Blue Shirt Nation

Best Buy has successfully integrated an internal social network directly into employees daily lives. The results are dramatic and this is a great example of how social media can be used to empower employees and engage them in a meaningful way.

See how Best Buy accomplished this and expanded it into other efforts: here is a PowerPoint presentation I made about this case study. I hope it helps!

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Wikis

Wikis are a collaboration tool. They are especially important for geographically dispersed companies and their project teams. This tool enables users to add, edit, link, and save content easily at any time and place. Multiple people can view and edit the document at the same time and many wikis have a chat feature as well, increasing the collaborative element.

Why use a Wiki?

Wikis are helpful in business because they provide an efficient, easy to use platform for discussion, development, idea exchanges, and other forms of collaboration between employees. It’s important to note that wikis are extremely simple and easy to use, this reduces the technological barrier of use for employees that aren’t tech savvy. This tool is also used to centralize information: spreadsheets, PowerPoints, Word documents, and all other content by simply linking to the wiki. The use of wikis also improves employee morale by showing them that they are trusted by management and their input is valued, and by creating an even playing field for all employees involved to contribute. Martin Seibert, a specialist in wikis and web 2.0 technologies, lists 111 reasons why enterprise wikis are useful.

Another important aspect is that wikis automatically save edits and changes, so if the document is accidentally erased or someone wants to restore it to a previous version, this can be done rather simply. Wikis are very inexpensive, and some options are completely free. Teale Shapcott’s September 19 blog post discusses wikis for internal communication efforts and has a helpful case study of Intellipedia as well. There are many options for wiki software, including Googledocs, pbwiki, wetpaint, and wikispaces.

Wikis in Plain English

This Common Craft video helps explain the basic features of wikis.

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Featured Blogs

Here’s some of my favorite blogs on employee communication. These sites are a valuable resource to consult if you have questions about internal communications, and they’re interesting to read! Collectively, they should provide you with an immense amount of useful information for your communication objectives, and enough reading to keep you busy for days. Here they are:

The Social Workplace

This blog is written by Elizabeth Lupfer, an internal communications expert. Her posts include a variety of topics, from case studies to social recruiting of employees. Click here and check it out!

Intranet Connections

This blog offers a detailed study of corporate internet, including tips, design ideas, ROI, software, and videos. Here’s the link, see it for yourself!

For Your Approval

Ron Shewchuk focuses on “employee communications that matter.” He is a leading communication professional in the industry and wants to get you involved in the social media revolution occurring within companies today. Click here for more!

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A Helpful Podcast

Click here to listen to Susan C. Rink’s podcast about effective employee communications, Take Note: Employee Communications Strategies That Work. Rink is the principal of Rink’s Strategic Communication, and has nearly twenty years of experience in the field. Check it out for tips on measurement, social media, what tools to use, best practices, crisis communication, and more. Her blog is also a useful source of information, targeted at senior level executives and contains valuable insights and ideas.

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EA People

Electronic Arts (EA) is a leading global company in interactive entertainment with 9,000 employees scattered across the world. The company was having a hard time with employee collaboration and team development due to the dispersed nature of its employees. It had an out-of-date collaboration platform called EA Knowledge, featuring searchable blogs, images, and other information, but it wasn’t widely being used. EA wanted to find a way to enable its talent to connect and communicate with one another in a natural and effective setting. It wanted all employees to be able to easily network with one another to increase efficiency and decrease the time development time of a new game. Traditionally, networking within the company has depended on who you knew and what contacts you had built through years of work with the company. EA initiated an internal social network to streamline this process and allow employees to communicate globally.

EA People

The network is called EA People. It not only increases collaboration, reduces multiple efforts on one task, sparks conversation and increases innovation, but it also helps with employee “on-boarding.” This is the process of training and assimilating new employees to the company. Following the employees expectations from public social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, EA People was made to be customizable by individual employees as well as user-friendly. It also includes an updated form of EA Knowledge. The next aspect of the site is key: they kept the network aligned with the company’s image and business objectives. They didn’t simply copy Facebook and change the name; they kept it relevant to the objective at hand, employee collaboration. Employees post their skills, current projects, contacts, career goals, and so on.

Here's an example of a customized profile, the SIMS game as the theme corresponds with the user working on the newest version of this program.

