” we think. “We can’t fail!”

The Best Laid Plans ...

I’d argue that companies don’t actually fail at collaboration. They simply evolve along a multi-step, multi-year path with progress and setbacks. When a company finds itself giving up on collaborative efforts, it needs to re-set rather than resign itself to failure as an end point. Why? Gartner’s scary statistic focuses on a key term: “intended benefits” — which is what companies have to think about carefully. Just because goals that were set during a pilot or launch of an enterprise social network don’t materialize, doesn’t mean collaboration failure. In fact, it’s likely only the first step backward of many that will happen concurrently with a greater number of steps forward.

Collaboration programs' problems begin with the concept of planning. Now, as a Type A, checklist-loving planner, it physically hurts to say that planning alone doesn’t work. But in reality, a company may hypothesize how users will use a tool, and the benefits that they will measure. But as our friends at Gartner have predicted, a large chunk of those intended uses and benefits won't happen. 

Why? It’s simple: employee behavior, ideas and actions can’t be contained, predicted or controlled inside an enterprise social network (ESN). When a business deploys an ESN, a relatively small team of collaboration strategists build the entire program for a much larger group of users. Despite conducting focus groups, building user stories, training leaders and power users, these community designers cannot account for — much less control — the majority of use cases that will arise. 

Just because a social network is not used “as-planned,” doesn’t mean there's no benefit for employees. In reality, collaboration's achieved benefits are intangible, relationship-based and immeasurable (in the traditional sense). Companies who experience early failure meeting initial goals should see this as an opportunity to discover what actually creates value — and then work around optimizing for this natural evolution. It won’t be cheap or easy to potentially rework an entire program, but it will be valuable. And, it will be much less painful than sending an email to tens of thousands of employees that goes something like:

"Due to the fact that our social network did not reduce attrition by 4 percent, did not reduce email volume by 25 percent, and did not build enough measurable authenticity in leader-to-employee interactions, we will be dismantling the program and eliminating all of your content, new relationships and valuable human connections this Fall. In lieu of digital collaboration, we will now be sponsoring Fro-Yo Fridays in the cafeteria, effective immediately.”

Collaboration Evolution: 2 Examples

I’ve worked with two companies that both “failed” at enterprise social networking efforts, but took an evolutionary approach to their programs. While their initial planned programs did not achieve the intended benefits, they’ve chosen to let the evolution be the driving force moving forward.

Example 1: Retailer with a Mobile Focus

A large retailer wanted to empower its store-level employees with a social network that would allow for instant feedback — in the form of photos and corresponding narratives — from a store directly back to headquarters. This retailer sought to share best practices in merchandising as well as competitive intelligence around product displays. Its intended use case was almost completely mobile-based. 

And it worked, for a while. 

Two years post-deployment the effort lost steam. It turned out that the most demanded form of collaboration was on desktops at the home office. The company made the decision to abandon the mobile-first program and revive the collaboration effort with a new focus on collaboration with deep intranet integrations. 

The lesson: As companies evolve, so do their collaboration use cases. This retailer was willing to remove a social tool from the store level and optimize for the home office, enabling what it finally found was the higher value form of internal collaboration. By taking a long-term approach to value, this company saw its first collaborative “failure” as a stepping-stone rather than an end point.

Example 2: Regulated F100 and Pilot Fatigue

This highly respected and also extremely regulated company focuses on building the best products and services in its industry. Nearly four years ago, it elected to explore social networking internally with goals focused on productivity, time-to-market and retention costs. Not sure how to best blend governance and freedom, the company opened up its first social networking pilot program with a mile-long list of rules, regulations, restrictions on group creation, and business-attire-only profile photos, please. This, combined with a less than intuitive vendor technology fostered several months of frustration before the pilot was considered an official failure. 

However, the social embers still burned in many employees, and over two years’ time, a patient group of leaders resurrected the idea with new leadership, new vendors in the marketplace, and a less fractured internal technology landscape. The result has been a strong revival of the social networking program, with a new goal: to help employees build relationships. 

The lesson: If you experience collaboration failure, your launch plans might just be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Review each puzzle piece and decide what works and what doesn’t. In this company’s case, it was a doomed blend of the wrong tool, the wrong governance and the wrong time to introduce “social” as a competing technology priority. Waiting two years resolved these issues.

