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Knowledge Management: Creating a Social Intranet Where Your Employees can Learn

This is Part II in the “Learn, Plan and Do” series  that explores the use of social technologies to take your intranet to the next level, to create a social intranet. But hopefully you will find that it goes even further.. to not only create a social intranet, but to also introduce your employees to an integrated social experience.

Collaboration has become more than just a hot topic. It’s now the primary focus for companies who are seeking to tap the power of social media technologies for their organizations. The movement of the social business is progressing so rapidly, that it leaves a lot of companies scratching their heads more often than coming up with real executable strategies. When companies approach me and say they are struggling with getting support for collaborative technologies, my question back is always: Define your goal without using social media buzzwords. Simplify your thoughts and return to focusing on the business goal you are ultimately trying to achieve.

And what does collaboration bring us? Knowledge management. The ability for your employees to learn from each other.

We are seeing that the best intranets are those that are integrating social technologies that not only drive community and collaboration, but also knowledge management. The winners of Jakob Nielsen “10 Best Intranets of 2011” included at least one of these important capabilities:

  • Knowledge sharing. Offering repositories for case studies, samples, and other existing information can help people with similar problems avoid having to start building their solutions from scratch. Examples range from Habitat for Humanity’s fundraising templates to Bennett Jones’ Share Your Work widget. Sometimes, knowledge sharing can be as simple as a Q&A tool to connect employees with questions to colleagues with answers.
  • Innovation management. Companies managed and encouraged innovation by offering users tools for taking ideas and improvements from conception to completion. Indeed, this is the sole purpose of Mota-Engil’s winning InnovCenter. Verizon offers a mobile version to capture ideas as they occur, which is often on outside jobs, far from any old-fashioned suggestion box.
  • Comments. The simplest way to inspire user-contributed intranet content is to let employees comment on existing information, ranging from news stories to knowledge bank resources. Commenting features reduce the fear of the blank screen; systems that force people to create content from scratch every time inhibit user participation.
  • Ratings. Giving a grade requires even less work than writing a comment, and thus rating systems can further broaden user participation. Sites that use ratings can list top-rated resources first in menus or give them added weight in search listings. Mota-Engil and Verizon offered an even simpler approach by noting how many users had previously accessed a resource (even if they had not rated it). Sometimes, bad content gets substantial use simply because it addressees a key need; on average, however, better stuff gets used more, so a usage count is a reasonable proxy for quality — and has the huge benefit of requiring no extra effort from users.
  • Participation rewards. We know from research on social features that user participation increases when contributors are visibly rewarded, such as by adding points or badges to their profiles. Many winning intranets did exactly that. Because there’s real business value to features like knowledge sharing and innovation management within an enterprise, some intranets went beyond the symbolic value of visible recognition and offered real prizes to employees who gathered sufficient participation points.
  • Customized collections. The default intranet information architecture (IA) must be based on the average employee’s tasks and usage patterns, but can never predict any individual user’s information needs with 100% accuracy. To contend with this fact, designers often allowed users to customize content collections.

To the above, all I would also add the following:

  • Social tagging. What is the number one complaint of any enterprise search? You’ve got it: That is does not effectively produce the results for which employees are looking. We have seen that there is often a breakdown between business taxonomy and plain speak that employees use in their every day work lives. What the business sees as “wealth accumulation,” the employee sees as “saving money.” So, the best way to enhance your enterprise search is to put some of the power of search keyword tagging in the hands of your employees: allow them to tag your company’s intranet content. After all, they are the ones who use it.
  • Social learning. We slowly see many talent management systems adopting a community platform to bring together people with similar interests and needs. The adoption of this into a learning management system doesn’t seem too far off the horizon either. Give your employees the ability to learn from each other in a social context: to pose and answer questions, thoughts, and self edit each others’ responses. An enterprise version of a social learning platform such as Quora not only gives employees the ability to learn from each other through observation, imitation, and modeling, but it’s something that occurs naturally as human within an organization. If you or your organization has concerns over the benefits of social learning, please read this compelling post, Social Learning is What Managers Do Already, by Harold Jarche.

What we’re learning is that employees are your most important resource for knowledge, content curation and management. It’s not surprising then, that the most used term of late is: social intranets. And the most common question? How to turn your current static intranet into a social experience that allows employees to become active participants and contributors.

Embedded below is a great Whitepaper from EPiServer CMS that is a great “Social Intranet Workbook”* and provides excellent insight on harnessing the power of Enterprise 2.0 through community, user-generated content and knowledge management.

The Social Intranet Workbook

The Social Intranet is happening now. Over the past few years, pioneering organizations have been starting to integrate simple, standalone features that tap into the power of social media. But only now has it been possible to incorporate all the best of the social media world with the full capabilities of traditional document, content and knowledge management platforms – without the need to deploy serious IT resources.

The transition from simple to static to social Intranet is almost complete. In the next few years, most companies will be drawing on the power of social media to enrich, enliven and empower their intranets.

* The inclusion of this whitepaper does not imply endorsement of EPiServer CMS by The Social Workplace.

Read other posts in the “Learn, Plan and Do” series:

96 thoughts on “Knowledge Management: Creating a Social Intranet Where Your Employees can Learn”

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