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Next-generation communities—Part 3 Eight ways to engage employees in communities at work

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4. Promote communities at internal conferences and events

Live events are one of the most effective ways to advocate for communities, whether the meetings are community-focused or simply include messaging about communities’ roles and values. Some organizations host meetings and conferences to engage community leaders and bolster their enthusiasm, whereas others use events to recruit new members and boost participation among dormant ones.

Agrochemical company Syngenta provides one example of this strategy. Syngenta’s production and supply function has a program called Learning & Exchange, Accelerating Progress (LEAP) that oversees and provides support for its virtual communities. Syngenta’s LEAP program organized a global event on Leap Day in 2016 to educate employees about community features and benefits. The LEAP program also holds an annual two-day workshop in England to bring together regional and community leads to gauge community health and set KM strategy. The event is an opportunity to ensure that community leaders reach out to employees to support networking and encourage less formal, employee-developed communities.

The messaging for these Syngenta activities focuses on a balance of short- and long-term benefits for virtual community members. Members learn about immediate returns such as meeting colleagues, accessing expertise, getting help with challenges, and participating in meaningful work. At the same time, they learn about long-term returns related to professional development, networking and building their professional reputation.

5. Link communities to performance goals and career advancement

One of the most effective engagement strategies is to tie community participation to outcomes that employees really care about, such as performance measures and career opportunities. When employees believe that community involvement will help them gain leadership visibility and succeed within the organization, they are much more likely to become active contributors. This is especially true among mid-career professionals whose participation is needed to mentor new hires, spur innovation and take pressure off overtaxed senior experts.

Engineering professional services firm WSP Global has adopted this strategy to drive engagement in its communities. The organization regards community leadership roles as key factors in selecting employees for management positions. This encourages employees to get involved in communities and move up the community leadership structure. Community involvement is also a step in becoming a designated subject matter expert at WSP Global.

6. Segment the audience to provide customized messaging

Digital marketers use audience segmentation to understand customers and deliver targeted campaigns that speak to each group’s unique needs. Leading community programs leverage this same technique to engage different types of members. Just as consumers are more likely to click an ad that targets their interests, employees are more likely to respond to community marketing that aligns with their role, knowledge needs or patterns of behavior.

Many community programs tailor their outreach and communications to different regional audiences, especially where language and cultural barriers impede participation. Organizations target regional audiences with virtual events that work for their time zones, explicitly solicit content from underrepresented groups, embed translation software into virtual community platforms and allow employees to create local-language communities where necessary.

Some community programs also segment audiences by role, function or other characteristics. For example, professional services firm Accenture’s community program crafts outreach strategies targeted to each subset of the workforce. One initiative aims to improve thought leadership access for the organization’s managing directors as they prepare for client discussions. Another initiative targets high-potential employees for an outreach program that encourages them to participate in communities and drive collaboration.

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