Monday, May 24, 2010

Four new ways to engage employees using SharePoint 2010

Ross Freedman, Co-founder and Board Member

As SharePoint 2010 hits the market, organizations using this platform for their intranets unlock a host of new ways to encourage employees to share and connect with their peers. In a world where engagement increasingly depends upon these connections, such a tool can be invaluable. If you’re upgrading to SharePoint 2010 (or have access to other solutions with similar features), this may be the perfect time to revisit your company’s overall engagement strategy and make sure you’re taking advantage of software features you’re already paying for.

Here are four SharePoint 2010 features that encourage peer-to-peer sharing. You’ll notice these have much in common with public social networking sites, which increases the chances employees will learn to use such tools quickly:

1.   Microblogging: Think of Facebook status updates, only behind the company firewall. In just a few keystrokes, employees can share with colleagues from Korea to Kansas the status of that PowerPoint, a thrilling new business win or perhaps an invitation to a networking event after work. Employees can subscribe to colleagues’ updates or even to pieces of content, allowing them to tune into topics that interest them most. Microblogging not only reduces inbox-clogging email updates, it also makes it easy for employees to learn more about their team members regardless where they sit. Plus, communicators can mine status updates for trends in employee sentiment: What key phrases, initiatives, themes or concerns keep coming up? What should we focus on as a result? Think of it as an informal, continuously running focus group.

2.   Ask Me About: Employees can list areas of expertise on their profile page, such as the company’s lean manufacturing strategy, innovation initiative or even Excel spreadsheets. Colleagues can then post specific questions to the employee’s Noteboard, similar to Facebook’s Wall feature. Not only does this speak to a common employee desire to be recognized as an expert, it surfaces experience already available within the organization and encourages employees to share what they know.

3.   Tag Profile Pages: Continuing with the Facebook analogy, these are similar to fan pages – only secure – and make it easier to find other employees with similar interests. The Corporate Affairs function may have its own page. Another may be for employees who want to volunteer in their communities. Or what about a page for those interested in customer feedback on the company’s latest product? Such pages are all about lowering the barrier to participation, making it possible to increase transparency across departments and surface intellectual property.

4.   Ratings: Just like giving that new Pan Asian restaurant a mere two stars on Yelp for its soggy pad thai, employees can rate and comment on most of an intranet’s content, from shared documents to news articles. With ratings, virtual teams can judge how effective that 30-slide presentation may be in next week’s board meeting, and communicators can uncover whether employees are more interested in learning about the company’s strategic priorities or the daily cafeteria menu. Moreover, ratings can be stored, tracked and analyzed, helping the intranet team determine which content strikes a chord with users, which will no doubt come in handy when it’s time to refresh the site.

Of course, technology is just an enabler of engagement. No comprehensive engagement strategy is complete without in-person elements to complement the digital side. But, as part of a holistic program, new intranet features can help employees foster meaningful connections with colleagues. In parallel, communicators also win when they gain access into information that is all too often trapped within individual inboxes. And ultimately, the organization as a whole benefits from unlocking the knowledge that already exists within its workforce.