Another important aspect is the network’s release. The company put it on the corporate intranet without an announcement, under the premise that viral word-of-mouth advertising is the best way to respect the different locations’ unique cultures. This was very effective, in just eight months 3,500 employees had created profiles on the site. Collaborative Thinking blogger Mike Gotta lists notes about a conference he attended featuring the director of EA Bert Sandie on his November 3, 2009 blogpost here.

Measurement

One way EA is measuring the success of the network by keeping track of the number of “connected conversations” stemming from EA People. “Connected conversations” occur when a user finds someone on the site and contacts them via the e-mail link on his/her profile. The network has been very successful for the company and its employees. Microsoft provides a more detailed case study, click here to access it. For more information on measurement, check out Andrew Conry-Murray insights into ROI of enterprise social networks in his blogpost here.

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Yammer 2.0

Yammer is a microblogging site, similar to Twitter, for businesses to use internally. Recognizing the need for social networking, the two year old company announced its Yammer 2.0 project last week. This updated version of Yammer will include features similar to LinkedIn and Facebook. Matthew Lynley of Media Beat discusses the upgrades here.  The new tools will allow users to message each other, create events, and perform the other functions done regularly on social networking sites. Yammer’s website gives a brief overview of the main functions.

Ann All of IT Business Edge explains that Yammer is not a tool to be dismissed; 80% of the Fortune 500 companies use it in their employee communication strategies and it boasts over a million users. The difference between Yammer and Twitter or Facebook is that the user must have a company e-mail to access the company’s specific network, making the security of internal conversations a priority.

Social and Interactive Approach

Leena Rao of TechCrunch.com discusses how Yammer 2.0 opens up its application development platform to independent developers, allowing anyone to plug into and create new applications. She also asserts that Yammer is  expanding beyond the social network basics, it plans to include polls, question and answer segments, chats, and more. Click here to read her September 28 post for more details.

Yammer’s chat and messaging functions allow employees to engage in synchronous and asynchronous communication with each other. If they have a question or an issue, they can address it on Yammer and get it resolved quickly. This also provides a useful platform for collaboration and many people can be included in a chat. If someone is not online but the information pertains to them, they can be added to the chat and it will be sent to their feed. This is useful for keeping everyone informed and up-to-speed on current projects and developments at a relatively low cost to the company.

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IBM’s Beehive: Internal Social Networking

IBM recognized the importance of social networking, especially for the younger ‘millennial’ employees. Instead of trying to restrict employees access to these sites, IBM had a novel idea: create a social network exclusively for IBM employees. The IBM Watson Research Center gives an overview of the network they created, the Beehive.  It is very similar in format to Facebook: it has a customizable homepage, option to upload photos, personalized lists and the ability to create and organize events.

Objectives

According to Liam J. Cleaver, IBM Jam program director, the purpose of this network is relationship building and ‘people sense-making.’ Toby Ward explained the difference between the two in an April 2008 post on his intranet blog. The relationship building aspect applies to new hires, to make them feel more welcome and comfortable with getting to know other employees. It also involves team building, which plays an important role in keeping geographically dispersed teams on the same page and providing them with a sense of unity. Lastly, it plays a keep-in-touch role to help employees who have been separated maintain their personal and professional ties. The people sense-making facet is more focused on other employees’ hobbies, similar interests, skills, and learning about company projects beyond the employees’ individual teams. Here’s an example of a Beehive homepage:

The homepage has relevant tabs at the top and interactive features such as "the buzz around you" where you can read employees short, Twitter-like updates.

IBM found that employees used the Beehive to get to know each other better, and even to meet employees they don’t know. This has implications for a more open, unified company. Anne Kreitzberg explains in her January 2009 blog post that the social network is facilitating a breakdown of communication barriers by rank, location, and social group. This also aids team building and trust among employees. Another way employees are using the network is to promote their ideas in innovative ways. They no longer have to rely on top-level management to get their ideas heard, they can showcase them directly to other employees and generate feedback this way. It’s important to note the IBM did not restrict employees with rules about the content on their personal Beehive pages.

What’s the big deal?

The corporate intranet, including the Beehive, has surpassed all other sources of information as the most trusted, including the grapevine. This allows IBM’s management to get involved with employees, join the conversations where they’re taking place, and foster a sense of democratic culture within the company. In addition, this network has strengthened IBM’s collaborative culture,  a very important asset to a company reliant on innovative ideas.

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