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    Entries in socal networking (42)


    Employee Networking at Nokia

    The HR Technology Conference is now two weeks past, but I had one more conference related note to write, about the presentation on the internal use of Web 2.0 technologies at Nokia.

    The presentation given by Matthew Hanwell - Senior Director of Organizational Development and Change, covered the history of Nokia's engagement with Web 2.0 technologies for internal purposes, the current state of these technologies inside Nokia, and I think most importantly, offered some excellent insights and recommendations on how an organization might introduce these technologies in their environments.

    Some of the tools that Nokia has deployed internally:

    The Jazz Cafe - Essentially an anonymous forum, where employees could ask and respond to questions, carry on conversations, and at times, vent.  This was Nokia's first foray into Web 2.0 technology for internal use, and was extremely popular with the employees.  In time, other platforms and technologies have been implemented and grown in popularity, the Jazz Cafe forum still maintains a dedicated used base.

    Ask HR - another anonymous forum, similar in nature to the Jazz Cafe, but dedicated to HR topics.  Employees can ask questions and get feedback from corporate HR ,and it also provided a great way for HR to check the pulse of the organization based on the nature and tone of the questions.

    Blog Hub - Employees at Nokia are encouraged to blog, and the company aggregates the blogs into a 'hub' that serves as a kind of company wide repository and barometer of the organization.  Company management can monitor what blogs are popular, which ones generated the most comments, and what the overall trends are indicating about the mindset of the employees.

    Video Hub - Similar to the Blog Hub, the Video Hub aggregates video content that is created by Nokia employees.  The interesting aspect of the video hub is that Nokia has trained over 200 employees worldwide in the mechanics of short video creation.  Skills like shooting, editing, and narrating these videos to produce effective and interesting content.  Notably, the video creators are charged with finding and documenting examples of employees living the Nokia values and using video to communicate these ideas across the organization.

    News Hub - The Nokia News Hub is much like a classic corporate intranet news service, but with the added capability of employee comments, ratings, and discussion. It takes what could be a fairly standard and dull news feed and enhances the content and the experience.

    There were several interesting take-aways from the session.  Most notably:

    Inappropriate postings - Matthew reported that Nokia had never had to delete any postings on any of the various platforms that were deemed inappropriate.  The organization's members did effectively manage the policing of content.  Comments and ratings are extremely effective mechanisms whereby the community determines and enforces the company norms.  Matthew also pointed out the importance of allowing employees the freedom to use profile pictures of their choosing, rather than require everyone to use the more formal, 'official' company ID photo.

    The employees are already talking - Nokia became aware of an employee that was maintaining what became a very popular personal blog where he wrote about the company and its products in sometimes not so flattering ways. Partially from this realization Nokia started down the path of creating a space for employees to blog and participate in online conversations in a platform where the company did not control the conversation so much as support it and learn from it.  Particularly in a large organization, there are almost certainly blogs, Facebook groups, and other online conversations happening among employees in 'unofficial' forums.  Better from the company perspective to host and more effectively monitor, respond, and support these activities.

    Continuous innovation - Nokia started down the path of internal community building and support with the Jazz Cafe platform, and eventually migrated into other tools and technologies. While the Jazz Cafe was quite successful, Nokia did not stop there, but rather built on that foundation of success to expand into blogs and videos.  Technologies and the ways that employees will want to embrace new technologies to interact, discover, and collaborate are constantly evolving. Companies should understand and embrace this, and not get wed to a specific approach or technology as being the 'final' solution.

    It really was an excellent session that left the audience with many solid ideas and concepts to build from.  While most organizations are not as large, or have the resources of a Nokia, the approaches and strategies could be applied to any size organization really, and at certainly fairly low costs.

    Bottom line, the employees want to connect, share, and socialize, give them an opportunity to do all of these, and you will likely reap the benefits.


    Work and Networks

    Since many organizations have adopted or are considering adopting technologies to facilitate internal employee social networking, naturally research is beginning to surface as to the success of these internal networking projects, and that is also aimed at understanding the enablers and barriers in the technology adoption.

    This week I came across an excellent study titled 'Motivations for Social Networking at Work' (PDF link) from IBM Research that discusses the internal IBM social network called Beehive. Thousands of IBM employees participate in the network that is meant to facilitate connection, sharing of interests, and very importantly in a large organization, expanding one's network beyond the immediate work group to colleagues that were previously 'invisible'.Flickr - e.phelt

    The IBM Research group undertook an extensive study of participation and usage patterns to better understand the true impact of Beehive in the company, and while there are many interesting findings (I really recommend reading the entire study), I thought it very interesting to focus on a key question; Why do employees share information on the network?

    The research revealed three main motivations for employees to participate in the social network that they termed, Caring, Climbing, and Campaigning.

    Caring - Connecting with co-workers on a personal level was found to be the most commonly cited benefit to participating in the network.  Particularly in a large, global, distributed organization like IBM, where the opportunity for face-to-face contact with many colleagues is limited, this 'caring' element was critical. Connecting on a more personal level helps engenders affinity, which in turn leads to an increase in collaborative interactions.

    Climbing - The researchers used the term 'climbing' to describe individual's motivation to participate in the network to further their career development and aspirations to 'climb' the corporate ladder. By active participation in specific technical topics, people could be seen as 'thought leaders' and could potentially leverage that position to land better assignments, more high-profile projects, and further their careers. In addition, similar to external social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn, simply making connections and building out one's network was seen as a benefit, and in fact necessary to long-term career growth.  In a large company it can be easy to get 'lost', but by actively participating and connecting in the internal social network some employees felt that this was a way to make a name for themselves.

    Campaigning - Gathering support for projects and ideas, driving traffic to personal profiles, and project web pages was termed 'Campaigning' by the researchers.  Employees interested in using the social network for this purpose emphasized the ability to get their ideas more visibility with senior managers as an important factor and a major motivator to participate in Beehive. Most notably, the ability to connect with a wide range of influencers and potential supporters outside of the traditional, hierarchical structures was seen as an essential element of Beehive. Users could build coalitions of support for their ideas and projects in ways frankly impossible in the 'old' manner.

    What does this all mean to organizations that are considering launching similar projects to give their internal networking projects the best chance for success?

    Make it personal - The internal network can't be all business, all the time.  People (most anyway) want to share some personal information with their colleagues. The ability to connect personally has consistently been shown to be an important aspect of ongoing and productive workplace collaboration. Let folks post their favorite about their favorite sports teams, swap recipes, and upload personal profile pictures.  Don't feel like every post, comment, or contribution has to have the 'official' stamp of approval.

    Individual value - Employees will only continue to participate and contribute if they see a direct personal and individual benefit. Whether it is easier access to information and expertise to help them solve their problems, or a way to build their reputations as leaders.  Employees will give of themselves and of their knowledge, but they have to see the benefits back to them as well.  Make sure that you build ways for employees to see how participation will truly help them in their current jobs, as well as in their career goals.

    The Big Boys have to play - Many technology projects stall, or even fail due to lack of executive support.  Internal social networking projects are no different.  But in addition to the vague concept of 'support', these projects may also require active participation.  When employees see executives and directors as active participants and contributors on the network it can have a dramatic effect on overall enthusiasm and participation.  Just like the company holiday party where everyone wants a little face time with the boss, connecting with leaders and executives on the network can be a really important driver of the overall success of the project.

    Definitely take a look at the entire piece from IBM Research, there are lots of excellent insights as to the motivations behind internal network participation.  We are getting past the point of wondering about the right technology to choose for these projects, and arriving at the much harder place of figuring how to make them work.

    I would love to hear from you on what motivates or curtails participation in your organization's communities?


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