Employee Community UX: Quick Wins & Tips for Future Scalability

Brian Molstad | April 22, 2020

In our recent blog, “Your Teams Are Now Working From Home: Now What?” 7Summits outlined some key use cases and strategies for employee communities and how our Employee Workplace Bolt solution can help accelerate those efforts. In this post, we’ll provide a deeper dive into some of the core use cases these communities address and offer some recommendations for crafting a great and innovative user experience. We’ll reveal some of the quick wins your company can achieve, as well as differentiate the “even better” options for building more sophisticated communities.

Onboarding

Onboarding UX

The Goal

Ensure your users know how to navigate the community and find the resources and functions that matter to them. This is especially important if your community is new or newly redesigned.

Quick Wins
  • Leverage screen recording tools like Jing, Camtasia or Zoom, to post a walkthrough video of the community’s features.
  • Create a page of FAQs for getting started.
Even Better
  • Greet the employee upon first visit with a step-by-step tour of the community’s features and functions. Common steps include:
    • Updating their profile
    • Choosing topics and key content areas to follow
    • Joining suggested collaboration groups
    • Setting notification preferences
    • Learning how to navigate the community and find key resources
    • Watching video tours of key features
  • Create a group of “champions” or early-adopter users to show other folks how it’s done, greet newcomers, and quickly respond to questions within the community.
Homepage Experience
The Goal

Offer important information and navigational aids without overwhelming the employee. Ensure the homepage includes elements that the employee wants and needs for their day-to-day job.

Quick Wins
  • If your employee community’s content is robust, consider placing an emphasis on search.
  • Include calls to action for each main way to participate or contribute
    • Start a discussion/ask a question
    • Share a document
    • Share an idea
  • Add a Quick Links section for easy access to the most commonly used resources and tools.
  • Show the trending discussions across the community as well as open questions.
  • Include recent news and announcements (see news section below for more on this).
Even Better
  • Personalize all of the above; tailor the quick links and calls to action to specific user types. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach wherever possible.
  • Provide variations of the home page for different types of users. For instance, managers may have unique concerns and access to key reports that standard employees may not. Think through the core use cases and needs for each audience, and test concepts directly with users!
Navigation

 

The Goal

Create simple and intuitive navigation that gives users a sense of the community’s purpose and organization that provides quick access to the content they need.

Quick Wins
  • Limit navigation options in a single viewable list to no more than 5-7 options to limit cognitive overload.
  • List the most important options from left to right and top to bottom. 
  • Take advantage of dropdown menus to expose a 2nd or 3rd level of the hierarchy so users don’t have to click through multiple pages.
  • Keep labels succinct. A single-word approach is best but not a firm rule (e.g. Resources, People, Teams, News, Departments, etc.)
Even Better
  • Leverage personalization to hide irrelevant navigation options from certain users or showcase more helpful ones.
  • Implement a personalized “My Links” tool allowing users to create a list of their most commonly used links and resources.
Discussions & Collaboration

The Goal

Enable collaboration and cooperation by allowing employees to engage in discussions with one another as well as find the discussions that matter to them.

Quick Wins
  • Make it easy to browse discussions.
  • Ensure your topic areas are well organized.
  • Don’t create too many topic areas.
  • Ensure best answers can be highlighted.
Even Better
  • Leverage auto-complete within search functions to help find existing discussions and questions that match their query as they’re typing.
  • Offer multi-faceted filtering of discussions such as by department, topic or timeframe.
  • Personalize the experience to surface discussions around the topics that the employee has chosen to follow.
Resources & Documentation

The Goal

Ensure employees have access to critical documents and/or knowledge to help them do their job and grow in their role. Keep in mind that this is often the number one reason employees visit an online community and it’s important to devote attention and resources to it.

Tips for Planning Your Content:

  • Evaluate existing content and remove R.O.T. (redundant, outdated, and trivial).
  • Organize your content and ideate around new content by leading an internal card sorting session.
  • Leverage the output of your card sorting session to plan your taxonomy (content types, format, categories, subcategories, etc.)
Quick Wins
  • Add an organized directory of featured resources. These can be static links to start.
Even Better
  • Build a knowledge base organized around the taxonomy that you’ve defined. 
  • Identify a team who will be in charge of adding to and curating the knowledge base over time.
  • Dynamically surface this content in your community so it can be automatically distributed and featured throughout the community and to specific audiences. 
  • As your knowledge base grows, introduce multi-faceted filters (by type, topic, department) so employees can quickly drill down to the content that matters to them.
News

News

The Goal

Ensure employees are kept informed and maintain a sense of connection and community (especially during challenging times).

