Can participation be mandated into communities. Yes…most of all when it’s not communities

Summary : organizations have to face a real issue about  managing their communities : making the system work without mandating. unfortunately there’s no alternative : communities rely on voluntary service. But there are two possible options. The first is, since it’s impossible to mandate participation, to tackle what prevent people from participating. The second is to wonder if the group in question is a community…and adapt rules accordingly.

Many organizations that try to harness the power of internal communities wonder if participation can be made mandatory. But they already know the answer : participation into communities rely on voluntary service and the best they can do is to create the conditions that will make employees feel like participating and understand how important it is.

There’s also  another lever. That’s not because participation can”t be mandated that it’s impossible to fight against what prevents people from participating. It’s obvious that many factors exist in the workplace that incite people not to participate. Job description,  goals, evaluations…are, among many others, strong signals saying “focus on your job, don’t put you at risk by joining this stuff”. Then, even before inciting people to play the game, rather start with what tells them not to. I remember people from financial group Hypoport speaking at the last Enterprise 2.0 Summit quoting their CEO : “wiki time is work time…”.

Then, remember that many of the communities organizations want to make emerge (I’m not talking about user generated communities) are not communities. So they don’t have to respect the art of managing communities. When your community has the same scope has an operational entity (team, department) and is supposed to be used to perform daily tasks through better collaboration coordination etc… so it’s a workspace, rather a socialized workspace. Since then, its rules are the team’s. What would you say to the sales representative who would refuse to use the CRM, the accountant that refuses to use the accounting software ?

The success of such group does not rely on content generation or of a community manager that would interfer with the real manager. It needs a model that fits employees needs, tools that fit in this model and some consistency into management. I remember of a director who said “the era of emails send to the whole department is over…everyhting has to be be shared in our new space. Same for the ideas I’m submitted, competitive watching, best practices etc…. This is also the only place where I’ll talk to you and answer questions that my interest everybody. It will also makes it easier for me to assess how collaborative and supportive each of you will be toward his colleagues in a transparent and factual way”. Let me tell you that “adoption” happened very fast. Of course, in the tool’s terminology, this group was a community but he knew that it was nothing but the way to fluidify his team’s daily operations.

A community will always rely on voluntary service. But are you sure what you’re setting up is a community ? Do you think it’s a part of people daily work to perform tasks that are part of their job description ? If so, that’s not a community, what does not mean that tools and operating models can’t be changed. Do you think it’s a voluntary contribution in addition to people’s “official” work ? This is a community and can be managed as such.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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