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    Entries in small business (11)

    Thursday
    Feb052009

    HR Technology for the Small Business - Communication

    Every class I have two or three students who are HR Directors or HR Managers at what are typically considered 'small' businesses, that is organizations that employ less than 500 people. As the course progresses, and we cover topics ranging from 'core' HRIS systems, to Talent Management solutions, to collaboration and networking platforms, these HR pros from small business frequently indicate that their organizations are sorely lacking in the area of HR Technology solutions. This is a particularly acute problem for organizations with around 100-200 employees.

    This position in the market is a really difficult one, the organization has outgrown many of their original, paper-based processes for employee tracking, performance management, and benefits administration, but they are typically either below the radar of the most popular HR Technology solution vendors, or these solutions are simply priced too high for the small business to manage.

    In the area of communication tools, while all the small businesses have email, some don't even have simple intranets to manage employee communications and information.  Fortunately for the small organization, there are numerous, accessible, inexpensive tools that can facilitate employee communication and collaboration.  Here are just a few ideas for the small organization.

    Microblogging

    The most popular public platform for microblogging is of course Twitter, but for the small organization, the 'enterprise' version of Twitter called Yammer can be a great solution.  Note: If you are not familiar with the concept of microblogging, watch this explanatory video from Common Craft. Simply register your company's domain (your '.com', if you will), send out some e-mail invitations to your employees to join your Yammer network, and immediately folks can begin communicating with each other via short status updates. Yammer also extends the capabilities of Twitter by supporting group creation (the sales folks can have a separate Yammer group from the accounting types), and the inclusion of message attachments. The company's Yammer network is restricted to only those people having a valid email account in the company domain.  The basic Yammer service is free, there are some premium features that can be purchased, but for the small company at least initially these premium features are not necessary.

    Blogging

    Another free and easy way to facilitate communication is by starting a simple company blog.  Post announcements, events, and company information on the blog, and invite employees to read and comment.  There are numerous free blogging platforms that the small business can utilize to create the blog, and most like Google's Blogger platform and Wordpress, allow you to make the blog 'private', meaning only invited users can view and comment on the blog.  Starting an internal blog, particularly one where company executives contribute is a great way for the small business to open up a new communication channel.

    Surveys and Polls

    Another great way to have a dialogue of sorts within the organization is through the use of survey and polls.  Once again there are a multitude of options (most of them free), for creating employee surveys and polls.  For simple, yet powerful survey capability check out SurveyMonkey.  With a SurveyMonkey free account, you can create up to 10 question surveys with up to 100 responses per survey.  Once the survey is created, simply e-mail the generated link to all your intended responders, and watch the result come in. You can review the survey results online, but do need to upgrade to a paid subscription at $19.95 per month to be able to download the survey results, create longer surveys, and have unlimited respondents.  Still for most small organizations, the constraints of the free account are not that limiting.

    For polling, I really like Zoho Polls. This free service (one of scores from online applications provider Zoho), is a simple tool that allows you to create simple polls, invite unlimited responses, and easily embed the poll on your intranet or blog. Your poll can be 'Rating' poll (like rating a movie with stars), or a 'Voting' poll, where participants can choose one option from a list.  The small business could use these polls to solicit feedback on a new benefits program, choosing the best option for a new ad campaign, or even where to hold the next company party.  A sample Zoho poll is here, where I invite anyone who reads this post to offer an opinion.

    In a future post, I will expand on some of these concepts to get into real collaboration tools, like wikis, internal social networks, and community platforms.  While some of these may be beyond the scope of the average small business today, an enterprising small business needs to be positioned for the future.

     

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