It's Time to Winterize Your Enterprise Social Network

Hello, Fall!

It's finally mid-October, when all-things-pumpkin appear in our coffee shops and on the shelves of Target. It's also the time of year where I panic and realize that it's time to winterize my house - to clean the gutters, change the batteries in the emergency lanterns, replace the HEPA filters, and make sure that we're prepared for the inevitable loss of power that 3" of rain brings to my California neighborhood (yes, I know, Californians don't get to complain about the weather - ever).

Fall is here! Mt. Tamalpais is ready for some rain.

For Enterprise Social Network Community Managers, it's also time to winterize your ESN. With a few weeks before employees start taking holidays, and before actual winter weather causes disruption to the normal operating procedures across your offices, you have the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that your ESN is a well-oiled-machine ready for the unpredictability of winter. How will you use your employee community to handle weather issues, problems, emergencies and other winter challenges?

Here are 3 ways that you can winterize your ESN.

1. Urgent Broadcasts - keep your employees safe and informed

Use your ESN to share extreme weather updates and notices that will impact commuters or employees in a specific region. One of my New York-based clients sends emails urging employees to work from home on days when snowstorms prevent safe, reliable travel to Headquarters. Try using your ESN in conjunction with email to broadcast your company's stance on staying safe during extreme weather events this winter. While email can be effective, it's possible that employees don't have power in the early morning hours. Your ESN broadcasts should make their way to employees' mobile devices via push notifications, resulting in important notices arriving safely without internet or electricity. 

2. Team Check-Ins  - knowing that everyone is safe

When the power is out and managers want to ensure that their team is accounted for, an ESN can be a very reliable tool to aggregate employee status and location details. In the event of a winter emergency, managers should send a message to their team with @mentions to each individual employee (triggering a push notification to their mobile device and an email alert). Members can then respond with their location and ability to come to work or their alternate needs, like staying home with kids when schools are closed due to snow. Because posts in an ESN are visible to all, this check-in-practice creates instant transparency about everyone's location and well-being during a severe storm. The result is a common set of knowledge and expectations about who can contribute and when and where team members will be available, if at all.

3. Real-Time Hashtags - crowdsourcing winter storm updates

When major storms disrupt company operations, an ESN community manager should create an official hashtag to help employees aggregate pertinent information about weather, outages, and safety information related to a particular storm. Examples might be #nov2014whiteout or #storm2014, depending on the frequency and severity of your region's weather issues. Community managers who have created a culture of effective hashtag use can apply this practice to individual storms and crisis situations, encouraging employees to tag their updates with a common, central hashtag about the storm. Employees can share updates about public transportation availability or delays, road closures, power outages, and even emergency situations where help might be needed. Smart companies can then review updates after the situation has cleared to better prepare for future emergencies.

With these simple practices, your enterprise social network can serve as a valuable resource for keeping tabs on your colleagues and sharing the wisdom of the storm-impacted crowds. How do you use your ESN in a storm or crisis situation?