That's a tough one, and I'm not sure I have an answer for you. When we conducted our pilots/proof-of-concept there was more personal/non-work information than there is now. I think our company culture is very sensitive to Jive not being a time-waster so most people are wary of putting personal information into the site to begin with.
I think your company culture and business objectives should drive the information that can be found in your site. If you can tie these 'personal' groups back to some official objectives for your company then maybe you have your justification. For example, we recently had some fitness groups created in support of our company headquarters' fitness drive which was happening at our main campus. So even though most of our Spark users (our site is called Spark) felt that the fitness content was non-business related I could still justify the content by pointing back to a company-supported event.
So maybe if your company has health-related objectives you could justify recipe sharing (unless the recipes are for fried chicken). Or if your group has social objectives related to employee community building, you could justify hobby groups. I think you'd want to avoid random groups that have no tie-in at all with a business objective.
First, check with your Jive reps as I think there are some studies around the community that show non-work activity supports the growth in work activity. In contrast to Libby Taylor, we took a very basic point of view when we fought for non-work related topics. We see the value in employees building social friendships at work ("I have a BFF at work" is an annual survey questions), so we're going to use Jive as one way to foster those friendships. It did take a leap of faith from our executives, who are better now that see there is a balance of work and non work.
Your other challenge may be the perception that all of your Jive activity is non-work related based on feeds and streams. I often explain how the company book club (with unlimited potential members) will always be more visable than the a business group (with 5 members). It's also a good introduction into the importance of customizing your streams, etc. The slide below is always in my presentations as well:
I'd also recommend doing a search in here, as there are several other similar threads with responses from a variety of Jive customers. The answers are all over the map as to what is allowed or not allowed, and what the experience has been. Especially as time goes on, I can tell you that interest in the personal groups falls well below work content. But the personal groups are a great way to foster community (much like company sponsored after work activities and lunchroom banter), and very helpful for people learning how to use the system.
There was a recent poll in here on this: Do you allow non-work related social groups in your space? with several comments included, plus a related discussion: Non-work related groups. Maybe some of those comments can help you with your defense.
The most simple response I usually give: Personal interest groups are helping people get back to work more quickly when life gets in the way of productivity.
If we think people aren't already spending time during work solving personal life issues and searching for answers when life gets stressful, we're fooling ourselves. Enable your employees to help one another, build a stronger sense of community, and improve productivity for those temporarily stressed individuals.
Examples that have really happened (in wide Open groups):
- Moms group - Need a daycare on the south side of town. Any recommendations? Alternative is people sitting at work making phone calls, searching the web for recommendations, etc. Trusted peers help simply life and get back to focusing on the job.
- Moms group - I'm thinking of either an iPad mini or a Kindle Fire for a child gift. What would you do?
- Foodie group - Making XYZ. Where can I get a good deal on insert hard to find food ingredient here.
- Foodie group - What are your favorite lunch spots for a team meeting in town?
- Cycling group - I rode to work today, and my tire is flat. I didn't bring a tire pump. Can anyone help?
- Faith-based group - Well known employee just passed away unexpectedly, 20+ years at company. Please share memories and thoughts for the family. I will pass them along.
- Health and Fitness - We have a private group of people training for a marathon together to coordinate their runs, progress, encourage one another, etc.
- LGBT Group - VP of Legal using a thread to share that the recent legal changes via Supreme Court rulings are being evaluated for how they impact same-*** partner health benefits.
I could do this for hours .
Hope it is helpful.
Great answer Bryce Williams!
The only thing to add to that is think of the non-work "social" activity as the carrot to get your employees into the community. Without that carrot you'll struggle to get the adoption and viewership you want. The "watercooler" talk and the groups that get created around all the passionate hobbies people have (running, biking, reading, etc) are the conversations that make people WANT to visit your social intranet. It's the honey! So, that helps you solve one of the hardest parts of building a thriving community, and that is getting people engaged into it.
