Like in many organizations, employees of Deloitte with a natural need to connect were using Internet tools that were free, easy to use, and increasingly popular. On their own, employees were creating ad hoc communities to work faster, tap into other people’s knowledge, and connect with colleagues no matter where in the world they were working. As employees were using social media tools, the company—with distributed teams and divisions, intellectual capital that needs to be selectively shared among employees, and a workforce that is growing steadily younger and expects work to be tech enabled—was missing out on putting these powerful tools to work for the company’s benefit. That is, until the emergence of Deloitte’s online community in mid-2007.
The centerpiece of Deloitte’s workplace of the future is an online community called “D Street” because on the main street of any town around the world, people already know the norms and conventions and can use this metaphor for being together online. Deloitte employees say they visit D Street because it makes a large organization feel smaller; they can learn about people when working with them remotely; and they can glean a little about people’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests as a way to help build rapport. With the virtual networking capabilities, they can feel like part of something larger than themselves or their immediate team.
The terms online community and social network are used in this book to define something similar. In years past, a space such as Facebook was called an online community or a web community; today spaces like D Street are often called social networks. Technically speaking, online communities allow anyone within the space access to anyone else in the space. A social network requires a connection (someone in your network) who can pave the way for you to meet someone else.
Community suggests a general sense of reciprocity, altruism, and benefit that comes from doing something together. Because online communities are not constrained by the need for anyone’s physical presence, we have greater flexibility with our ability to join, learn, and congregate with people who have similar interests no matter their location. These are environments where people are free to share and learn.
Responding to Critics:
One of the largest roadblocks to getting started with online communities is those who think they are not a good idea. Here are the most common objections and ways to address them.
Our Management Team Will Never Sign Off on This
Through the suggestions provided in this book, identify those you know your organization needs to fix most, and frame your case by explaining how an online community could help meet those goals. People you work with may already see benefit in such a community but don’t know how to proceed.
People Will Waste Precious Time, Which Isn’t Good for Business or the Bottom Line
In tough economic times, some people seem to become critical of every activity, even those generating the energy required for success. In large part, innovation and learning comes from the little moments between the activities we’ve previously thought of as the “real” work.
Employees Will Give Away Company Secrets
People form their own communities with or without organizational support. It’s hard to monitor and control information and content that employees put out on the Internet, but it doesn’t mean they’re not
Some People Will Just Lurk
That’s ok. They can still gain tremendous value from the breadth of the organization they can glimpse online, and they can learn from those participating more actively.
Jamie Pappas, community manager for EMC’s internal online community, EMC|ONE, offers the following recommendations to anyone interested in deploying social media for their organization:
- Look Inward
- Differentiate Benefits
- Welcome Everyone
- Be Aware That It’s Not All Business
- Do Important Work
- Listen and Prepare for Possible Objections and Concerns
- Share the Love
- Encourage Champions
- Foster Teamwork