Nov 3, 2016

After organizational communication and work instructions, the third most important task for an intranet is “creating communality” (Intranet Services in Finland 2016 survey). In practice, this happens in two ways. First, the intranet can steer the organizational culture in a certain direction through one-way “top-down” communication. This means, for example, promoting exemplary individuals, desired actions and activities, and success stories. Second, a social intranet is an opportunity for the community to create ts own culture by duplicating it online. This is what is really interesting.

The creation and strengthening of online communities is directly linked to the megatrends of globalization and digitalization: in a networked world, people can find others with similar views and opinions, and create tribes. Humans have a natural tendency to attach to one or more communities.

Is it possible to lead culture?

Should employer organizations participate in this development? After all, it is important to commit their personnel to a community (or several communities). Especially in the digitalized world, the work community will inevitably compete with everyone’s personal communities. The more committed to their work communities employees are, the more comfortable they will feel coming to work every day, which also benefits the employer.

A community becomes strongest when it creates its own culture by multiplicating it. In case the community is physically dispersed, this requires a social medium through which every aspiring member of the community can participate in the multiplication of the culture. Doesn’t this explain the popularity of social media tools?

Social intranet has been a topic of discussion for nearly a decade, but news commentaries and personal profiles alone are not sufficient tools for multiplicating the culture and forming a community. You need to be able to create communities – to exaggerate a bit, be able to create silos of “us” and “them”. The answers to this need include apps such as Yammer and Slack, or Facebook and WhatsApp. Within those applications, anyone can start “our community”.

Organizational management are instructed to communicate with their organization. But communication alone is not enough. The communication should strengthen the common culture and be conducive to the creation of a community. The point is not just communication but exactly the creation of a community.

If the organization wishes to work efficiently with a common goal, it must feel to be a united community, “us”, and the management must be members of this community to lead it. Global organizations need digital tools, videoed gatherings and social discussion channels can be the glue that keeps individuals together. If the manager is a member of the same community as all the others, the entire community will more likely work towards the same goal.

How to promote communality in practice?

The challenge is that communities are like amoebas. Like in real life, communities come and go, are created and become extinct. They are hard to create through coercion, and they are difficult to fix into a certain structure dictated by someone. Even on intranets, the earlier methods for community creation were to compel and direct: certain topics, initiative and ideation groups, Q&A forums. As the results of our latest intranet survey show, these types of communities are becoming increasingly rarer. Instead, free-form discussion is on the rise. This probably doesn’t mean the discussion forums of the 90s, but rather the likes of Yammer and other self-guiding communality tools.

The community creates its own culture through every member of the group creation and group discussion channels. Every member can decide what to share. What they are interested in, what could interest others, what they are proud of, what they want to share about their workday, what they need help with, where could they help others, what is desirable, what produces the most likes, what is appropriate. A community springs to life through shared texts, pictures, videos and likes – a shared world.

Workplace communities used to emerge around the coffee table or water cooler. Now they are created in an internal network. One person can belong to several communities, not just one clique.