The Social Enterprise Blog

Finding Expertise

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on May 07, 2014

Part 10 of the Social Business For Real Work series


The Challenge

In large, and even mid-sized, companies it is often difficult to find the right person who can contribute their expertise to a particular project or task. Few organizations maintain an up-to-date record of the key skills of employees, and even if they do, this is usually too broad and superficial to be of real use.

The Social Business Advantage

An Enterprise Social Network provides a variety of ways of finding expertise within an organisation.

  • Member profiles provide employees a mechanism for describing their skills and knowledge, enabling other members to search for relevant people.
  • Narrating your work not only tells everyone what each employee is working on now, it provided a searchable archive of what they have worked on in the past
  • Communities of interest bring together employees who have expertise in a particular subject with those who want to learn more about it.
  • Content rating allows members to provide feedback on the contributions of other members, enabling the most valued participants in discussions to be identified and rewarded.


Brad has a sales opportunity at a large multi-national healthcare company. The potential customer has a number of questions about how the products being proposed conform to a variety of different regulations in countries across the world. This is an area that neither Brad nor his immediate circle of contacts have much experience in, so he searches through the network members in the hope of finding someone with more knowledge of the subject.

As the company encourages all members to complete detailed profiles, including experience gain in previous jobs, Brad quickly discovers that Jessica, a relatively new recruit to the product management team, has 5 years experience working in healthcare and can provide useful insight into this subject.


The customer also has some detailed questions about data security. This is a topic that has a very active community of interest on the company social network. After a quick read through a few of the discussions, Brad notices that Ben from the product engineering team regularly gets very good content ratings for his contributions.


Checking through Ben’s weekly blog posts on his active projects, Brad sees that Ben has helped out sales with security questions on a couple of occasions in the last year. So Brad makes contact with Ben as a first step in getting the questions answered.


Make It Real

  • Encourage all network members to use their member profile a showcase of their knowledge and expertise, making it easier for other members to find them. This should include a summary of current and previous projects, and links to useful content the member has created.
  • Implement a “narrate your work” policy, asking each employee to provide a commentary (however brief) of what they are currently working on, what they’ve learned from this, and the challenges they are currently facing.
  • Encourage a culture of feedback where all network members are encouraged to give feedback on content they have used through content rating and comments. This helps identify and reward the most valued contributors to the network.

Sharing Sales Intelligence

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on April 15, 2014

Part 9 of the Social Business For Real Work series. The iPad edition of the series so far is now available in the iBooks store.


The Challenge

In order to be successful, sales teams need a good understanding of the market they are selling into, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of their competitors. But in many companies, competitive intelligence is often performed centrally by a marketing team resulting in it being rather “dry” and theoretical, lacking the real world experience that is often far more valuable. And sales teams often fail to keep up with the latest analysis, leaving them poorly equipped for competitive sales and unable to differentiate their offering effectively.

The Social Business Advantage

An enterprise social network can host a central repository of a company’s competitive intelligence, and a forum for discussion of this. Analysis can be published by the marketing team, and combined with contributions from the sales team based on discussions they have with customers and prospects, and from any other members of the company who find relevant information. The collective market knowledge can be kept current with contributions from the field teams, highlighting when certain pieces of intelligence are no longer up to date.


The marketing team has established a community for publishing and discussing competitive intelligence for the sales team. Keeping this up to date has always proved difficult in the past, so the sales team are encouraged to contribute their own experiences, however anecdotal they may be. David is responsible for curating the community, keeping the published analysis up to date, and verifying the contributions received from sales.


During a break at a prospect meeting, Brad is able to access the community from his phone, download the latest information about competitors who have been mentioned in his meeting, and check if there has been any analysis performed on a competitor he’s never heard of.

sbrw9-3   sbrw9-2

Other members of the sales team add to the discussion, and this helps David identify priorities for further analysis.

