A compelling feature of state-of-the-art Intranets is the ability for users to engage via comments, likes and shares. These forms of social interaction, once the exclusive domain of Facebook and Twitter, are now core components of modernized Intranet solutions.
The benefits of employee engagement, knowledge sharing and collaboration have been demonstrated in many studies, but we're often asked by clients mulling over whether they should enable these features in Bonzai Intranet, whether business social activities such as comments or even likes should be monitored or approved before being made public on the intranet.
Many business leaders are very concerned about the potential impact of comments made by crazy or dissatisfied employees (all companies seem to have at least one.) Although they understand the power within tools like Yammer to encourage questions, ideas and the free expression of opinions, it's usually balanced with trepidation around compliance and governance.
Based on my experience, I don't think companies should restrict anyone from making comments on your Intranet or Enterprise Social Network, for a number of reasons. I'll tell you why shortly, but let's be honest and pragmatic for a second (which happens far too little in business and discussion around Intranets IMHO). You trust your employees to run your business and keep customers happy, possibly dealing with millions of dollars in products and services, or even ensuring that people's lives aren't put at risk as part of their daily activities. These are the same people you should be trusting to act sensibly when posting comments and offering personal opinions on an internal forum. If leaders are so worried about what an employee might "say", I would respectfully suggest that you might have much larger issues (hiring practices, for instance) in your organization. :)
If public commenting is a concern, consider this:
It's Not Anonymous
- Everything an employee does on SharePoint and Yammer is tied to their account. Unlike the Internet space where people can be (somewhat) anonymous, most people aren't willing or interested in throwing themselves under the bus at work. You can set employees up for success by educating them on "business social rules"—providing guidelines on what’s appropriate (constructive feedback) and what's not (cursing, racist remarks and other career-limiting moves). If an employee does something stupid and makes inappropriate comment it, it's fast and easy to identify who they are and take action to address the situation, one way or another.
Let The Community Control Itself
- Group of users quickly develop a self-policing rhythm. For example, I've seen a case where an employee made a disparaging comment about a co-worker who posted a question on Yammer. A large number of employees quickly came to the defense of the original poster, effectively using social pressure to "force" the disparaging commenter to apologize. This style of self-policing is extremely powerful in not only forming a stronger sense of community, but also offering deeper insight into the culture of an organization.
Don't Lock The Gate With Everyone Inside
- When you monitor comments prior to approval, you risk losing the most valuable thing that comes from the free flowing social exchange of ideas and opinions on your Intranet—that of serendipity. Whether it's two employees discovering that they have the same interests, or an executive reading a suggestion that could potentially save millions of dollars—these moments of communication, collaboration and connection can collectively become the tipping point for company success.
So our view at Bonzai Intranet is that social interactions should not be stifled but rather a process of education and governance should be adopted to provide that fine balance of compliance and serendipity. If you have any comments or thoughts then please let me know!