What Would Darwin Do? 

In the world of enterprise social networking, evolution is the norm. Collaboration strategists should look at failures critically before abandoning a social project. Who says it failed? According to what metrics and goals? Can you find examples of success and value being created? Can you find gaps where you didn’t think there was value, but another six months may just do the trick?

In the end, collaboration programs don’t operate in a vacuum. Species of living creatures may die out, but the rest of the world continues to turn. Collaboration programs are the same. Employees still need to share information and ideas. Communication is still critical. And a strong, robust, healthy collaboration program that has managed to adapt to all of these variables will thrive when given the chance.

This post was originally published on CMSwire.

Tools, Schmools - It's Really About Community Management

“What we really need is our own private company Instagram, or maybe a chat-app just for employees” said no reasonable manager ever. So why is it that we’re seeing those very tools pop up in the enterprise market?

Modern enterprise collaboration leaders are on the hunt for mobile technology solutions that empower employees on the go. As knowledge workers spend less time at their desks, companies are scrambling to stay ahead in a BYOD, socially-fueled, cloud-based environment.

But as the enterprise seeks out the newest technology, we should take a step back and realize that the right tools are already here -- enterprise social networks.

“Wait,” you’re thinking. "That can’t be possible. Our enterprise social network just doesn’t meet our needs, which is why need better apps and tools.”

If you’re reading this article, you probably use something along the lines of Jive, tibbr, Socialcast or most likely, Yammer, the current technology consolation prize routinely doled out by Microsoft (“Hey, sorry about that 3-year SharePoint license we just sold you. Here, have some free Yammer!”). You've likely experienced the challenges in getting everybody to collaborate on your global ESN, and now you’re looking for the super-simple apps with less overhead.

Collaboration friends, you’re looking for social love in all the wrong places. The failure of most enterprise social networks is due to poor or nonexistent community management and programming -- not the technology.

Companies often fail to invest long-term in community management that helps to enable all of a knowledge worker’s use cases, work styles, information needs and connection finding opportunities at a desktop or on a mobile device. Even when macro trends shift (as they’re doing now toward mobile) a strong community management team can build out new working behaviors with their current ESN. But without long-term vision, adequate programming and a dedicated staff to usher in the art and science of community management, an enterprise social network is an empty technology shell.

Cue the entrance of myriad purpose-built social applications modeled after consumer paradigms: Instagram for companies. Meetup for employees. Startups are slicing a knowledge worker’s daily routine with a blade crafted from Ruby on Rails, launching micro-purpose work apps that do one particular thing and nothing more.

These smaller collaboration vendors are banking on the failure of your enterprise social network. And now every company must decide how to react.

A Post-Mortem on Enterprise Social Network Failures

From the beginning, we hoped enterprise social networks would be these miraculous open spaces where employees would share, talk, create and give. The entire company was going to change for the better. But we soon realized the truth: the “big company” view of an ESN wasn’t the most immediately valuable or attainable goal. It lacked the “what’s in it for me?” answer for most employees.

Late last year, I spoke with my former business school professor, Dr. David Obstfeld, a leading academic researcher on human social networks and innovation at work. We lamented the initial failure of the ESN movement to live up to the hype.

It’s somewhat of an illusion,” he commented, “people flinging ideas everywhere. With an enterprise social network, there’s a gestation period where people need to figure out how to adapt.”

He was right about two critical things. One, the gestation period -- oftentimes, companies who launched an ESN wanted immediate results, ROI and success stories. In reality, new behaviors enabled by social networks take time to evolve (as in years), and community maturity doesn’t happen until many moons after the first executive ESN report is due.

Two, the idea-flinging -- without community management, idea-flinging is nothing more than that. Companies who failed to invest in community management did not have a process to execute those new ideas or recognize those creative thinkers. The initial failure of enterprise social networks was not in the technology, but in the lack of a focus on the people, programming and employee enablement in the long term.

Industry analyst Stowe Boyd recently said, “My sincere belief is that we are seeing a shift from social collaboration tools toward alternatives – like work chat.” He also noted, “We are moving to smaller social scale, starting with the individual, and then on to small cooperative groups, or sets.”