Make It Real

  • Establish a community (or communities for separate product lines/markets) for exchange of competitive intelligence.
  • Ensure that the sales teams are both consumers and contributors to the community. Their real-world experience of what prospects are really saying is often far more valuable than theoretical analysis.
  • Don’t just limit the community to sales and marketing – in many organisations a variety of other roles (such as consultants and customer service staff) also discover anecdotal competitive information. Together, these contributions form crowd-sourced market intelligence from a variety of different angles.
  • Allow free-flowing exchange of information, but appoint someone (or a small team) to curate the community. This person or team is likely to be office-based, and will check the anecdotal contributions from the field teams.
  • Ensure that out of date information is removed or clearly marked – incorrect competitive analysis can badly damage the credibility of a sales rep.

Sharing Knowledge To Deliver Better Customer Service

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on March 27, 2014

Part 8 of the Social Business For Real Work series.


The Challenge

In many organizations, customer service staff are well-equipped to deal with the most common questions from customers, but need to rely on experts from other departments to help resolve more detailed or unusual issues. Access to this expertise can be difficult because it’s not always obvious who to ask, and when the right person is found, they may not have the time to spare. As a result, resolution of complex customer issues can take a long time, leaving the customer dissatisfied.

The Social Business Advantage

An enterprise social network makes it easier to access the expertise of people in other departments by making requests for assistance openly visible to everyone. Serendipity is one of the key benefits of working in this way – anyone who has a valuable contribution to make can do so, even if they were unknown to the person who originally asked the question. By holding these discussions in an open forum within the company, this forms a valuable knowledge base, searchable by other customer service staff who may need it later.


Brenda is the customer service lead for Mobile1to1’s new software developer kit (SDK). Although she is an experienced customer service agent, and a competent programmer, she lacks detailed knowledge of the new SDK. Therefore, she needs to rely on colleagues in the product development team and professional services organization to help resolve detailed questions from developers outside the company.

To address this knowledge gap, managers of the customer service and product development teams agree to create a community in the company social network for customer service escalations. Certain members of the product development team are instructed to spend some time each day monitoring the forums in this community, but the community is open to the rest of the company to join and contribute to.

The escalations community

The escalations community

As the customer service lead for the SDK, Brenda acts as a focal point within customer service’s own community, and tries to resolve as many issues as possible within the customer service team. When she cannot do this, she creates a new discussion topic in the escalations community.

Dave from the product development team sees an escalation in his 
activity feed and replies

Dave from the product development team sees an escalation in his 
activity feed and replies

These new topics appear automatically in community members’ activity streams, and as a result Brenda normally receives a rapid response from the members of the product development team assigned to monitor the escalations forums. But when this doesn’t happen, the escalation process agreed requires Brenda to assign a task to a member of the product development team to ensure that issue is resolved.

Carmen is assigned a task by Brenda to resolve an 
unanswered escalation

Carmen is assigned a task by Brenda to resolve an 
unanswered escalation

If the assignee of the task feels someone else is better placed to answer the question, they can reassign it to a another team member. Meanwhile, Brenda can continue to monitor the status of the task to ensure it is completed.

Make It Real

    • Agree the terms of engagement between customer service and the other departments that are likely to provide assistance in resolving customer issues. While a social network allows serendipitous resolution when someone spots a question and answers, it is important to get the right people into the community in the first place to enable this serendipity.
    • Create separate escalation communities for each group of product experts, e.g. one community per product line. This avoids too many people needing to read too many questions, thereby making the process more efficient.
    • Identify the right balance between “push” and “pull” mechanisms for answering questions. Ideally, every issue would be resolved by “pull”, i.e. someone answers without being explicitly asked to. However, some questions may go unresolved in this way, so there has to be a point where a more formal “push” is required to request explicitly for a designated subject matter expert to take responsibility for providing an answer. Use tasks for these explicit calls to action, so that their completion status can be monitored.
    • Make the escalation community as open to many people as possible within the company. You never know who may have a useful contribution to make, or who might benefit from the knowledge shared.

The Customer Community

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on March 12, 2014

Part 7 of the Social Business For Real Work series.


