In this month's edition of Ask the Expert, we're diving deep into the topic of employee communities with Tanja Laub, Community Strategist and founder of Walkabout Media. Tanja shares her extensive knowledge and experience in fostering and building internal employee communities.
Tanja, who are you and what is your relation to community management?
My name is Tanja Laub and I have been working in the field of communities since 2006. I support people in building up their own communities and in entering into a better dialogue with the audiene. The communities can be aimed at internal target groups, the employees of a company, or external target groups, such as customers, interested parties, and business partners. I accompany companies at every step of the process, from the question "Do we need acommunity?", - because a community is not always the best solution for the challenges at hand - to the strategic development. This involves questions such as: What should be achieved with the community? What motivates the target group? Which measures are suitable for the community and what resources are needed?
What is an internal employee community?
An internal employee community is aimed at the employees of an organization. The purpose of such a community is to promote employee engagement and retention, strengthen the corporate culture, and ultimately increase the organization's productivity and efficiency.
The internal employee community can be fostered through various channels and methods, such as forums, groups, analog meetings, or specialized social networking platforms designed specifically for internal use. These platforms offer features such as discussion groups, chat rooms, file sharing, project management tools and so on to meet the needs of employees.
It is important to draw a clear distinction between a community and a work team. While work teams are usually focused on specific projects or tasks, with set goals and expectations, a community is characterized by its voluntary participation and intrinsic motivation of its members. In a community, there are no set goals or expected outcomes. Instead, the focus is on sharing knowledge, experiences, and ideas in order to learn and develop together. This open and flexible structure fosters creativity, collaboration, and a stronger sense of belonging within the organization.
In your opinion: Why should companies invest in building employee communities?
Companies should invest in building employee communities because they offer a number of benefits that can positively impact the organization.
- Strengthened company culture: an engaged and well-connected community promotes employee cohesion and identification with the organization and its values.
- Improved communication and collaboration: internal communities facilitate the exchange of information, promote collaboration, and support the sharing of knowledge and best practices within the organization. This avoids duplication of effort and gives employees more time to focus on their projects. Also, knowledge is not lost when a person leaves the company.
- Increased employee retention: by creating an environment where employees feel heard and valued, companies increase their satisfaction and loyalty, which inturn can reduce turnover.
- Fostering innovation: internal communities provide a space where ideas and suggestions can be openly shared and discussed, which increases innovation within the organization.
- Accelerated learning and personal development: by sharing knowledge and experiences, employees can learn from each other and grow in their area of expertise and beyond.
- Relationship building: internal communities foster the building of relationships and networks that are important to employees' personal and professional development.
It is important to consider the specific challenges and requirements of the organization to develop a community that adds real value and supports employees effectively.
What makes a successful employee community and what are the key factors that lead to success?
A successful internal community is characterized by several key elements and practices that help foster engagement, collaboration and growth within the organization:
- Clear goals and vision: a successful community has clearly defined goals and a vision that provides employees with a shared purpose and an understanding of the importance of their involvement.
- Open communication: an open communication culture that encourages the sharing of ideas, knowledge and opinions is critical to the functioning of a successful community.
- Appreciation and Recognition: a successful community recognizes the contributions of members and fosters a sense of appreciation and recognition that increases employee engagement and motivation.
- Regular activities and events: an active community organizes regular events, workshops, and discussions to foster collaboration, learning, and information sharing.
- Monitoring and adaptability: a successful community measures its successes and continually adjusts its strategies and tactics to respond to changes in the organization and the needs of its members.
Building a community is a long-term, strategic process. It takes time and the appropriate resources.
What types of employee communities are there, and what type of organization do they best fit?
There are different types of internal communities that are designed to meet different needs and goals of the organization. Below are a few examples of the most common internal community types:
Learning Communities: these communities focus on the personal and professional development of employees through training, workshops, and peer-to-peer learning. They are a good fit for companies that value continuous learning and development for their employees.
Guide communities: in these communities, experienced employees act as mentors or guides, sharing their knowledge and experience with new or less experienced colleagues. Guide communities are particularly suitable for companies that want to foster a culture of knowledge sharing and mutual support.
Recreational communities (e.g., running groups): These communities address shared hobbies or interests and encourage relationship building and networking among employees outside of the work environment. They are a good fit for companies that value a strong company culture and a strong sense of belonging.
Sustainability communities: these communities focus on environmental and social issues and support initiatives to make the company more sustainable and socially responsible. They are particularly suitable for companies that want to achieve their sustainability goals and promote environmental awareness among employees.
How can companies foster the building ofemployee communities?
Companies can foster the development of employee communities by creating a supportive culture that encourages collaboration, knowledge sharing and engagement. This creates a conducive environment for communities to emerge. It also requires adequate resources and leadership support.
Leaders should actively engage in developing and nurturing communities and act as role models for collaboration and engagement. By recognizing and promoting the value of community initiatives, they help motivate employees.
Providing resources, such as work time, budget, training, and communication platforms, is another important aspect of fostering internal communities. Companies should invest in skills development for community leaders and members to provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge to collaborate effectively and achieve community goals.
Integrating community initiatives into existing company processes and structures facilitates collaboration and knowledge transfer across different departments and hierarchical levels. In order to exploit synergies, companies should actively support the development of internal communities by creating appropriate framework conditions.
Ultimately, everything stands and falls with the intrinsic motivation and commitment of employees, which is why it is important that they have enough freedom to contribute individually.
When this is the case, communities are a win-win situation for both the organization and each individual employee.