I agree. We’re moving there because our all-in, global initiatives didn’t provide enough value for the individual, and we’ve finally learned that we need to enable small teams before we can create collective corporate value.

The ESNs in place are the right vehicles to manage these smaller-scale activities, assuming community management is available. But due to the lingering focus on the technology instead of the programming, the doors are now open to startups building enterprise apps with consumer paradigms in mind.

If Apps were Bracelets

Three types of new collaboration and social apps are coming to the enterprise market. Each type serves a different purpose, kind of like the accessories you choose to wear depending on the day.

The department store tennis bracelet -- These brand new enterprise social network apps seek to replace your current ESN and serve as the official conversation hub. Think Slack and CoTap. They’re shiny and look nice from a distance, but up close, they’re not as functional or high-quality as the real versions.

  1. The friendship bracelet -- These very specific purpose-built apps do just one thing (such as only photo sharing), just as your purple braided friendship bracelet signifies your very best friendship with Megan and Megan alone.
  2.  The charm bracelet -- These add-on tools enhance your existing enterprise social network's experience. Think Salesforce connectors analytics dashboards. Your ESN provides the foundation, these apps add excitement and something new, just as a charm of the Eiffel Tower gives a little more meaning to your jingling wrist adornment.

While I’m not a fan of the tennis and friendship bracelet approaches (they create information silos and distract from more valuable activities), add-on apps offer tremendous value by building context and giving new functionality to existing ESNs.

Most of the big vendors aren’t innovating as fast as they used to and may have feature deficiencies (this is why I’m quietly building a super stealthy social network add-on that directly addresses the “what’s in it for ME?” conundrum for middle managers and individual contributors; ping me if you want to talk about it). If a company has a defined use case and will support behaviors around new apps that enhance the existing social experience, by all means, add these to the collaboration repertoire.

What’s Next?

Before launching any new apps, evaluate your social collaboration maturity. Then, begin with the following checklist.

  1. If you have an enterprise social network with engaged users and a strong community management program is evident, recognize that the future of collaboration will happen at a smaller scale. Build out programs to help teams use the ESN on an individual, team and group level, as well as on their mobile devices. Follow the trends in technology and the future of work to keep pace with your programming.
  2. If you have an enterprise social network that isn’t working and can’t be saved, don’t be afraid to pull the plug. As Carol Rozwell of Gartner recently said, “You must be willing to optimize what you have and kill off what doesn’t work anymore.” Don't leave your employees in the dust, however; retain data and communicate about your new plans for a different flavor of collaboration. Then, move to step 3.
  3. If you don’t have a functional ESN in place, take the time to review larger solutions like Yammer against smaller apps on the market. What approach will fit your current and future workforce better -- a global social network, or maybe a suite of apps in a company app store? Regardless of which technology solution you choose, make sure to invest in community management that empowers individuals, teams and eventually the company as a whole.
  4. If you elect to use any of the small add-on or discreet purpose apps, make sure to do your homework. Should you trust your collaboration needs with new, small vendors? Assume that within two to three years, the collaboration landscape will have shifted again, and smaller vendors will have been acquired or shut down. Both of these events will impact your experience significantly, and it may even be worth investigating building your own add-ons via your ESN API or creating something specific to your company from scratch.

No matter what approach you take or where you are in your collaboration journey, remember that the one constant at your company will be your people. Give them the information, programming and opportunities they need to thrive, and any technology that you choose will play a supporting role. 

When Your Intranet and Enterprise Social Network Get Married

Pop the champagne and get ready to celebrate: your Intranet and Enterprise Social Network are getting married!

As we prepare to toast this joyous integration, remember that the Intranet and the ESN are strong, independent entities with many individual merits. As in any marriage, each partner must remain unique with its own purpose. By tying the knot, however, the Intranet and the ESN will complement each other’s strengths (and minimize their weaknesses), improving the overall employee communication experience.

“Wait,” you might be thinking, “don't we need to choose one or the other? Maintaining two separate systems is too much work. Nobody uses the (pick one) antiquated Intranet / unproven ESN anyway. Integrating the two is unnecessary and will cause confusion.”

