Planting the Garden. To Govern, or Not to Govern.

The culture in your enterprise can dramatically affect the governance approach you take during the launch of your new community. Are you happy with the culture? Is changing or adjusting that culture an objective of the initiative at all?

When launching a new community, how tightly should you control the content being created and how does your governance strategy differ as your community matures?

Many conservative enterprises try to control the types of content that can be created in their communities. User interest groups and other “non-work” subjects are not allowed. New groups of discussion areas need to go through an application review process and get created and managed centrally. Other companies take a more flexible approach and allow employees to create and manage the community without governance.

As is often the way, the ideal approach is somewhere in the middle. It is advisable to have a small centrally managed network of places where corporate content can be posted. For example, information about company structure, business units, HR policies. These official areas have a tighter level of governance on them to restrict who can create and manage content in them and to make sure that employees have an easy way to navigate to the important information they need. Keep this network as small as possible though. Remember, every time you create an area which is managed centrally, you’ll have maintenance overhead to manage the content there.

Giving your employees the freedom to discuss non-work subjects serves a number of useful purposes...it teaches them to use the new platform.

For the rest of the community, the most successful implementations take a much more flexible approach. No restriction on who can create groups or communities, and no restriction on the content - other than ensuring it meets the usage policies you put in place.

This does mean you’ll end up with groups and discussions about the weather, cats, music, movies, food and recreation etc. Keep the faith though. While your new investment may not appear to be returning the value you anticipated immediately, it will come. Giving your employees the freedom to discuss non-work subjects serves a number of useful purposes:

  1. It teaches them to use the new platform. While they’re discussing cat outfits, they are understanding how the application works, and learning how it will be useful for their jobs.

  2. It creates connections. Your company is successful because of the people in it and if they’re more connected to each other than they were before simply because they have been to the same vacation spots or enjoy the same hobbies, you still win.

Create an acceptable use policy and make sure all community participants accept it. This allows you to set the acceptable and unacceptable actions upfront, however you define them.

Most companies who shy away from the flexible approach do so because they are afraid that employees will be wasting their time discussing recipes rather than working. This is an unfounded fear in almost every community we’ve seen. The activity in your community is visible to everyone in the company. It’s like broadcasting the watercooler conversations to everyone. With that, it becomes very obvious when an employee doesn’t have enough work to do and spends too much of their time not working. If you have employees who don’t have enough work to do and choose to advertise that publicly then it is probably a very good benefit of the platform that you’re able to identify them!

We also see that the amount of time spent in the recreational conversations diminishes as the community matures. Employees understand when to use them. They also get diluted as the community expands with business content and the fears withdraw with that.

Whichever governance path you take there are some vital steps you must always take.

  1. Create an acceptable use policy and make sure all community participants accept it. This allows you to set the acceptable and unacceptable actions upfront, however you define them.

  2. Enable moderation. You won’t be able to see everything that gets posted, so you must always give employees a way to be able to send something to the moderation queue for you to deal with if they think something unacceptable has been posted.

  3. Use your community managers to help manage the direction of the community as it grows. If there are multiple groups being created around the same subject, combine them before it’s too late so that you’re not creating communities in silos.

  4. Be transparent and explain your approach. You have smart people working for you, it is important they feel they are being treated fairly.