The Challenge

The principle of creating a customer community to provide product support is well established, and most companies have some form of community now. But the quality and vibrancy of these communities is highly variable, and many suffer from being seemingly disconnected from the main customer service operation.

The Social Business Advantage

Many of the advantages of a good customer community are widely understood these days. Peer-to-peer support, where customers help each other, often delivers faster and more detailed assistance than a customer service team could offer. A vibrant, open customer community is a valuable product advertisement, demonstrating that the customer will be well-supported after purchase.
The communities should be closely integrated both with existing customer service systems (e.g. CRM) and with internal-facing employee social networks in order to allow discussion of more complex issues to pass seamlessly between participants both inside and outside the company. Private issues that have been mistakenly reported into the community can be quickly moved to CRM systems. And conversely, repeated reports of the same problem via CRM can be contributed to the community knowledge base.


Petra is the customer service lead for Mobile1to1’s mPhone 5 product, and manager of the customer community for this product. This is a public community that has been running since the product’s release a year ago. Over this time the community has built up into a valuable knowledge base for product users, with contributions from both customer service staff, and users of the product. As this is an established community, Petra’s main role is performing a little light-touch moderation to keep the community on-topic, and identifying customer-specific issues which should be redirected towards traditional CRM channels. The CRM system is accessible alongside the community discussions, making it easy for members of the community to see both at the same time.


Paul was an early mPhone 5 customer and is very active on the forums, guiding new users towards help already contributed by the community. Mobile1to1 recognise the contribution Paul makes to the community, and have invited him and a few other “community champions” to special product feedback events at their headquarters in San Francisco.

Brenda is the customer service lead for Mobile1to1’s new developer program. She creates an external community for members of the program and sends invitations to those who have enrolled in the program. As this is a new community, Brenda has to contribute a lot more in the first instance to seed the discussion and establish it as the definitive place to get questions answered.


Make It Real

  • Consider whether to host public customer communities in a hybrid internal/external network, or whether to establish a separate network solely for external communities. The correct configuration depends on the company, but is typically driven by the number of customers you would expect to host in public communities. If there are a large number of these, then a separate public network makes sense (Clearvale enables separate internal and external networks to be integrated as part of a social ecosystem). If the number of customers is relatively small, or if the communities are mostly invitation-only (like the developer program example), it is probably easier to host them on a hybrid network.
  • Articulate a clear policy for company involvement in the customer community, and ensure that this policy is followed. This sounds obvious, but many companies fail to do what they say they will, or fail to even explain their intended level of engagement. Some companies are very active in their customer community; others are almost entirely invisible, although this is far less acceptable to customers these days.
  • Identify and reward top customer contributors. The nature of the reward will vary depending on the context, and may be as simple as recognition in the community or may involve early access to products, access to product managers, or even some financial reward.
  • Establish community behaviour guidelines and moderate discussion with care. The community is clearly far more valuable for everyone if it stays polite and on-topic. But preventing or deleting any sort of dissent angers customers immensely and is likely to drive members to other, less regulated, less constructive parts of the internet.
  • Use social media presence to guide customers towards the public communities, as these provide a much better environment than Facebook, Twitter, etc for resolving all but the simplest questions.

Delivering and Discussing an RFP Response

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on March 06, 2014

Part 6 of the Social Business For Real Work series


(see also the previous article in the series, “Managing an RFP Response“)

The Challenge

These days, responses to requests for proposals (RFPs) are increasingly large and sophisticated, often consisting of a wide range of rich media. This makes traditional delivery mechanisms such as email and hard-copy more and more inappropriate. And the process of the recipient requesting clarification from the vendor is typically slow and inefficient, involving several people from each side communicating via single points of contact in order to maintain an audit trail of discussions.

The Social Business Advantage

A private community in an enterprise social network is an ideal way for a vendor to present their response to a prospective customer’s requirements. It enables the detailed textual response to the RFP to be presented alongside supporting rich media such as videos and presentations. It allows the vendor to present the team working with the prospect, and to establish broader lines of communication between the vendor and buyer. By focusing all communication in a single place, it makes it easier for new additions to the vendor or customer’s teams to catch up quickly, and provides a ready-made audit trail of post-response discussions and clarifications.