Let’s be clear: this is a modern marriage that I’m advocating. You won't see the Enterprise Social Network suddenly barefoot in the kitchen at home, waiting with a warm meal for the Intranet. The Intranet isn’t going to pop on a suit every day to work comfortable boss-man hours with a three martini client lunch a la Don Draper.

They’re going to be equals. Each will maintain its individual identity, while intertwining its best features to strengthen the other half.

It Takes Two

In the world of modern employee communications, large organizations will have both an intranet and an enterprise social network. Companies cannot get away with one and not the other as they serve, in many ways, polar opposite functions.

This may seem puzzling at first. Both house information and communications for an audience of employees. Allow me to explain the differences between an intranet and an Enterprise Social Network from a human -- not technology -- perspective.

  • The Intranet: Intranets fill the need for leadership and management to push information to employees in a streamlined manner. Small group of employees use these tools to disseminate officially curated information to the masses of the company. Smaller teams and individuals may find value by storing and accessing important documents or connecting to the company directory or team site. From an employee perspective, the Intranet is a hub of official content.
  • The Enterprise Social Network: ESNs are technology conduits through which human relationships flow in the workplace. They are designed for any and all employees to connect with people first, and information second. The information one sees inside the network varies based on one’s relationships, interests and subscriptions to content/groups. From the employee perspective, the ESN is a real-time stream of opinions, ideas, conversations and free-form dialogue.

So let’s help these two crazy kids get married, yes? I think it was the great Paula Abdul who most eloquently stated, “It ain’t fiction, it’s a natural fact -- we come together ‘cuz opposites attract.”

These two very different enterprise tools will be better together, giving employees a way to find content and converse with context.

3 Steps to a Happy Marriage

Integrating the intranet and ESN should preserve the individuality of each tool while creating a unified experience on the surface for employees. Each tool must be managed separately and with different purposes — and likely by different teams.

Remember that the management of the intranet is about pushing official content efficiently, whereas the ESN is simply a tool that allows employees to broaden their relationships and converse. Therefore, ESNs require the art and science of community management.

This could get a bit tricky, so let’s take the integration process in three steps.

Step 1: The Prenup

I know, it’s not romantic, but a prenup will keep this Intranet/ESN marriage secure in the long term. Before bringing these tools together, determine the principles and requirements that will govern the integration, including:

  • Which team manages each tool? Does IT manage the development work to integrate the two tools, and Communications pays for the license fee for the ESN? Who handles upgrades and bugs? Who owns Community Management? The division of responsibilities should be clearly drawn up early so that nobody gets angry when the clothing still isn’t folded, I mean, when the software patches need to be applied.
  • How will the integration occur? Will you use APIs to create custom integrations (analogous to hiring an interior designer to redecorate the former bachelor pad), or vendor provided out-of-the-box widgets to display certain ESN content inside the Intranet (analogous to hitting up IKEA -- so easy that anyone can do it, and it may not be perfect, but it sure works)?
  • What stays and what goes? Will you keep the Intranet’s commenting functionality, or forgo it for the ESN’s commenting and liking engine?

Step 2: The Honeymoon

After the deal has been sealed and the ESN and Intranet are working together seamlessly, it’s time to celebrate.

Congratulations! You have given your employees a thoroughly modern set of tools that serves their individual purposes while strengthening the overall value that they can achieve together. Watch your employees revel in their newfound abilities to share content easily, give their opinions, connect with others and socialize information with teams like never before.

Document adoption and engagement on both before you go-live, because you’re bound to see an increase. Cheers, my friend -- this is a match made in heaven.

Step 3: Couples’ Counseling

Walking down the aisle doesn’t mean that bliss awaits behind every corner. Marriages take work and it’s best to manage the process openly and honestly.

Once you've integrated the intranet and ESN, schedule quarterly meetings for their respective managing teams (with open dialogue on an as-needed basis) to discuss new integrations, bugs, updates, and strong points.

The Community Management team must take the pulse of the ESN community daily in order to ensure long-term success. The technology team should monitor how employees are utilizing certain groups, areas and functionality in order to optimize for future integrations.

Couples’ therapy isn't just a means to fix problems, but continues constructive dialogue once the pomp and circumstance is over. An integrated intranet and ESN need continual maintenance, and this will help maintain the engagement seen during the Honeymoon stage.

