Solutions For More Community At Work?
CrunkCreeper writes “I work at a tier-2 hosting company (SAP, web servers, Citrix, databases, etc.). I started working at this location two years ago in January. The company had anywhere from 20-30 other employees, and now we are just over 100. People with all different IT experience are employed. At one end of the spectrum, you have accounting, billing, and sales. At the other end you have the help desk, analysts, and engineers. In the past we were hiring mainly people in their 20s, and now we’re hiring more senior people in their 30s and 40s. Incidentally with our expanded demographic and recently aggressive hiring, people are not as familiar with each other as they used to be. This happens to some extent and will continue to happen more the larger our company grows, but I would like to curb the corporate feel a bit. I’m trying to bring family or community feel back to the company. The reason for this need is that great ideas are normally discussed in non-formal environments. Beside this fact, I want people to genuinely have more fun and decrease the sometimes uncomfortable discussions with ‘that guy’ from ‘that department.’ Being an IT company, I find it more natural for collaboration via computer, but welcome more traditional methods too. How does your company keep or build a community environment using technology?” Read on for some more on how it works at CrunkCreeper’s workplace, and give suggestions for how to make things better.
IRC — We have used a dedicated IRC server from the start, and it helps out tremendously when people use it (the Linux folks use it heavily), but it doesn’t entice a vast majority of the employees. It’s used mainly for BS’ing, but also becomes a very important tool when things are awry.
Facebook — Most people are on Facebook, but obviously there are details about the company that cannot be discussed, which is an issue since most of these profiles are public and it is a somewhat common practice to be friends with some clients.
Exchange 2007 — E-mail is the main source of communication, but can’t it be painful sometimes? Everyone on the IT side receives alerts about tickets and other automated checks of systems. On any given day I generally receive 100+ alert messages. When we’re not reading our filtered alerts into specified folders, general discussion about projects and fixing issues usually is anywhere from 20-60 messages a day. Quite honestly, I’m sick of e-mail and don’t wish to get any more of it. I know a lot of you feel the same way.
Phone — Just using the ol’ phone is the other primary way of communicating with the customer, but not ideal for communicating ideas with others at the same time. We have bridges, but they’re only used for conferences with customers.
Company Meetings — We have these a few times a year. They’re fully catered and consist of introducing the new people, talking about new contracts, and congratulating others on successful implementations . These generally last about an hour or so at the end of the workday. Unfortunately dedicating to these meetings is not the easiest on people’s schedules, especially the help desk, and is not an open forum.
There are forms of collaboration that I have been thinking of. To list some, there is phpBB, Elgg, Jabber (discussed a few times before), and Google Wave (hard to push currently). Personally I think that a closed social networking platform would be ideal, where ideas can be posted and read at any time. Tell me what you think of these ideas, if there are more suitable solutions, or what you use at work.”