The Mobile1to1 social network is a Clearvale “hybrid network” enabling both internal and external communities to be securely hosted in the same environment. Brad has worked with others in the company to prepare a response to an RFP from UKTechCo (see previous article). Now he creates a new external community for the delivery of the RFP. He lays out the content of the response, a series of supporting videos and presentations, and introduces the team who worked on different parts of the response.


When this is complete, he invites Ava, his contact from the prospective customer to join the community. She becomes a “guest” in the Mobile1to1 network. Ava requests that Jamie and Millie are also added to the community – this is something that Brad controls as owner of the community, because as a security safeguard, company policy prevents guests inviting more guests.

Once the UKTechCo team have downloaded and read the RFP, they have a number of questions which require clarification. These are posted as comments on the relevant section of the response. Brad assigns tasks to the other members of the Mobile1to1 team to ensure they these questions are answered rapidly. These tasks also provide an opportunity for private discussion between the Mobile1to1 team about how best to answer the questions.


Mobile1to1 are invited to present their response in person. After the meeting, follow-up actions are managed in the community, ensuring that all communication is consolidated in one place. These discussions lead to more people from both Mobile1to1 and UKTechCo becoming involved in negotiations. These new additions can quickly get up to speed on discussions so far by reading through the comments in the community.

For final negotiation of commercial terms, a second community with reduced membership is created to ensure confidentiality of topics that are not appropriate to be shared with all members of the respective teams.

Make It Real

  • When creating external facing communities, make sure the access controls of content within the community is set correctly, and that no internal-only content or discussion is allowed to “spill” into external communities.
  • Encourage everyone on both the vendor and customer side to keep all communication within the community, to avoid discussion being fragmented by email. With all discussion in one place, it’s easier to see what has happened, and for new additions to either the vendor or customer team to catch up.
  • Help the customer understand the benefit of delivering an RFP in this way. Some companies may find this unconventional and be initially uncomfortable. It would, of course, be counter-productive to lose a deal by insisting on communicating in a way that the customer does not like. But equally, this approach demonstrates a more modern, enlightened way of customer communication, and many customers will welcome this.
  • Also consider the inverse of this example – where the buying company requires all vendors to submit their RFPs to a private community in a social network owned by the buyer. Here there is a much greater opportunity to insist on delivering responses in this way as the buyer can refuse to accept submissions delivered in other ways. Few vendors will endanger a deal by refusing to join the network.
  • If the deal is closed, continue using similar techniques for post-sale account management communication.

Managing An RFP Response

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on February 27, 2014

Part 5 of the Social Business For Real Work series


The Challenge

Business-to-business sales teams often have to create detailed responses to RFPs (requests for proposals) and need to draw upon knowledge from across the company at very short notice. Managing this process by email is tedious and error-prone, with team members either being overloaded with updates from other members, or lacking important information. The result is a slower process and lower quality result that should be achieved.

The Social Business Advantage

An enterprise social network provides an ideal place to coordinate all the activities for the RFP response. A clear list of roles and responsibilities can be published, and each contribution to the response is accessible to all team members to review. When additional people need to join the team, they can quickly catch up on progress so far. Tasks enable the sales manager to keep track of who has completed their deliverables, and mobile access to the network enables them to stay in touch with the process even while they are out at other customer meetings.