Growing Old

The world of enterprise communication and collaboration will continue to change. We don’t know what intranets and social tools will look like in five years, 10 years or in the long term. We've seen so many changes to the landscape in the past decade, that the prospect of continual innovation seems somewhat alarming.

But since we can't predict the future, the best course of action today is to embrace the integrated intranet and ESN, nourish their connection, and prepare for whatever the future may bring. 

This article was originally published on CMSwire.

You Support Your Customers - Now Support Your Employees

A good customer experience is critical for any company, no question about it. Whether it’s a product or service being sold, a company can’t survive without satisfied customers. Online customer communities have been shown to be highly effective tools to provide service, relationships and knowledge that crate brand loyalty -- and more profit -- through more engaged customers who will spend more over a longer period of time.

It’s time to take that same approach with the internal employee social network.

Employees are arguably a company’s greatest asset. Progressive businesses view them not only as workers who build products and services to earn a paycheck, but as highly important customers of the company. In this model, employees serve the company just as much as the company serves its employees. The relationship is bidirectional and mutually beneficial when done correctly. But here’s the challenge: companies aren’t necessarily treating their employee-customers as well as their external customers.

Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on external communities for service, support and marketing purposes, but the same companies often won’t justify a digital community for its own smart, hard-working people. When companies see their employees as a valuable, carefully cultivated customer base, launching an enterprise social network as a way of supporting and engaging them becomes nothing short of an obvious choice:

  • External customers can access their community 24-7-365 to report product issues, share praise or troubleshoot problems with a group of thousands. Why not provide the same on-demand, anytime communication methods for employees?
  • Helpful, knowledgeable external customers inside external communities earn badges and rewards for their digital contributions to other buyers. Employees should have the opportunity to be rewarded for their willingness to help each other in an online space.
  • External customers can connect with key company figureheads and thought-leaders during product announcements, virtual Q&A sessions or earnings reports. Employees want and deserve the same kind of online access to leaders and information.

Social technology helps build relationships, loyalty, authenticity, trust, cooperation, friendship and other intangible but important feel-good value between an employee and his or her employer. But, in the words of Lavar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it. What follows are two unique concepts about treating your employees as customers in management practice, and how an enterprise social network can help build value in each case.

Enterprise Social Network as Customer Support

In a recent Forbes article by Karl Moore, Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, one of the largest IT outsourcing firms in the world, shared his somewhat unique practice of prioritizing employees first and customers second. The rationale? To Nayar, the business of his company is to create shared value for its customers. Because it is a service-providing firm, that value is created during interactions between employees and customers. Therefore, he believes that management’s role is to help employees become enthused and empowered to create that customer value, and so management’s responsibility is to employee first and customer second.

This principle is embodied at HCL with a unique trouble ticketing system that, instead of tracking technical issues, tracks business and human problems as reported by employees. Management is accountable to respond to and resolve these issues in a defined time period, and only the employees can actually “close” a ticket.

In this case, HCL is creating a process for visible accountability around people challenges. The blending of human concerns and mechanical support processes is novel, and it may not work for all companies.

Most companies can create a similar sense of support and accountability by launching an enterprise social network. An ESN can be leveraged to proactively build relationships, solve problems and generate goodwill that reduce potential office flare-ups. At the same time, it can serve the same role as a “ticketing” system by allowing employees to share their ideas or concerns openly in a designated area. A leader or community manager can traffic the concern to the responsible party to gather feedback and help solve the issue. When a company prioritizes employee concerns, the ESN becomes a superhighway of problem-solving and authentic feedback.

Healthy Customers and Healthy Employees

If your company provides health and lifestyle-related products or services to your customers, it’s critical to do the same for your employees. Drugs, medical devices, fitness gadgets or baby-safe bath products are all designed to meet demanding customers’ needs for the best for their family. Health-related companies should strive to provide relevant services that meet the health needs of those who work day and night for them.

An ESN can help build this culture of care and concern, and academic research has shown that this can be a valuable corporate practice.