Social is what get's people engaged and hooked. That's a major win. Once they get hooked they'll setup shop and begin living in the community and finding more and more ways to use it as a work tool to balance the equation out between work and fun.
The bottom line is your employees were always doing these non-business things before Jive came along, the only difference is now you can see the activity where as before it was hiding on various social websites, smartphones, emails, conversations, etc. Your mgmt team now has visibility they didn't have before and they are freaking out a little bit. Same thing happening at our company, it's normal, do your best to ease their concerns and not let them kill social with knee-jerk reactions. The last thing you want is for mgmt to come down on employees scolding them for being human within the social intranet.
That question came up at PwC but they've kept a pretty open approach - with many of the same reasons already mentioned
The challenge comes when many of the 'social' groups are 'open' or 'members only' - they are seen more where many business oriented groups are 'private' or 'unlisted' - the activity feeds is not representative of the work going on. A few things we focus on:
- as mentioned, we state that the social activity is helping drive engagement - and gaining comfort with social for interacting with co-workers - its hard for anyone to articulate an actual negative of these groups - its more that they are new to the culture
- a monitoring team we have will reach out to groups and suggest moving to more closed group types if it makes sense, or at least make sure group owners are aware of the type of activity they are broadcasting if they have using 'open' or 'members only' group types
- our stats show that 94% of the groups are business related (many are private or unlisted) - I mention this stat to anyone who will listen
- there is a myth that Jive is just for 'fun' - we have groups that are showcases of 'success stories' - use cases that show the best uses of the platform - we try to promote these through the Jive advocates and practitioners
The natural tendency for many large organizations would be to pull back - but maybe mentioning the other large enterprises that are allowing social groups may help.
My quick advice: Is HR sitting at every water cooler at the company to monitor the conversations? My guess is that they are not. People need to talk and engage with each other to build trust and community, which in turn builds loyalty to the company. Let people use their breaks to talk about what they love and make new connections on your Jive site. It'll be the moderator's job to make sure no one is breaking the "rules." Then build a process with HR to handle any issues, should they arise.
In general, we look at anything that helps employees connect better with each other to be a plus.
But we also stress to employees that when they use the collaborative network, they're actions are still governed by our overall "Employee Guide to Business Conduct" and "Employee Guide to Electronic Communications" policies, which, for example, ban any use of company electronic media for religious discussions, references to alcohol or gambling, etc. It also talks to issues such as discussing issues, but not people. (I have only had to step in once when this last policy was violated. A discussion - and the removal of some posts - fixed the issue.)
Having reasonable and clear overall policies which apply across the board to employee actions makes all this much simpler.
Does anyone have a list of "basic groups" they they consider to be fundamentally important for a new community? I'm thinking things like "Help & Support" or "Virtual Break Room" etc. etc. Specific to this thread, a "Water Cooler" or "Virtual Break Room" is perhaps a viable strategy to minimize noise versus signal.
I'd be interested in seeing a list like this too.
I think the Water Cooler serves an important function, and not just as a social environment (although I think that's important too). When you are first starting out, there will be people who want to discuss something, even something business-related, but there won't be a group created yet that is focused on that topic. Some people aren't comfortable starting a group around their issue or passion but would participate if one already existed. So the Water Cooler as a general purpose catch-all is a nice way to capture discussions that might otherwise never occur because all the other groups and spaces are too specific.
In our case, we also created three other places that we support: one for general how-to training information, one for discussion of bugs, problems, and improvement suggestions, and one for group and space owners to have conversations and share tips about improving adoption in their communities.
I agree with a lot of what has been said already. We had a similar concern and I was told (and I quote) "I don't want to know what people are having for breakfast."
Despite initial leadership skepticism, I will tell you that "making it personal" was the key to our success early-on.
- It helped people learn how to use the tool
- It brought people's guards down and promoted a more open environment / culture
- It bridged the gap between leadership and the total population
You will find that a vast majority of the communities will be work related and the personal ones will ebb and flow in terms of activity.