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Building a Community amidst Change

Hidden among the usual array of enterprise level projects are the small, internal projects that sometimes bring me more satisfaction in terms of employee engagement and empowerment. Here is one such initiative from a few years back.

Challenge: Motivate a team of  70- 100 employees spread across 5 global locations to share information and knowledge with each other.

Pre-Analysis Fact Finding Mission:

  • In order to understand the challenge better, an online anonymous survey administered by a consulting 3rd party was first sent out to each member of the team.
  • Feedback was collected and analyzed.
  • Subjective feedback was further anonymized to obscure cultural and linguistic markers.

Data Analysis: Analyzing the survey data, the root causes were identified as:

  1. The current team underwent 5 reorganizations in the past 9 years. Individual team members were always on the edge that they would have to prove themselves once more in case of a new reorganization with new managers at the helm. Thus, there was a mentality of ‘Every man for himself’ that also hindered effective knowledge sharing.
  2. After the last reorganization, two very different teams came together to form the current group. So, while there was knowledge sharing within each of these distinct groups, there was little to no engagement between the two groups.
  3. Some team members felt their ideas had been ‘usurped’ by peers in the past, which is why they didn’t want to share information any longer.
  4. There were too many (five) online channels of knowledge and information sharing, without any distinctive use-cases.
  5. Management had not defined an end to end knowledge sharing process: Once information is shared- what next?
  6. Management had not outlined the benefits & rewards of sharing information.

Proposed Solution: The proposed solution was designed across 7 focus areas:

  1. Strategy:
    1. The number of online channels was reduced from five to two and clear uses defined. One channel was prescribed for work related discussions and knowledge sharing and the other for non-work, leisure related discussions.
    2. The entire content life-cycle: from solicitation to archival, was mapped out.
  2. Tools & Training: Jive was selected as the community application for both channels. Team members attended workshops with external consultants to learn about blogging, content tags, content search, and how to best use the many features of Jive.
  3. Advocacy/ Leadership: The Team Head posted “From the Manager’s Desk” blog posts twice monthly. These posts were not directly about sharing. Instead, through these posts, the Head shared information himself.
  4. Content & Curation: Team members were encouraged to balance between ‘new information’ and ‘relevant information’. In order to drive home content relevancy, the first few months were branded with specific ‘themes’ on which information could be shared. Upvotes, Comments, and Discussions were encouraged. Line Managers and the Team Head were encouraged to participate in the discussions. The platform provided points and badges as rewards for active participation.
  5. Maintenance: Team members were encouraged to volunteer as Curators/ Admins. This was designated as a rotating, annual position. It was proposed that every year, two Admins be identified from two different team locations. The Admins would be provided with additional training on curation, traffic, reputation, advocacy, simple system maintenance, etc.
  6. Culture:
    1. To build a culture of sharing, a virtual Thanksgiving was planned across locations. Team members gathered at their respective locations to share a simple meal, and interacted with the other teams through video conferencing. Prior to the event, team members also sent their peers at other locations notes of thanks, based on projects, activities, etc, they had collaborated on thus far in the year. Some of these notes were read out during the Thanksgiving.
    2. It was proposed that one team member be identified as the Star of Sharing every year. This would act as a non-monetary reward and acknowledgement and drive home the point that sharing information was a reward in itself. The Star’s activities would also act as a prescriptive path for others to follow and improve upon.
    3. Rather than approaching employees 1:1, Managers were encouraged to crowd-source information using the online channels.
    4. Managers used the channels to prepare their teams for change, for e.g. answering legacy questions about the re-org, address any concerns about the future of the team, upcoming corporate changes, etc.
  7. Metrics & Measurement: The first evaluation was planned at the 12-month mark.
    1. Identify traffic patterns across locations and across time (days, weeks, quarters)
    2. Identify high contributors and low contributors
    3. Identify engaged participants and latent participants
    4. Measure relevancy by tags
    5. Measure engagement by number of new community members & avg. number of comments per post
    6. Compare data across the two channels
    7. Overlay data with other metric for richer analysis. For e.g. Are there some locations that share less information than others? Are there employee groups (senior members vs interns) that participate and engage more than others? Do the pre-reorg silos still exist, or are team members engaging across the teams? Are there specific project teams that seem to share very little? If so, were there other challenges associated with the project?

Conclusion:

  • The two online channels are now being used extensively.
  • The leisure channel is helping bring the pre-reorg teams together, and this unification is translating to the work channel as well.
  • Since ideas are being shared with the team as opposed to being shared 1:1, there is less chance of misappropriating ideas. This is encouraging team members to share their ideas freely.
  • Team members feel equipped to use the various features of the online channels.
  • The conscious act of giving thanks was important.
  • The team was happy that Managers were communicating more, and more regularly, through the online channels. One team member said, “I feel I am having two personal meetings every month with the Team Head.”
  • Information is easily retrievable.
  • There is one source of truth for the entire team.

Categories: IRL Projects

Swati Sengupta

I am a Learning and Performance Consultant from India currently based in Zürich, Switzerland. Over the last 13 years, I have consulted for clients in the retail, technology, manufacturing, banking, shipping, BPO, and healthcare industries. For more details, please visit my Bio page by clicking on the Menu.

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