Quick Wins
  • Plan out the categories of information you’d like to include (e.g. Company Announcements, Human Resources, Sales Wins, Tips & Tricks) and plan for how often you’ll be posting to each category.  
  • If possible, include imagery with each post to make them more engaging.
  • Feature 3-4 news articles on the homepage with a link to view all news.
  • Keep up a regular cadence of news, perhaps 2 or 3 per week, but don’t overload your audience.  
  • Rather than sending an email notification with each news item, leverage weekly digest emails.
Even Better
  • During onboarding, allow users to select the types of news they’d like to see and personalize their experience with that news. Of course, certain posts may need to be seen by all users regardless of settings.
  • Include local search and filtering capabilities in your news directory. 
  • Distribute and feature relevant news directly to department/team pages and groups.

For more on new publishing best practices for remote teams see our recent blog, “Encouraging Communication While Your Users Are Safer At Home.

People

People

The Goal

Ensure users can find other employees, make connections, reach out for support, and build professional relationships.

Quick Wins
  • Add an online employee directory that allows for profile pages for each employee.
  • Include appropriate filters and search so users can quickly find the person they need (e.g. filter by department, region, office, area of expertise).
  • Include the link to this directory in your main navigation.
Even Better
  • Leverage onboarding to enable users to build their profiles with key information and an avatar/photo.
  • Use profile completeness indicators and gamification to encourage user to fully complete their profile after onboarding.
  • Showcase key individuals (with their permission) on your homepage to foster connections (e.g. Featured Employee, New Hires, Employee of the Month, Featured Experts).
  • Let employees endorse others for areas of expertise, showcase these areas of expertise on user profiles and tie these achievements to badging and gamification.
  • Enable automated recommendation of key contacts to employees based on their profile and/or followed topics and group membership.
Help & Support

Help & Support

The Goal

Allow employees to quickly find ways to find answers and solve their problems and if necessary, reach out for help.

Quick Wins
  • Develop a knowledge base of help articles and documentation around your processes, policies and common issues that employees encounter.
  • Create a centralized area for employees to access this information and ensure the content is organized into categories that make sense to employees.
Even Better
  • Showcase related trending or popular articles at the point of need (for instance, directly on the Help or Support page and on personalized landing pages). 
  • As your knowledge base grows, ensure users can filter and search the content so the right article can be quickly found.
  • As employees are submitting a case or support request, dynamically surface articles that match what they are typing in an effort to answer their question before it’s submitted.
Ideation

Ideation

The Goal

Give your employees a voice and allow them to share ideas with the company as a whole.

Quick Wins
  • Create a centralized area for all ideas allowing employees to browse existing ideas before they share their own.
  • Allow employees to vote up (not down) ideas they like.
  • Develop preset categories that employees can select from when creating an idea.
  • Feature trending ideas on the community homepage.
Even Better
  • Surface relevant ideas to employees based on their profiles, department or area of expertise.
  • Tie ideation to gamification (e.g. posting ideas with a certain number of votes, posting ideas that eventually get adopted by the company).
Gamification

Gamification

The Goal

Encourage employees to stay engaged and participate more by providing micro-incentives like badges, points, and leaderboards.

Quick Wins
  • Create a system of levels and points and tie specific community activity to point values.
  • Add the level the employee has reached and the points they have earned to the user profile.
  • Add a leaderboard to the homepage to showcase experts and top participants in the community.
Even Better
  • Develop a badging system that associates badges with the ways you’d like employees to participate in the community. Examples include Well Liked, Helpful, Completed Profile, Collaborator, Bright Ideas, etc.)
  • Allow for team level gamification and include focused leaderboard in department areas and groups.
  • Dynamically encourage users to tackle the next badge in the list after obtaining new ones.  

 

The above “Quick Wins” can accelerate your time to value and organizational results. Focusing on the user experience can shorten the adoption curve and set the community up for success. Of course an employee community is never “done,” so continually strive to listen to your employees, add valuable new features and content, and work to make it “Even Better.”

Brian Molstad is a UX architect who has been defining, designing and leading online initiatives for over 20 years, and has been with 7Summits for nearly a decade. His specialties include workshop facilitation, feature mapping and prioritization, information architecture and interface design.

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