Employees typically expect to have a relationship with their company based on their tasks of designing products, managing finances or selling a certain number of units each year. However, employees also (and without realizing it) evaluate Perceived Organizational Support (POS), a general belief about how much their company values their contribution and well-being. These feelings and beliefs are important because they are associated with greater psychological well‐being, a more positive orientation toward the organization, and behavioral outcomes helpful to the organization.

Work evaluations tend to focus on productivity, efficiency and other measurements that rely on what the employee can provide to the company. But when we introduce the concept of POS and treating employees as customers, we view the employee-employer relationship from a completely different perspective. Employers will benefit the most by creating a supportive environment in which employees FEEL good. This requires evaluating the relationships between employees and with the company itself, which is a relatively novel idea.

Management theory has traditionally only identified managers and senior leadership as key builders of POS because they are seen as human embodiments of the company. More recent research suggests that employees also see other lower and mid-level employees as agents of the company. Large, high-quality employee networks and the willingness of others to help and share knowledge are associated with strong POS. There is new interest in employee “social embeddedness,” which is how networked they are and how supported they feel by both leaders and other employees. 

An enterprise social network is a physical way of helping employees develop these large human networks to share knowledge and find support. Social technology -- when implemented with employee networks in mind -- can help create perceived organizational support by connecting employees with leaders, with each other, and with information to get their jobs done. Enterprise social networks are frequently cited as resources that help employees get their work done faster, and a way to build the connections that make colleagues feel “real” across the globe.

Getting Beyond the Measurable

In the above scenarios, the concept of the employee-as-customer focuses on the employee’s feelings, perceptions and beliefs. This is problematic for many companies, because it’s impossible to put a dollar value on how emotions and beliefs affect the bottom line. Companies aren’t typically in the business of valuing sentiment, but rather building products and delivering service in a way that makes the business money.

But the research and anecdotes are clear: companies that treat their employees like customers can improve the metrics that shareholders do care about, and an enterprise social network can facilitate these intangible, but ever so important experiences.

This post was originally featured on CMSwire.

15 Hacks and Tricks to Customize Your Yammer Network

"Yammer says we can't customize our network."

I hear this concern often, and this week's KMworld conference was no exception. I conducted a workshop with Catherine Shinners about how to launch an enterprise social network, and a gentleman from a large financial services firm expressed frustration that his company wouldn't be able to make a Yammer network look and feel official. "It's always going to be called 'Yammer,' he grimaced.

He's right. You cannot really "customize" Yammer, or any other SaaS solution for that matter. When you deploy a Yammer network, you're receiving the economies of scale of a SaaS solution. This means that your company, alongside thousands of other companies, are getting the exact same product delivered on-demand. This is why Yammer and other SaaS tools are relatively inexpensive compared to truly customizable solutions like Jive or Tibbr. You're paying (or not, depending on your license) for a simple, scalable solution that can be easily updated and maintained by the vendor who is coding, fixing bugs and sending you fresh updates all the time. What you lack in customization, you make up for in quick updates and not having to deal with the overhead of custom code. With Yammer, you're paying for simplicity.

What you CAN DO is "personalize" your Yammer network. Yammer offers many tools inside the product that give you the ability to make it look and feel like your own company's product. No, it will not be absent of the term "Yammer," but that is just how solutions in the cloud tend to work.

When an Enterprise Social Network Gives More Tricks than Treats

It’s that time of year when employees come to work dressed up in Halloween costumes of all types. On October 31, you’ll inevitably see zombie bosses, animals galore and a myriad of other getups meant to bring a bit of adult fun to a favorite childhood holiday.

But what if I told you that I knew the secret to changing your workplace identity the other 364 days of the year? What if I told you that I can help you create a costume so convincing that, even without doing much work, you will appear to be a Corporate Rockstar — Mr. Popular or Ms. Helpful? It’s time to share the secrets of gaming your enterprise social network this Halloween.

Rough Waters Ahead for Boatbound - A Customer Primer in Avoiding Startup Lies

Maybe you're an enterprise manager looking to pilot a new type of software. Maybe you're a consumer hoping to find a new hobby or weekend activity. In both cases, you take to the web to track down just what you're looking for. Soon, you find the website of a new startup that's promising exactly what you need. But potential buyer of startup products are services beware:

Startups lie. Startups tell half-truths. Startups will do a lot for just a little publicity.