By Gloria Lombardi

Enter Buzz, the Sitrion– and SharePoint-based platform that is enabling ING Group to collaborate across borders and levels. The Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation started its enterprise social network (ESN) journey three years ago.

Social Media Communications Advisor Marvin der Meer, shares techniques that led over 15,000 colleagues to use the ESN every day.

Being digitally literate

In 2012, der Meer worked on an internal campaign called ‘Productive Collaboration – Work smarter, not harder.’ Its aim was to help the workforce become more digitally literate, while also using Buzz actively. “Helping colleagues to learn how to use the platform was a small part of the whole initiative. Our goal was larger. We wanted to encourage collaboration and working out loud. Indeed, the campaign fitted well with the mechanics of the enterprise social network.”

Follow the energy

Setting an example was crucial. It is about “eating your own dog food. We started being very active, commenting, sharing, interacting and inviting others to do the same.”

However, der Meer also says “don’t waste too much time with people who don’t like working collaboratively. We decided to focus on colleagues who supported the new ways of working. Ultimately, they were able to convert the less enthusiastic.”

‘Productive Collaboration – Work smarter, not harder’ involved different activities with a group of 50 champions. “We called them ‘Collaborators’. We gave them plenty of training to become even more confident in what they were doing.”

der Meer also paid a lot of attention to community management. For example, “we organised off-line sessions for community managers and owners called ‘Community Challenges’. These meetings involved each person sitting in front of the rest of the group in turns. Faced with a community management problem, he or she will share their challenge with the audience. Then, everyone else in the room will give them one of their best pieces of advice.”

Gamification has its own weight too

“Badges can spark motivation in using the tool. They work very well in terms of recognition.” When employees join Buzz for the first time and begin building their own profiles, they get the badge ‘Starter’ on their timeline. If they are “talkative, contribute to conversations and add value to their communities” they become ‘Scout’. From there, they can advance to the ‘Innovator’ level. Finally, if they are truly social, they receive ‘Guru’ status. “Gurus take part in many different interactions, build and drive communities, do a lot of networking and are role-models to others. Gurus usually tend to be massively helpful in helping the business to grow.”

Freedom with purpose

der Meer believes that Buzz should allow freedom. “That is why, for example, anyone can create a community. We have about 1100 of them today.”

Yet, a community should have a single defined purpose. “For example, if you want to inspire dialogue on a specific topic, make it very clear and easy to understand what the interactions in that group are all about.”

That framed purpose should also be connected to “the business needs that are already there, and would be there even without social.” That at least is what drives engagement on Buzz. For example, project managers are embracing the community-based concept very enthusiastically. “They need to constantly update each other or organise agendas. In the end, project management is all about communications and interactions. Buzz is enabling all of that.”

We eat every day…

der Meer shares a light, yet interesting example to explain why a community should have a single and specific objective. “Once, I was looking at Buzz’s metrics. I realised there was a huge activity around a regional community. Since it was a closed group, I asked the owner if I could see the content and the activity happening in there. Ultimately, I found out that all this movement was just about checking the canteen menu!”

Of course, people eat every day. Because the menu was available only on that community, colleagues were more than willing to come back every day. “A simple, yet clear need kept the group alive.”

Being Agile

Another popular group is the Agile Community. Being an agile organisation is something embedded within ING business strategy. It is about encouraging a working practice where teams are allowed to work flexibly and smarter, adapt to change rapidly and achieve short-term successes.

The Agile Community is working to teach and promote the practice across the company. “Agile coaches use the group to exchange their knowledge.” Since they have different expertise and experiences around the topic, collaborating together becomes an indispensible exercise to keep updated, while updating others. On Buzz they develop the agile adoption guidelines, “a document that serves as a point of reference for anyone interested in the subject.”

More on sales

Collaborating on the platform and working out loud should ultimately lead to the achievement of concrete business results. “That is exactly what Buzz is letting us do, while speeding up the process of everyday communication.”

An example comes from the Sales community. A Sales Manager in region A had a problem with selling product ‘X’. Yet, he had to achieve a given target if he wanted to succeed. He posted his problem on the community. Several Sales and Marketing colleagues reacted upon his post immediately. Among them, a Sales Manager from region B, unknown to him until that moment, gave him an invaluable piece of advice: “sell product ‘X’ in combination with product ‘Y’.”

With that tip, the Sales Manager in region A did not achieve his target, he doubled it!

Put Jams in your agenda, and vice versa

Running Jams on Buzz has helped leaders to open up dialogue with employees at all levels and across borders. The company hosts the web-chats after important leadership meetings. The aim is to involve staff with what leaders are working on, while letting them take part in shaping the direction of the company.

“Jams can be instrumental in promoting transparency and a flatter culture. Plus, capturing staff feelings.”

But, to run them successfully two things must be ensured: “First, that management is really interested in listening to employees and reacting on their inputs. Second, that staff themselves are ready to ask relevant questions, and willing to express their ideas openly.”

The future of co-creation is OrangeSharing Place

Beside Buzz, der Meer is now working on OrangeSharing Place, a new Atlassian-based platform that is “all about co-creation, replication and virtual collaboration.” OrangeSharing Place was introduced in July.

When asked about why introducing a second tool, the answer is immediate and firm: “This platform has a clear and single purpose. While Buzz is and will remain the standard ESN for social collaboration and co-talking across the organisation, there is a need for a place where we can co-create standards and replicate best practices for IT and business problems. That is what OrangeSharing Place will enable us to do.”


This article originally appeared on simply-communicate