How IBM’s Intranet Improves Employee Development and Retention

At  HR/NY’s fabulous social media recruiting panel (which I moderated,) the audience and I were wowed as Nabeel Ahmad, Learning Developer at IBM, rocked the New York Times Building. 

He showed how IBM, the conservative corporate giant, has been letting its hair down and opening its intranet to new ideas. The results have been greater collaboration, better retention, and more advancement opportunities. Here’s how IBM did it, and how you can too:

Employees Thank Each Other
Instead of a top-down rewards program, IBM allows its employees to recognize each other with “Blue Thx.” These can be sent to any colleague anywhere in the world. And it’s not a private interaction; a leaderboard shows who’s received the most “Thx” in the last 30 days. Kind, simple gestures like these help unite IBM’s global workforce of 400,000. 

Employees Shadow Each OtheIBM’s ShadowMe program connects employees with senior executives based on department and location. A search for “social learning,” for example, brings up more than 800 IBMers across the entire company. Employees can physically shadow their mentors at the same office, or virtually follow mentors anywhere in the world. An employee never has to miss a learning or development opportunity because the expert in their field is in a different building, city, or country.

Employees Learn From Each Other
IBMers have access to a crowdsourcing resource, allowing them to ask their colleagues questions about any topic. An HR question posted here, for example, yields much faster results than an email submitted to HR…and it cuts down on HR’s workload. While there’s a danger that employees might give each other wrong answers, I’ve found that, like Yelp restaurant reviews, the truth usually rises the top. 

 

Employees Don’t Have to Email Each Other
Nabeel asked us if we agreed with the statement “I live in my email.” That attitude is a problem at IBM, so senior leaders look for any way to keep employees’ inboxes clean. When new CEO Ginni Rometty took over in January, she didn’t send an email announcement; she put her speech on video and made it available only on internal channels. This showed everyone at IBM how serious she was about cultivating the intranet.


IBM’s collaborative spirit even extends to live events. Before a recent technology panel, employees were asked to submit questions ahead of time. But instead of picking his favorites, the moderator made all the submissions public and allowed employees to vote for the best ones. This ensured that the panel addressed the issues most pressing to the largest group of people. If you’ve been to an event where someone asks a question that’s relevant only to them, you know how important this is.

Nabeel showed us that IBM’s conservative image doesn’t really reflect the true nature of its employees’ creativity, resourcefulness, or satisfaction. If your business is large enough for an intranet, we’d love to put the lessons of IBM and other corporate superstars to work for you. Contact me for more details

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