We hear it all the time:
We value our employees. Our employees are our best resources. Our company culture is what makes us unique.
But what does this look like in practice? How can companies build great internal communities for their employees, members or suppliers? And most importantly, how can internal communities help keep employees active and engaged while remote?
After hosting our own virtual internal community event with Team Building, we were inspired to put together a guide to cultivating a great internal community, no matter where your community members are. We’ve collected the best tips from the CMX community to show you how it’s done!
Our Internal Community Experts
Thanks to our panel of internal community builders for sharing their tips:
- Alexandra Bowen, Community Programs Manager at Google
- April Uzarski, Senior Tech Community Manager at Xandr
- James Sinclair, Principal at EnterpriseAlumni
- Ann-Marie Pawlicki Dinkel, Event Manager at CMX/Bevy
Photo credit: Tiny Campfire by Team Building
1. Define Your Internal Community’s Values
It may sound counterintuitive, but: Your internal community’s values do not have to be exactly the same as your company’s values. Yes, they should feel aligned, but the values and guidelines for internal communities should ultimately be informed by members, just like any other community. And don’t forget to revisit those values as the community grows.
“A community without values is just a collection of people walking around — or actually, a collection of people never coming back. One of the greatest examples among EnterpriseAlumni customers is the P&G Alumni Network, who through their foundation have raised millions of dollars around the shared desire to economically empower individuals in need to achieve financial independence.” –James Sinclair, EnterpriseAlumni
2. Pay Attention to your Induction Process
How do you introduce new employees to your company? Whenever possible, introduce new employees through interactive events, rather than just welcoming them via Slack or email. Beyond sharing standard information like role and location, some of our favorite prompts to really get to know new community members include:
- What do you like to do in your down time?
- Who would you interview if you had your own late-night talk show?
- What movie protagonist do you most identify with?
- Share a picture of yourself that tells an interesting story
“We have a dedicated monthly Community and Learning & Growth onboarding session to share what resources our global employees have available to them, and to get them excited about engaging with us. The onboarding program is under two years old, but it’s proven integral to bolstering our team’s brand and has resulted in a more engaged and healthier community.” –April Uzarski, Xandr
3. Communication Counts
How do you want to communicate with your virtual internal community? Do you want to send HQ email updates, have a fun newsletter, or send notification via messenger? Whatever the means, stick to it! Have a communication cadence plan available for reference. Find your “voice,” and encourage members to engage.
“We have two specific times we communicate with our community every week. Every Monday, our organization receives a community and learning newsletter update from our team. Then, every Thursday, we run a divisive but fun poll via Slack. The weekly touchpoints have become so popular that community members will often submit articles for our poll questions and newsletters! We communicate in more informal ways throughout the week as needed, but these two touchpoints have built the consistency people crave.” –April Uzarski, Xandr
4. Use Virtual Technology
Let’s face it, it’s hard to get too excited about another Zoom meeting. But the good news is, there have never been more options for virtual events for internal communities. Company socials are a fun and engaging way for teams who don’t work together to interact and learn something new about their co-workers.
Explore platforms that let you mix up your use of virtual space. Getting ready to throw your annual holiday party? Try:
- Playing a fun, holiday-themed welcome video at the start of the event
- Streaming a movie night for the whole company to watch
- Live-streaming fun, interactive acts, like making hot chocolate
- Hosting themed networking tables or roulette breakouts for employees to meet each other
- Building VR booths for employees to “walk through” winter wonderlands
“Finding the right events technology is key. That’s why we built Bevy Virtual — to create virtual events that would actually build community. For our internal event, I needed to enlist some outside help. So, I turned to a vendor called Team Building, and it was SO MUCH FUN! They mailed out s’mores kits, hosted a scavenger hunt, and told scary stories. It was a great event and spirits were high!” – Ann-Marie Pawlicki Dinkel Event Manager at Bevy
RSVP for CMX’s Winter Soiree on Bevy Virtual for even more examples of virtual social events in action!
5. Create Space for Recognition
Whether you decide to do this weekly, monthly, annually, or all of the above, make space for anyone in your virtual internal community to recognize the great work a team member does! Send small notes, host weekly peer shoutouts, host an annual awards ceremony — the options are endless. Making recognition a key part of your community will show appreciation, and lead to stronger community bonds.
“It’s important to encourage, empower and reward prosocial contributions by giving members tools to build better communities and the opportunity to reinforce those behaviors. This is as important as empowering folks to correct/report bad behaviors through moderation tactics. Building reward mechanisms like badges, reactions, award systems, power user communities, curated content, featured users, gamification, and more can and should be incorporated.” –Alexandra Bowen, Google
6. Ask for Feedback
As community professionals, we understand the importance of feedback. Establishing trust is key for all communities, so be patient and cultivate transparency, open discussion, radical candor and feedback. When you truly take into account what your community needs, you will be well on your way to building successful virtual internal communities
“In some cases, just qualitative feedback is not enough. I feel very grateful that at Google I have resources and work with a fantastic UX team that helps me to ask good questions and ensure my studies are conducted with integrity, are statistically significant, and respect the user. Research and feedback can give you insights into user sentiment (what your members think and say), feature feedback (needs, problems, usability, opportunities), and behavior (what members do and how they use your community or program).” –Alexandra Bowen, Google
Building a community of internal employees and vendors to deepen engagement deserves recognition. Vote in CMX’s Community Industry Awards for these and other great community professionals! Voting closes 12/23.