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HR means community building! – How to build and maintain an internal community – or two, or 20.

(Employee Communities – Part 2. Get prepared by reading Part 1 here.)

Innovation comes from the community – this was the experience of the Danish company Lego in the late 1990s. Today, 20 years later, we are all naturally active in communities – in social networks, for example. In coworking spaces, good community management has long been regarded as one of the strongest quality criteria. People with digital mindsets are community minded; they think openly and networked oriented.

And what about companies?

If they want to win these people over, they should do the same and rely on networking! By allowing, enabling and – even better – actively promoting the development of employee communities, they open up completely new opportunities for internal interaction, knowledge transfer, and recruiting.

Knowledge Transfer: Training through Community

How community building and a lively transfer of knowledge are connected is demonstrated in areas where networked working and learning are part of the business DNA, such as in coworking spaces.

Coworking communities draw their appeal from the heterogeneity of their members,” explains Katja Thiede, founder and Community Manager of juggleHUB Coworking. “In coworking spaces, connectedness is first created through the sharing of infrastructure and a similar way of living and working. The task of community management is to create formats that stimulate exchange among members. Only then can the full creative potential of the group be seen. Companies can do the same, for example to initiate cross-functional learning.”

Tobias Kremkau, coworking manager at Sankt Oberholz, also swears by the community effect: “Everyone (…) has a different view of the same problem. This personal view is shaped by age, background, gender, education and (…) previous experiences. So the most obvious solution for a person is perhaps one that someone else would never come up with themselves.”

Mentoring, job rotation, tandems and other forms of networked learning and working create the best conditions for finding creative solutions to complex problems. At the same time, employees can continue to develop in an environment of openness and networking in order to participate in a rapidly changing world of work. It will therefore be an even more important task for companies in the future to create space for community-based knowledge transfer and to encourage employees to make use of it.

Smart software solutions will help people to get started in social learning. Even smarter tools take a bottom-up approach; i.e., they are designed in such a way that all employees can use them actively right from the start and without “instructions from above.” In this way, a community can grow organically out of the workforce and new colleagues can easily hop in.

Recruiting in the Community: Connectivity First!

Speaking of new colleagues: The old pattern in which a position in a company has been clearly defined and the HR department has to find someone who fits exactly has become obsolete. Job profiles are becoming more dynamic, changing faster and faster. Now and in the future, companies must focus much more on attracting people who fit into the team and the community, and, at the same time, have certain skills.

Learning Experience Designer Ellen Herschel sums it up in an interview with us: “You can be as fit as you want to be with digital tools and complex processes – in the end it’s decisive whether and how you can work together with people who have different experiences and lifestyles.

The good thing is that the community also acts as a recruiter. Networked thinking and acting change the way companies recruit new employees. “Recruiting through Community” complements the classic application process. After all, the teams themselves know best what skills are needed and who fits into their community. These insights, in turn, are gold for the HR employees in the company. Their task is to keep an eye on all the communities, to know their needs, and to align internal and external communication with them – classic community management. Whether all the required skills are available in the company depends on how well HR is networked across all areas and knows the people who work there. And that goes far beyond the application and hiring process. Keeping good people, connecting them with others, and promoting their further development requires taking an interest in them and getting to know them – and doing so continuously!

But does so much community leave time for “real work?”

Absolutely! Communities are very efficient, they often find solutions faster than individuals. The words of American writer, professor and civil rights activist Maya Angelou also (especially) apply to companies in times of digital transformation: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

How To: Internal Community Building in 5 Steps:

  1. The question of WHY: Why do we want to work in a more networked way? What do we hope to gain from this? What kind of networking do we need?
  2. Good tools & good coffee: Create space and opportunities for all employees to simply get in touch with each other.
  3. HR as a community manager: Actively establish connections between employees.
  4. Visibility: Tell the stories of successful networking on all channels.
  5. Stick with it: Stay open and interested. It takes a lifetime to really get to know yourself – and others!

This is the second part of our mini-series on “Employee Communities.” Click here to read part 1. Don’t want to miss an article? Then register directly for our newsletter!

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