Companies who are looking for a more successful way for employees to communicate and collaborate, both in work-related areas and others, will benefit tremendously from internal communities. Internal communities are intended and designed to keep communication smooth and transform work relationships.
These communities vary in their purpose and therefore in their community managers’ responsibilities. Sometimes employees need to unify in exchange of ideas to tackle a project, and so they would benefit from either a community of practice or a community of purpose.
Or maybe they are coming together to bond over shared hobbies or other areas of interest, and can gain from a community of interest.
Or maybe per chance, they are seeking connection based on their identity, be it religious, ethnic, racial, or sexual orientation.
These members might seek an internal community of circumstance. Although there are other internal communities, these 4 are the most common, and many organizations have already thought about or actualized putting them into practice.
Communities of Practice
The first type of internal community are communities of practice. These communities are usually comprised of employees who share the same position, or are in the same department and they each have learned valuable information on the job.
The community gives them a formal way to share their proficiencies or new info. Every organization strives to be one that cultivates learning and growth, both as a goal in itself and to make the company run more smoothly.
Part of this entails streamlining knowledge management processes in an organized way. In this community, the community manager has the distinct responsibility of establishing knowledge sharing mechanisms on one hand, and simultaneously creating a culture that is based on trust, openness, and safety.
One company who put this into practice is Mitsubishi. Members meet both to exchange technical knowledge and to collaborate to find solutions to issues. The main objective of communities of practice is to allow a formal space in organizations to streamline a knowledge base and enable knowledge sharing and retention.
It has become commonplace in companies because its benefits are evident and widespread.
Communities of Interest
Next we’ve got communities of interest, groups that encourage intra-organizational relationships.
These groups are based on shared passions or hobbies between employees, areas of interest not related to their shared work.
There is a strong need in organizations to create strong and meaningful connections among the employees, based on additional interests in common.
This brings a lighthearted and informal aspect to the workplace atmosphere, and increases employees’ affiliations with their colleagues.
In the community of interest, it is the community manager’s responsibility to be familiar with the community focus and to vet community membership so all members truly share the same passion. Although in many contexts the word ‘gatekeep’ might have negative connotations, in this setting it is a necessity; as the common denominator of the group is the interest itself. In this type of group, the interest is the common link, so it is important to preserve that and make sure everyone joining group has the same shared passion.
At Deloitte, employees are offered a chance to join different clubs, such as: badminton club, basketball club, yoga club, qigong club, climbing club, photography club, and more.
They proved to the rest of the corporate world that the inclusion of communities of interest in their company can make all the difference.
Communities of Circumstance
A major component of the last half a century has been the societal awareness of diversity and inclusion.
The workplace too saw a major shift in this area where more and more companies have implemented diversity training into their regularly scheduled programming.
One other area this awareness has impacted has been internal communities.
With the rise in awareness of the importance of inclusivity and diversity, organizations also created communities of circumstance, formal groups on the basis of various identities.
Communities of circumstance can include LGBTQ groups or ethnic minorities.
These groups come together to overcome workplace bias, promote inclusion, and share their voices with one another.
All workplaces can benefit from greater inclusivity and all employees feeling a stronger sense of belonging, especially minorities, and this community fills that need perfectly.
The community manager’s responsibility is to create a safe and welcoming environment that supports the members’ needs and to create company-wide programs to promote diversity and increase inclusion. LinkedIn is one of many companies who have excelled in this area, creating a Black Inclusion Group, an “EnableIn” for employers with disabilities, Out@In” for LGBTQ+ and ally employees, Veterans at LinkedIn and more.
As LinkedIn is one of the most employee-focused companies in the U.S. this isn’t surprising, and their results speak for themselves.
In the internal community of circumstance, the idea is support for inclusion and minorities, but not creating separation from other employees. Though this balance may be hard to strike, it is essential in order for the communities to truly serve their purpose.
Communities of Purpose
Lastly, one of the most efficient uses of internal communities, is the community of purpose, the group united for the cause of advancing the company.
This internal community has specific organizational objectives they are aiming to meet.
The community manager of the community of purpose has the distinct responsibility of identifying and choosing employees who are committed to the cause and willing to dedicate time and effort to the organization. They are passionate about their goal and goal-driven. For this reason, the objective needs to be attainable; a target that employees can reach with hard work.
Besides for community managers, the members are also responsible to motivate, teach, and inspire each other. As Meghan Gill, community manager of MongoDB puts it, “ As community managers, we can’t be everywhere at all times. We need leaders to step up and educate new members, sharing their experience and expertise.”
There are many diverse reasons why internal communities have taken off the way they have.
It is the type of asset that nearly any company can benefit from. From the community of purpose’s contribution to employee branding, all the way to the community of circumstance positively changing diversity and inclusion forever, there truly is ‘something for everyone.’
Depending on the organization’s goal, they will choose different internal communities to focus on and invest in, although each type has significant benefits, even when it is not always obvious from the onset.
Besides for the ideals and goals, companies also have needs that will also determine which internal communities will be of greatest use.
There is a reason many businesses have both knowingly and unknowingly implemented internal communities, and there is sufficient evidence to recommend it to any and every organization.