Brad is the Sales Director for Europe. He has a large sales opportunity, but needs to submit an RFP response in two weeks. The RFP has a lot of detailed technical questions which the European team is not able to answer, so he needs help from the product team in the US. He also needs help in constructing a pricing structure for the deal, and approval from the Finance team for this structure to ensure it meets compliance requirements. Brad creates a community dedicated to the RFP response. The customer has requested that information in the RFP is circulated within the company on a need-to-know basis, so the community is set to only be accessible to invited members. Brad publishes the RFP documentation, and background information about the prospect. He divides up the work, assigning tasks to people he needs assistance from. Carmen, the VP of Products delegates the task assigned to her to one of her product managers, Sergei, who is added to the community. sbrw5-1 As each member of the team submits their contribution, Brad reviews it and posts comments where any further work is required. Finally, he constructs the final response, and submits it to his manager and the VP of Finance for approval before it is sent out to the prospect. sbrw5-2

Make It Real

  • Create a community for each major RFP response. Where the same team is working on multiple RFPs from the same company, it probably makes sense to have a single community for all of them. But handling all RFP responses in a single sales community is unlikely to be efficient as it will probably lead to a large amount of activity that not all community members are interested in.
  • Make the community visible to as wide an audience as customer confidentiality allows. In the example above, the customer requested that information was treated on a need-to-know basis, but this is relatively unusual. Opening the RFP community to a wider audience within the company enables more people to benefit from the knowledge shared in creation of this response. It also increases the chances of valuable serendipitous input from people outside the RFP team.
  • Ensure that all documentation relating to the RFP is shared with the community, and that everyone who is contributing to or reviewing the response is invited as a member.
  • Publish the list of who’s doing what prominently in the community. Also create tasks with due dates for each assignment.
  • Ensure that all review feedback is submitted in the community as a comment on the relevant file. Don’t accept feedback outside the community, e.g. via email, as this fragments the discussion and makes it hard to follow.
  • When the final RFP response is completed, ensure it is published in the community for future reference.
  • If the deal is won, create a separate community for account management activities – don’t muddle pre-sale RFP response work with and post-sale account management together in the same community.

Align Sales and Marketing

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on February 21, 2014

Part 4 of the Social Business For Real Work series


The Challenge

Sales and Marketing departments in large companies (and even not-so-large ones) often fail to communicate as effectively as they should. Marketing teams work on promotions and launch them without informing Sales, while Sales fail to give marketing insight into their pipeline. In the worst cases, this leads to mistrust between the teams and differing priorities.

The Social Business Advantage

An enterprise social network provides an environment where sales and marketing can exchange knowledge and details about their current projects. But it needs to be accompanied by a real desire to collaborate across departments. Marketing should give sales greater insight into work-in-progress, and actively solicit input from Sales. Sales should provide regular feedback on how the marketing messages are received by customers and prospects and on changes and additions to the library of marketing collateral.
Sales teams who are often out of the office are able to access the latest marketing material and contribute to the discussion of new material via mobile devices.


Carol in the Marketing team has been tasked with improving the flow of information between the corporate marketing team in the US, and the sales teams in US, Europe and Asia. While the US team has usually kept up to date with the latest marketing messages because they work in the same office, the European and Asian teams have often continued using out-of-date material, and regularly complain about new promotions being launched on the global website which they knew nothing about.

To enable this she chooses to create two separate communities in the company social network. The first contains all published marketing material that is suitable for distribution to customers and prospects. In the past, this material had been stored in a shared folder on a file server. But it was often hard to be sure whether this was up to date, as many files were owned by people who had left the company. As this material is moved to the social network, Carol ensures that each file has a designated owner who is a current employee – someone who is responsible for ensuring the content is up to date, and who will respond to questions from sales about it.


The second community Carol creates is for marketing work-in-progress. Anything here is strictly for company internal discussion only as has not been fully reviewed. The sales team are invited to join this community so that they can keep up to date with what marketing are currently working on, and can contribute their opinion while promotions, datasheets, white papers and other documents are being created. Sales are reminded that nothing here can be used outside the company until it is moved into the first community.


The leaders of the sales and marketing teams also agree that the private sales communities, where each regional sales team shares information about the deals it is currently working on, are opened up to allow marketing to join. Carol joins each of the regional communities and monitors them to gain a better understanding of Sales’ current challenges and how Marketing can help.

