Would you believe that compensation, while important isn’t the end all be all for employees? That’s what Jeff Haden points out in his Inc. article, 8 Things Your Employees Need Most. Turns out that while getting a bonus is nice, most employees simply yearn for greater involvement in the business. According to Haden, employees want freedom, trust, and to have a voice that’s connected with others inside the organization. Modern employees don’t just want to understand the corporate mission and values; they want to help create them.
Providing a sense of involvement to employees is a persisting challenge for most successful corporations. This is because most successful corporations happen to be very large – one of the drawbacks of success. When a company starts out, getting everyone’s input is relatively easy. Calling an impromptu company meeting isn’t difficult, as everyone can usually fit into one room. In these early times, hearing out and playing devil’s advocate to everyone’s suggestion is pretty straightforward. In other words, it’s very easy for smaller organizations to help employees develop a sense of camaraderie through participation. However as a company grows more individuals are brought onboard, making it increasingly difficult to bring everyone together. It’s at this stage where companies create structured departments and groups resulting in silos that become barriers to collaboration.
Overcoming the difficulties to effective collaboration is an ongoing challenge for most organizations. However, online communities may be the answer to this age old problem. According to a post by John Gaudin from the Cisco Blog, “Online communities don’t just provide a vehicle for outbound communications from executives on goals, targets and expectations, but also serve as a vehicle for input from employees.” They make it easy for employees to offer up suggestions and ideas. I’m not talking about only offering up suggestions that focus on corporate targets and goals, these communities also act as conduits for employees to present new ideas and innovation – who doesn’t want that? It’s simple math, “the more bright people offering ideas the more likely there will be an idea that’s truly innovative,” says Gaudin.
The fact is that online communities greatly help organizations that have problems gathering everyone in one place. They help bridge one of the greatest barriers to effective collaboration: geographic divide credit. With online communities you can easily offer up a suggestion from anywhere in the world, knowing that you and your team that came up with it will be the ones associated with that idea. Additionally, online communities help build team rapport. We all can agree that meeting face to face is unquestionably the best form of communication. However in their absence, communities can “easily provide forums for like-minded individuals to find and share information with each other and when the opportunity arises to meet in person the relationship has already been developed.” This helps teams move past the first two stages of Tuckman’s stages of group development (Forming and Storming) allowing for more productive face to face meetings should they occur. An open, collaborative environment helps motivate employees to get more involved and have a greater level of engagement.
The moral here is that it’s worth it to invest in an online community and if you already have once in place make sure to encourage. Online communities provide the opportunity for employees to explore areas of interest outside their comfort zone, learn from available resources. Give it time; once employees get accustomed to using it they will start making some powerful contributions of their own. The culture of participation is natural. Provide the right tools and you’re giving employees what they want most.