With the increasing globalization of workforces, many businesses are finding internal communication to be a challenge. There are a number of businesses offering possible solutions ranging from chat to community forums to enterprise social networks.
Deploying an internal community forum doesn’t need to be complicated. A few simple best practices are all you need for a fast, smooth launch.
The three important milestones are:
- Defining Clear Objectives
- Initial User Adoption Strategies
- On-going User Adoption Strategies
Clearly Define the Purpose of the Community
This is important to any project, but it frequently gets left by the wayside over the course of an implementation timeline. If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know how to get there. Scope creep can be a big problem as various stakeholders start to think of new functions that the community could/should have. It’s better to start with an immediate business problem that you need the community to solve before increasing the scope. Community platforms are powerful and versatile, but using them as a swiss-army knife frequently leads to disarray.
If your employees aren’t sure what the community is for, they won’t know how to use it. Have a clear mission statement for your community, that defines the specific business problems that it’s intended to solve. Some examples might include:
“This forum has been put in place to:
- ...help operations personnel exchange ideas on supply chain problems and inefficiencies”
- ...allow marketing to effectively brainstorm and collaborate on programs”
- “...improve our knowledge base by pooling knowledge from our employees”
- “...help communication between our US and Asia branches”
Whatever the plan is, employees will find the community much more compelling if they know why they’re there. If they’re scared of “using it wrong”, no one will be willing to step up and be among the first to contribute.
Demonstrate Support from Management
One of the biggest pros of an internal forum is easy communication with the whole company. If company leadership and managers participate, staff are much more likely to engage. Everyone wants to feel like they’re being listened to, and the potential to be listened to by the most important people at the company is great motivation to participate.
It also shows confidence in the platform at the highest level. If employees are wary of a new project, seeing that the management team have full faith in it (and consider it a useful tool) can be a reassuring. It lets them know that this isn’t a fleeting idea, and that it’s worth participating.
Turn Your Focus to User Adoption:
If your internal community is going to be a success, it needs to have a high level of user adoption. This is a constant process, although it does get easier as the community becomes more self-sufficient. Key points in improving user adoption include:
Assemble a Team of Champions Across Every Department
Putting together a cross-functional team of champions is a great way to promote and indirectly support the initiative. These don’t need to be higher ups or management, they can be anyone who is well respected and able to influence others in the department. This may take some minimal time away from other projects, so it’s worth getting the ok from their managers first.
Training and Change Management
Training is an essential part of making a success out of any initiative that involves a new technology platform. This training should be more than a one-time thing however. Few people are able to immediately pick up every aspect of a new collaboration tool. After the initial training, consider having an easy way for employees to refresh their knowledge, such as a “lunch and learn”, or a recorded how to.
Reward and Remind
A high uptake rate can do a lot for your company, so it’s a good practice to reward your employees for contributing and contributing well. Gamification systems that assign points and badges can help a lot with this (as they can with any community forum). It’s also good to highlight great contributions internally. If your internal community was responsible for a great success story, share it! Put it in your newsletter, bring it up at staff meetings, whatever will show appreciation for a job well done.