Make It Real

  • More than any of the other examples in this series so far, success in connecting sales and marketing is dependent on changes in behaviour. Establishing communities for exchange of knowledge will not succeed unless it is accompanied by a willingness to share. Managers of sales and marketing teams need to lead by example and actively encourage this willingness.
  • Make a clear distinction between “customer-ready” marketing content and “work in progress”. Marketing reluctance to share work-in-progress content often stems from previous incidents where Sales have failed to respect this.
  • Ensure that all customer-ready material has a designated owner, and files owned by employees who leave the company are reassigned.
  • Make sure the communication is two-way. Giving Marketing insight into current Sales activities is just as important as giving Sales information about planned Marketing initiatives.
  • There may be a temptation to create one big sales and marketing community, but this is not always the most effective approach as it can lead to everyone being deluged with more information than they need. It is better to create smaller working communities for each group, but allow the other sales and marketing teams to “drop in” and see what’s happening.
  • Don’t assume that just because the other teams have access to what you’re working on they will always know when to “drop in”. When a piece of work needs review or input, use tasks to draw the attention of the wider sales and marketing community to it.

The Company Meeting

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on February 11, 2014

Part 3 of the Social Business For Real Work series


The Challenge

Companies with employees distributed around the world find it hard to schedule a time for “all hands” company meetings – it always results in an inhospitable timezone for many employees. Even smaller companies can struggle to find a time when everyone is available, especially if employees are often out of the office visiting customers.

The Social Business Advantage

  • An enterprise social network can host an online, interactive, asynchronous meeting. A video recording of the presentations can be made available to all employees to watch when it is convenient, and these can be combined with questions from the audience before, during and after the event.
  • These are often far more effective than live Q&A sessions, because as well as reaching more employees, they give greater opportunity for both questions and answers to be more carefully considered.
  • This more open, transparent approach to company meetings makes employees feel better engaged and more motivated.


With employees in US, Europe and Asia, the company has decided to hold its quarterly meeting online in the enterprise social network. The HR team creates a community for the meeting and posts the details for those people in the US office who are able to attend in person.

In advance of the meeting, the agenda is published, and employees have an opportunity to provide feedback on additional topics they would like covered.

The meeting is recorded, and after a quick bit of editing, the IT team post the video in the community. Employees in Europe and Asia are able to watch the recording and review the presentations when they get into the office the next day. US employees who are out of the office can watch it on their mobile devices.


The HR team also schedules two online Q&A sessions that fit with the European and Asian working days. Carmen, the VP of Products, goes through the discussion forums and activity stream in the community answering questions raised before and during the Q&A sessions.

Make It Real

  • Create a community for each meeting
  • Prior to the event, use it to post logistics details and to solicit suggestions about the agenda and topics to cover.
  • Record the presentations, with particular attention to capturing good quality audio – although video gives a sense of “being there”, the audio is more important to following what’s going on in the meeting.
  • Publish the presenters’ slides to the community, as it can hard to record video of both the slides and presenter well.
  • Ensure the recording is in a format accessible to as wide a range of devices as possible – many conferencing applications record in an awkward, proprietary format that doesn’t work well on mobile devices.
  • Encourage employees who watch the recording to post their questions, and ensure that the presenters make some time available to respond, either asynchronously or in a scheduled online Q&A session.

A New Employee’s First Day

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on February 03, 2014

Part 2 of the Social Business For Real Work series


The Challenge

Starting a new job can be a daunting experience. New employees are usually bombarded with information but are still often left with lots of unanswered questions. And existing employees are left wondering who this new person is that they haven’t been introduced to.

The Social Business Advantage

  • A dedicated community for new starters helps people joining the company access all the policy and procedure documentation they need, and digest it at the right time.
  • It also provides a place to ask any questions they have, and see what other new starters have asked.
  • A well-constructed welcome community can convey the company culture far more effectively than traditional induction meetings.
  • Member profiles enable other employees to find out about new starters and what they are working on.


It’s Carol’s first day at the company in her new job as a marketing manager. The HR team adds her as a member to the company enterprise social network, and invite her to the “Start Here” community. As well as containing the usual policies and procedure documents, it helps Carol get a much greater sense of company culture.

