The modern working world is in a constant state of change. Processes are becoming more digital and one restructuring follows the next. Internal community management supports the digital transformation and forms a solid anchor in times when work processes, departments and colleagues are subject to constant change.
Wenger et. al (2002) define communities of practice as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.”
The constant exchange of knowledge with the help of internal communities across different departments and hierarchical levels prevents silo thinking, promotes innovation, and accelerates internal processes. Even when structures change, these communities for knowledge exchange remain in place to continuously support the company’s results.
The company’s potential can only be used efficiently when all the knowledge becomes visible within the company and employees work in a networked manner. Internal communities also promote the feel-good factor in a company, and where employees feel good, results improve, and fluctuation is reduced.
Good community management is crucial for the success of an enterprise social network
An internal community is not created overnight. To reap the benefits of internal communities, you need to consider several factors when developing them:
- Building a community requires a sustainable, viable strategy
- The technical platform must not be an obstacle
- The community must deliver added value
- The community needs low entry barriers
- The community needs an experienced community manager.
Let’s take a closer look at these 5 points.
Building a community needs a sustainable, viable strategy
Building internal communities is a long-term, strategic process. It’s not enough to offer a technical platform. Even with internal communities, you need to clearly define who you want to address and what the goal if the community is. Be as specific as possible. Is the community aimed at all employees who are interested in controlling or at all controllers in the company? Do these controllers have a common area of expertise or specific interest? What does the community want to achieve? Is it about optimizing internal processes, about the common exchange of knowledge on current topics, or about familiarizing new controllers in the company more quickly with the topics? Only if the target group and the goals of the respective exchange are clearly defined is it possible to achieve this exchange. As with any other strategy, the issue of resources must not be overlooked. Good internal communities need budget, capable community managers and the time of employees who are committed to the communities.
The technical platform must not be an obstacle
The technical platform is not the community, the employees are. It is the way they share and network with each other. The way of working together across departmental boundaries and hierarchical levels, working on joint projects to be more innovative and faster. The work in communities is the way to use the internal company knowledge to the common advantage, e.g., by building up a knowledge database, to make the existing knowledge usable for other areas. The technical platform is only the basis for promoting this exchange among employees. A community is not the technical platform. But the technical platform can become an obstacle if it does not optimally support the possibilities of digital collaboration. It must support community building through sharing and collaboration features such as comments, reactions, and a good structure. Here, it is essential that the company can adapt the structure and functions of the technical platform to the company’s own circumstances, such as different languages.
The community must deliver added value
Employees have a full workday. For internal communities to work, employees need to experience added value that they can’t get anywhere else. They need to see added value for themselves, for example, in that the community helps them to do their work faster and more efficiently, or in that the community enables them to exchange views on specific topics at a high professional level. Only if employees see a value for themselves in spending time in the community will they be motivated to actively engage in it in the long term. It is also important here that employees have the security and understanding that the company considers the work in communities to be valuable.
The community needs low entry barriers
Internal communities provide (virtual) spaces where employees can openly share and gather their experiences and information. This improves a company’s learning and work process. For employees to actively participate in a community, there must be low barriers to entry and participation. The community culture must motivate employees to actively participate and offer a safe space for exchange. The best platform is of no use if no one is using it. The communities can be directly related to a specific field or deal with topics outside the immediate job. Sports and leisure communities in the company promote direct exchange between employees and facilitate initial access.
The community needs an experienced community manager.
The Community Manager has a very special role. Community managers support the development of the community, welcome new members, connect employees and are available to answer questions. They create an understanding for the topic of communities among both management and staff. This is where all the strings of the community come together. This person makes sure that everyone feels comfortable, can speak freely and is happy to actively participate. You can also divide some of the tasks among the community members in different roles.
Building internal communities is not primarily about likes and shares. It’s about genuine exchange and discussion among employees. It’s about supporting and advancing each other. For the benefit of each individual and the company as a whole. Depending on the topic and organizational structure, communities can be top-down – initiated by management – or bottom-up – initiated by employees. It is important that the organization strengthens and promotes the type of collaboration in communities. Through internal communities, organizations motivate their employees to show their best capabilities.