Tackling community management and employee engagement

When managing a technology platform that serves thousands of people, it’s challenging to address all the variables that come into play when trying to improve overall engagement, much less general adoption and use. How does one identify where the gaps are today?How can you dissect the current user attitudes that get to the root of their real problem?  How can you inspire a fresh perspective and reignite interest? These are big questions that left me somewhat dumbfounded.

But then I had the epiphany: this will be a marathon, not a sprint.

I’ve had previous experience in managing external communities but working with an internal population of employees is quite different. Unlike a public community where people typically come together because they share a common interest/passion, in an internal community of employees there are some champions but there’s also more malaise to try to overcome. These are the other challenges that I faced, as most community managers do:

  • Those who are technologically savvy and most everyone else
  • Those who tap into technology solutions with eagerness and passion to solve problems and those who view all change and advancement with apathy or outright frustration
  • Those who act as proponents of what you’re doing and those who can’t wait to lambaste your efforts and warn others

Since I was brand new to my role as the global community manager of our Jive social collaboration platform, I had to get a handle on what our company wanted it to do first for our business. Without a clear business goal, users could be doing whatever they wanted and be highly engaged selling their tea kettles to one another. If it wasn’t reducing time to deliver work or get people to information faster, it wasn’t working. From there, how did people feel about it and how could it meet them where they were in their role so they could align to the purpose of our platform and find value in it for their job.

With that, I worked with our Internal Communication team to conduct a screener of our employee base to get feedback on where we are and where we need to go next with our community.

Surprisingly with only one dedicated email deployment, we received a 22% response rate that mirrored our employee demographics. From these results, we were able to understand where we could improve the flow of communication and information, the education on how to use the platform to collaborate (and show what that actually looks like) and allow users to tap into the value that they thought the tool had.

Users said that they thought our community, ZSpace, could be extremely valuable but that they didn’t see enough people using it. As a community manager, I realized that it’s a problem when people tell you they love it but they want more people to use it when they themselves don’t use it. It’s a real chicken or the egg situation.

I decided that with a growing company, my efforts are best spent with new users and training them with the right messaging, value prop and best practices in utilizing the platform’s solutions. It felt like a lost cause to convert those who had given up or who had total apathy to the platform (and my presence). I shifted the energy from motivating to iterative habit building for those who were using the platform. If you want to learn more about this type of philosophy, I recommend you check out BJ Fogg‘s website and program.

In the survey I also asked users to give me their top 5 actions/behaviors and then reviewed how ZSpace could enhance or build upon those behaviors; better yet, how can I make ZSpace the hub to do all activities and tasks that every employee could potentially need to do during their day?

From there I rolled out enhancements (read as: simplification) of our navigation structure, a massive audit and cleanup of old content and dormant places that only cluttered search results for most users and rolled out new use-case training that teaches the value and reason behind us having this platform but how it can help save time and streamline their day.

In order to succeed, I had to break down my expectations for success and the ways I could tackle the larger issue. It’s about finding the smaller components that you can manage and change to see measurable results. To try to solve ‘engagement’ or ‘adoption’ as an epic problem is a goose chase. Instead, it’s about finding out what metrics are important and what you need to solve for and focusing on the small wins you can have that build over time to create larger and lasting results on a macro level.

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