I recently helped launch a new employee community for an existing client (who already had an end-consumer community). In one of our first exercises in the community, we asked members what priorities they would tackle if they were “CEO for a day.” One of the strongest themes that emerged was that of listening to the organization’s workforce – visit the front line, solicit ideas, walk in their shoes for a day. Your employees are dying to be heard, and to help make a difference.
Net Promoter guru Fred Reichheld and others have long argued that Employee Loyalty is key to strong Customer Loyalty. A happy, motivated employee is more likely to put in the effort to surprise and delight her customers. And a private community can help an employer understand just how to best keep its employees happy and motivated.
But funny enough, the thing that most makes employees feel happy and rewarded is being empowered to provide good service to your customers. In the first few weeks of this particular employee community, the members started their own discussions on dozens of best practices and recommendations to streamline processes, reduce costs, or eliminate frustrating roadblocks, all to better serve the end-customer. An employee community can be highly complementary to a consumer community in furthering company strategy – two valid perspectives on the same strategic goals.
Employee communities may not be for every company, however. Planning an employee community requires thinking through a somewhat different set of issues than a consumer community. After ten years of managing communities, we have some perspective on these issues, but each company is unique. Corporate cultures that are overly risk-adverse or unable/unwilling to act on any workforce recommendations may see an employee community as a scary proposition. Securing an executive champion and getting HR on board are both key to working through these questions and getting past any initial fear that may come from some quarters.
Here are a few questions that you might ask when considering an employee community:
- Are we willing to listen to both the good and the bad?
- Are we willing to act on (at least some) good recommendations?
- What are the ground rules for behavior that we want to establish upfront?
- What is the right mix of employee roles to include, given our biggest objectives?
- How will we evaluate the success of this community?
With careful consideration of these questions, an employee community can be a compelling means for capturing best practices, measuring the impact of internal initiatives, and better tapping into the “word on the street” – from customers as well as other employees. End-consumers aren’t the only voice with something to say.