Benefits of Internal Employee Blogs

Posted by Brett Young | Friday, October 31, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

I work for a Fortune 500 company with nearly 30,000 employees scattered across the U.S. We have been experimenting with internal employee blogs for a couple of years. However, to date only senior business leaders have been allowed to have a blog. These popular sites have gone a long way toward improving transparancy and providing a way for the masses to provide feedback. We’re now on the cusp of deciding whether or not to open up internal blogging to every employee.

To be clear, these are internal blogs. They would be accessible only to employees and contractors inside the firewall. Although the capability would be made available to all employees, we assume that a large majority would never actually make the effort to create a personal blog. And, of those that do, only a small percentage will ever attract much of a following. Even so, there are a number of people, mostly business leaders, who have a hard time grasping why we would even consider letting any employee write his or her own blog. After all, how is letting our employees blog going to reduce expense or increase revenue?

  • Publish content instantly and efficiently. Sure, there’s always email. However, email lacks context. Whether it is a line manager who needs to get the word out to his team or a thought leader who wants to float a new idea while its fresh, there is power in self publishing.
  • Capture and search knowledge that would otherwise only exist in the heads of our people. There’s a lot of knowledge burried in email. Unfortunately, it is completely useless to everyone except the person who happens to have a copy. Even for them, its unlikely they will find it when they need it. Email retention policies and quotas result in deleting messages that still have residual value. When an employee leaves a company, his or her email account is deleted within days of their leaving, and a long with it, the embedded knowledge. Blogs, on the other hand, are accessible to and searchable by everyone in the company. The knowledge contained in a blog could remain as long as people are accessing it regularly, even when the original owner has long since left.
  • Provide a communication platform for thought leaders, regardless of where they are in the official corporate hierarchy. As I mentioned, only a few leaders at the top of the food chain have the privilige of blogging in our company today. This sends the message that we have a traditional, top-down hierarchy. To our people, it can appear that we don’t value the thoughts and ideas of people unless they happen to be an executive. By opening up blogging to the masses, that all changes. Thought leaders will emerge from any level in the corporate hierarchy. What matters is the value of their ideas, not the size of their pay check.
  • Build internal, business related communities of interest that would not otherwise exist. People naturally converge around known likenesses. In a large organization, even the most unusual interests are shared with several other people. Until now, finding those people has been next to impossible. In my own experience there are people scattered throughout our company who are passionate about collaborative technology. Most of them have no idea what’s happening in this space and who is on point. If they had an idea, they wouldn’t know who to contact. By writing a blog, I could begin to biuld a community of interest around collaborative technology. I could share ideas and expect truthful feedback from people were previously invisible to me.
  • Allow people to market themselves internally, demonstrate the value they have to offer, and gain status and exposure. We all have the responsibility of marketing ourselves. In the past, each person’s potential sphere of influence was limited by their position in the corporate hierarchy and geographic location. With a blog, smart people can market themselves and their successes much more broadly. However, they need to be careful. No one likes a self-promoting bragger.
  • Allow people to subscribe to the blogs that interest them through an RSS reader. Thanks to syndicated content, we don’t need to visit our ten favorite of blogs looking for new posts. Instead we can monitor our favorite blogs efficiently through a single RSS news reader.
  • Create an efficient feedback loop between the blogger and readers/subscribers. A blog is not a broadcast, it is a dialog. Blog feedback is a gift. By putting an idea out in the open, a blogger opens herself or himself to feedback from the masses. Almost all feedback has some value, even negative feedback.
  • Support openness and transparency when any employees are empowered with the ability to publish content. The executives in our company who post to their own blogs have received extremely positive feedback from their staffs. Employees feel like they now have a direct line to the business leader instead of waiting for messages to trickle down and morph through the management layers. They know that the business leader will read and respond to their comments in public. Almost no front line employee would dare send an email to a CxO. However, commenting on that CxO’s blog feels much less threatening. This sense of openness and transparency grows exponentially when all employees are allowed to blog. Suddenly I’m able to benefit from the ideas of a person across the country who happens to be in a completely different business unit.
  • Encourage people to blog internally instead of externally, where the risks to would be much higher. Okay, I know. I’m blogging externally. Ideally, however, we would always prefer employees to blog internally, as opposed to on the Internet. We want to secure our intellectual capital and ensure that our best interests are protected. Most employees will find that an internal blog will satisfy their need to share and build a following. Without an internal option, however, more people will turn to public blogging.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve still not answered the question of how letting our employees blog will reduce expense or increase revenue? I can’t do that, at least in terms of hard dollars. In my experience, however, the costs and risks are low enough to stand up to soft benefits.

Are there benefits I missed? Have you been built a business case for employee blogging on hard benefits?

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