CommonSense Blog

Guiding Principles for Creating an Internal Social Platform

By Haifa Barbari | Jun 07, 2013

Recently I have been having discussions with clients about how to enable knowledge sharing between employees, and enhance work productivity, which are common goals in large organizations. It’s pretty awesome exploring new solutions to existing challenges, particularly when it involves organizational change strategy. There are multiple layers of requirements, from behavioral research, technology solutions to adoption initiatives; it’s complex and for some clients, leveraging social technology for internal use is completely new territory. A question that I’m often asked, quickly followed by rationale to the question when in the early planning stages has been playing on my mind:

The question: Do you have any examples of other businesses that have developed an entirely new internal sharing platform?

The rationale: Simply, the need for assurance.

Have you ever worked on a campaign and your client asked you for examples of anything similar but didn’t have one at hand? How quickly were you able to track down a case study? A common need within businesses is to seek examples and learn from others’ experiences in order to reassure oneself with decisions made, particularly new ones. Knowledge sharing of experiences and expertise instills confidence in those embarking on something entirely new.  It’s natural human behavior to be uncertain in an area where you lack experience. In business, knowledge transfer is critical in areas like onboarding new employees, training, and sharing examples for colleagues to learn from each other. It speeds learning and enhances work productivity.

Sharing knowledge between coworkers isn’t a new concept by any means. One assumes we share knowledge through conversations regularly, at the office or wherever it is that we work, be it verbal or written. One assumes we share updates on progress, ask questions, seek examples, and advise each other. In reality, that doesn’t happen as often and as seamlessly as we’d like to think it does. Barriers to sharing include workload, time zone and language. In reality, it has been extremely difficult to measure whether this assumed knowledge sharing is actually happening.

Existing social platforms enable us to have a real time exchange, instantly connect with our friends, colleagues and peers around the world, at any time.  With social technology, businesses’ have the ability to facilitate knowledge sharing and communication internally on a much larger, measurable scale, i.e. how many employees have asked for help? How many people responded? How many people responded with something helpful? How many people posted their examples and experiences? How do these answers translate to employee insight? How do these insights inform future solutions? More businesses are moving away from assuming knowledge sharing is happening by implementing technology driven solutions to socialize their organizations, providing a platform for their employees to connect and learn. All the while leveraging measurable insights to shape future employee centric changes.

In saying this, I can understand why the question continues to be asked. When working on something new, examples from other experiences are reassuring.  Doing something different, making a change can be a lengthy process where proceeding with caution is common, because making a change can be nerving as the path ahead is potentially uncertain.

Therefore, in my opinion the question warranted a response that explains some guiding principles in establishing a new, employee centered social platform:

Learn from example:

  • Definitely seek learning and assurance through other examples.  However, use those examples as insight and benchmark only.

Take the time to understand your own employees:

  • Although businesses have operational similarities, the people are different; culture differs by organization, as well as structure, process, job descriptions, and goals. When embarking on creating an internal social platform, the internal insights will be most valuable in creating an internal solution that is applicable and relevant to you and your employees.

Turn insight into a tailored solution:

  • With the end user in mind, choose the right technology solution for your organization; define security requirements, features, functionality and content needs. Keep it simple, swift and valuable 

Define change and roll out strategy

  • At some point, you have to take a leap. Consider a phased roll out to a new solution. Start with a pilot and trial the new platform. This will uncover enhancement opportunities from real experiences, and start seeding larger scale adoption through usage and word of mouth. Change takes time, and people are more likely to try something new if others have already

In a nutshell: Developing an internal social platform is a larger scale solution to enable an age-old need for employee knowledge transfer, in a measurable way. It can evolve over time, and doesn’t have to be complicated.  Learn from others, understand your internal audience, and phase roll out to inform decisions and support your broader adoption strategy.

One of the examples I recently shared with a client during a planning meeting, was shared with me by a colleague of mine @W2OGroup. Thank you again, Greg Matthews!

 

Haifa Barbari, Director of Digital Strategy

Find me on Twitter: @Haifadelity