The welcome message from the CEO sets out the company’s vision. The HR Director’s welcome guides new starters towards other useful resources and communities in the network, including the “Employee Library” which holds a wider range of procedure documents.

Before she started at the company, Carol had a vacation already booked. She can’t find details about how to book vacation days, so asks in the forum. The HR team monitors this forum regularly to ensure everything gets answered.



One of Carol’s first tasks is to set up her member profile page. This is a useful exercise in learning how to use the enterprise social network, providing a checklist of getting started items and making suggestions on content, communities and network members to follow. It also helps existing employees find out who Carol is, and what she’s going to be working on.


Make It Real

  • Create a induction community for all new starters.
  • When new members are added to the network, don’t add them to too many communities straight away. Direct them towards the new starter community, and use this to lead them towards other important areas of the network.
  • Ask senior managers to contribute welcome messages to the community, and keep them up to date.
  • Encourage new starters to ask “dumb newbie” questions in the starter community, to avoid cluttering other parts of the network. Keep these forums so that subsequent new starters can learn from them.
  • Ensure the HR team regularly checks the new starter forums to ensure questions get answered.
  • Assign tasks to new starters for any items where explicit confirmation of completion is required (e.g. agreement to key policies).
  • Make sure all new employees fill out their member profile, including a bit of information about themselves and what they’ll be working on.

Choosing The Right Candidate

By Richard Hughes in Social Business For Real Work on January 27, 2014

Part 1 of the Social Business For Real Work series

sbrw1The Challenge

When hiring new employees in distributed organisations, it’s increasingly common for candidates to have multiple phone or Skype interviews with people from across the company. Collecting the feedback from each interviewer for each candidate often leads to chaotic mass of email communication, making it hard for everyone to see each other’s opinion.

The Social Business Advantage

  • Private, invitation-only communities allow HR, the hiring manager and other interviewers quick access to all information about the role, hiring guidelines and resumes of candidates. They can use the community to give feedback about each candidate, safe in the knowledge that this remains confidential.
  • Members of the team who work remotely or travel often retain access to the hiring process wherever they are, via mobile applications.
  • If, in the future, it becomes necessary to justify the hiring decision to people not involved at the time, a full record of the discussions leading to the decision can easily be made available simply by inviting other people to the community.


Paris is the Marketing Director. She is hiring a new marketing manager who will support the sales teams in US, Europe and Asia, so she wants the Sales Directors for each of the regions to also interview the candidates.

Pam is the HR Director, and she facilitates the recruitment process by creating an private community to which she invites Paris and the Sales Directors. She uploads the resumes of each of the candidates, the job description and she posts the interview schedule. She also shares the hiring guidelines document with this community.


As each interview takes place, feedback is left in the community. Brad, the European Sales Director, was delayed prior to his interview with one of the candidates, but using the mobile app, he is able to get access to all the necessary documentation while he is out of the office, and can provide his feedback.


The team all agree that one candidate clearly stands out, and recommend that Carol is hired. Using a predefined task template from HR, Paris submits an approval request to hire Carol. This is a two-step process requiring first HR due diligence and reference checking, then final CEO approval.


Making It Real

  • Create a private, invitation-only community for each vacancy you are interviewing for. These communities should typically be managed by HR to ensure consistency in the hiring process. Invite the hiring manager and other interviewers. You need to ensure the community is private and cannot be accessed by any uninvited members. For some particularly confidential hiring processes (for example, replacing an employee who is still in place), it is also important to ensure that the community is even not visible to other network members.
  • Upload the candidate resumes, job description, and other hiring guidelines. Hiring guidelines should usually be stored centrally in an HR community, not uploaded separately into each hiring community. This is to ensure that any updates are automatically propagated to all hiring teams, and no one is left with out of date policies.
  • Ask each of the interviewers to provide feedback on each candidate by adding a comment to their resume.
  • It may also be useful to start discussion forums if the interviewers need any clarification of the job requirements, and for an exchange of views of which candidate should be chosen.
  • Use tasks to complete the process by going through the formal approval stages.