So far, the topic of the Groundswell has been solely customer focused but can employees tap the power of the groundswell too? The answer is: yes.
The Groundswell and Employees
When it comes to internal communication, information usually flows from the top down, which means the bigger the company, the bigger the problem internal communication becomes. This lack of communication is also combined with the difficulty to motivate employees to collaborate and provide management with insights. To fix these issues, many companies are tapping the power of the internal groundswell by implementing a variety of internal applications. No matter the choice of internal application, the one thing they all have in common is “they tap the power of the groundswell of ideas among the people who know best how your business runs, your employees” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 234). To provide some examples, we will examine three internal groundswell applications: internal social networks, wikis and idea exchanges.
Internal Social Networks
An example of an internal social network is Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation, which was developed to listen to what employees had to say. When considering the five groundswell objectives (listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing), the Blue Shirt Nation accomplishes all five. Here’s how:
- Listening: Besides listening to what their employees have to say, Best Buy has found that the Blue Shirt Nation was extremely effective at solving problems.
- Talking: Corporate policy changes can now be posted where everyone can see them.
- Energizing: The Blue Shirt Nation energizes enthusiastic employees and gives them a platform to spread their positivity and advice across the entire company.
- Supporting: Because of the Blue Shirt Nation, employees can find support from around the company instead of just within their store or district.
- Embracing: The Blue Shirt Nation community has “turned out to be a way to surface both ideas and great talent” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 238).
When companies are in need of a full-fledged collaboration environment, wikis are a great medium to consider. As an example, Razorfish, one of the largest interactive agencies in the world, uses a wiki to coordinate with its over nineteen hundred staff members. Being a project-based organization, the wiki allows Razorfish’s employees to share their ideas and skills as well as blog about their work. There are also dedicated pages for projects, which feature “project summaries, team members’ roles, meeting notes, documents on which those team members collaborate, and schedules” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 239). The wiki helps employees save time and also allows new employees to get up to speed faster. Additionally, the CEO of Razorfish, Clark Kokich, uses the wiki to monitor the pulse of the organization and can quickly address issues when they arise. When the wiki was initially launched, pages were viewed fifty-seven hundred times (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Fast-forward to now and pages on the wiki have been viewed 1.8 million times with over 90 per cent of Razorfish’s staff contributing (Li & Bernoff, 2011). What Razorfish has created is more than a collaboration tool, it has created a communication channel.
For corporate wikis to be effective, companies need to ensure it integrates with employees’ daily lives. “When you start living and breathing in these social tools, that’s when they become a way to tackle business problems” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 241). Starting off, companies need to focus on the relationships, not the technologies. Technologies will only succeed if you nurture them into useful business tools (we’ll talk more about this shortly).
An idea exchange is a way in which companies can easily corral employee ideas and host them all in one place. Bell Canada, as an example, launched its own idea exchange called ID-ah!. The concept of ID-ah! was inspired by American Idol—anyone in the company can submit an idea and then fellow employees vote on it. In the first year-and-a-half of ID-ah!, more than one thousand ideas were shared with fifty thousand employees visiting the site and six thousand voting (Li & Bernoff, 2011). This resulted in the top twenty-seven ideas selected for review with twelve being implemented (Li & Bernoff, 2011). The success of ID-ah! drove a cultural change at Bell Canada through the empowerment of its employees.
As briefly mentioned above, the internal groundswell is about relationships, not technologies. According to authors, Li & Bernoff, there are three techniques to employ in order to nurture the groundswell power of your employees:
- Promote a listening culture from the top down. Without management’s active participation, an internal social application will not work.
- Ease and encourage participation with incentives. By creating internal tools that allow employees to be more productive, word will begin to spread, which will encourage wider participation.
- Find and empower the rebels in your organization. As managers, give the “rebels” within your company the power to try new things.
In conclusion, internal groundswell applications can help spark employee communication, stoke collaboration, and harness innovation (Li & Bernoff, 2011). The secret to tapping the power of the internal groundswell is cultural change. Combine cultural change with upper management’s support, and your internal groundswell application is sure to be a success.
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.