Building Employee Support for Community


(outofthebox) #1

Hi, I’ve been reading up on community strategy this morning, and one of the points that kept resurfacing is the importance of how employees perceive a community and how the community changes behavior. Leading organizational change is difficult in its own right; leading organizational change through a new technology platform seems to multiply the difficulty.

One idea, then, is to host a series of employee trainings on “Community 101”.

If you were designing a series of employee trainings to build support and momentum in the right direction before launching an online community, what 3-5 topics would you focus on, and why?


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(Sarah Hawk) #2

The key to making this work is going to be in the way that you communicate the perceived value to the employees. Don’t tell them what you want them to do, show them how they will ultimately benefit from doing what you suggest. Figure out what will motivate them to participate, and then work out how you can best persuade them.

I think I’d focus on these things:

  • clearly explain the value of employee participation (for the employees, the community and the organisation)
  • communicate the key objectives of the community, and a timeline for returning an ROI (so that expectations are aligned and employees don’t give up before the value begins to be realised)
  • demonstrate ways to participate that add value but don’t require lots of time and effort. If you give people an open ended instruction to ‘participate’ the barrier to entry is too high. If you give them very clear directives – we want you to share this kind of thing, we want it here, and it should be at this frequency – and ideas or examples of the expected behaviour – then you take a lot of the stress out of it.

A few years ago I was working at a tech startup and each week I put together a round-up of ‘the best of the web’. I needed the rest of the company to participate and asked them to send me any great websites that they came across. No one ever did. I held meetings to explain why, I gave them beer, and they all promised that they would. They still never did.

Then I built and distributed a really simple app which allowed them to click a button when they came across a site that they liked. It pre-populated a form and sent it to me via email.

I suddenly started getting several per day. People wanted to help, I just needed to make it so easy that they didn’t have to think about it.


(Richard Millington) #3

@outofthebox I’d look at persuasion side of things.

Providing people with a lot of factual information, explaining the benefits etc is certainly going to convince people, but it’s not going to persuade them.

This is why I would first try to make sure you personally have established good relationships with the people you’re working with. That’s going to be quite important here. If they don’t know and like you, your message isn’t going to work. I’d then look for emotive stories that will resonate with them based around their current joys or frustrations. Look for simple methods they can take to perform their behavior for the very first time and prove a positive experience. Then I’d look at new supportive information.

My feeling is if people are going to attend the trainings (and accept the information) then they’re probably already on board. The biggest challenge usually seems to be getting people to turn up to them in the first place.


(Darren Gough) #4

I think @richard_millington’s point on relationship building is key here for pre-community. Before you got to the trainings, I’d try and spend time with people, departments, maybe even get into meetings as an observer to understand what gets people angry, frustrated, what success is to them.

Will this training be mandatory or voluntary?


(Nick Emmett) #5

These two quotes are huge for me. Be sure to establish how your community could add value for as many areas of your business as possible. Efficiency, networking, removing silos, opening doors, creating opportunities are all potentials, but unless you sit down with these people in the pre-launch stage you’re not wholly able to be more specific to them - and that’s where the hook is.

What’s your community’s WHY @outofthebox - what is it’s reason for being, what are you hoping to see in the community and for people to get out of it?


(outofthebox) #6

Hi everyone,

These are incredible insights - thank you.

My current summary of what I’m hearing is to focus on likability and ‘less pain, more gain.’ I also want to start asking the questions, “what’s your most important project right now?” and “what are the main obstacles to getting it done?”

A follow-up question: once you’re at the limit of your own likability, what’s the best route on the decision tree? Convert someone opposed to in favor through direct engagement or indirect engagement? Continue to try and persuade someone or launch the community without their involvement and let them see for themselves that it is a better mousetrap? Or…?

Related to this, should employee trainings on the new community be voluntary or mandatory? It seems that the approach recommended here is voluntary, since they will surface the truly passionate, and that will lead to the most effective launch, which will draw in the next round of adopters, etc.


(Sarah Hawk) #7

This is such a good question, and one that I’ve personally struggled with. At what point do you stop nagging people and accept that not everyone is going to buy in? I used to find it hard not to take that personally.

If you’ve tried your best to persuade and you still don’t have everyone onside, assuming it’s the minority, then at some point I think you just have to go ahead. If it’s not the minority, then your value proposition is off.

As Rich mentioned, if it’s voluntary, you’re only going to get the people that have already bought in. I’ve seen communities fail to get off the ground in organisations because the charge isn’t led from the front. If the senior leadership team make training mandatory (and go along themselves – that is the most important bit) then I think the organisation is more likely to take the initiative seriously.

This shouldn’t be seen as your job/project/idea. Buy-in needs to be driven from the top down.


(Richard Millington) #8

So converting someone opposed to being in favour probably isn’t going to happen in the short-term. Unless these people are specifically stopping you, i’d focus on the ones that are neutral (or indifferent) and getting them on board first. Those opposed will come around once they see what most people are doing.

I’d probably keep the training voluntary (but it does vary) but make a strong case for why people would want to attend. How it’s going to help them save time, perform better, impress their boss etc…Forcing people to attend training can be like forcing people to participate in a community. It doesn’t always go well.


(outofthebox) #9

Thanks @HAWK and @richard_millington! It is a great validation that both of you are seeing this approach in a similar way to other leaders here.

I think voluntary with enthusiastic, visible involvement from my best public champions of the approach is likely to be the best route. At the same time, I want to clarify at the trainings that this is an organizational initiative. The opposition is just one person, as best I can tell, and so as we get into the project it should become increasingly clear what a popular idea this is among the staff. I just want to be as considerate and respectful of their point of view as I can be. I think even though they are currently opposed the project will end up being a benefit and a service to them, and that encourages me.


(Sarah Hawk) #10

It sounds to me like you’re 100% on top of this. Keep us in the loop.


(Finman) #11

Is this app open source or something that you share with teams?


(Sarah Hawk) #12

I built is on the back of existing platform functionality (meaning it isn’t transferrable) but something like Shareholic would do a similar job.


(Piper_Wilson) #14

@outofthebox - I found this thread in a roundabout way. How are things going with this? The thread is very interesting.


(outofthebox) #15

Hi Piper,

It is going well. Sometimes I get impatient with the pace of adoption. However, there are now two departments that are both excited about the community and actively using it. They are seeing immediate benefits and are well on their way to fully adopting it as their standard operating procedure. Two other departments are supporting the community but are not personally using it. I’m trying to balance the wisdom of waiting for some of the good seeds that have been planted to bloom, and showcase the success to those who are delaying their involvement with the need to keep building momentum and continuing to persuade people to adopt it. The cultural change is definitely the biggest part of the initiative.


(Piper_Wilson) #16

That’s fantastic! Kudos to you!!!

I wonder if the age of the active group is relatively younger than the supportive but not active group?


(outofthebox) #17

Yes, that’s definitely part of it.