Social networking

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 2009-09-24 Print this article Print

Professional services firms must provide a customized level of service to their customers, but they also want to increase agility, improve employee productivity and cut costs. Virtualization, mobility and social networking help these companies achieve their goals.

Social networking

Grant Thornton LLP, a Chicago-based audit, tax and advisory firm, has taken the plunge into social networking to stay connected with current and former employees. In May, the firm launched an employee social network, called theGrid, using software from SelectMinds.

The idea for the network came out of an employee survey in which many people requested more two-way communication—both across the firm and with leadership—and a way for employees to share common interests.

The network provides a forum for collaboration and knowledge sharing both inside and outside the firm. So far, theGrid has been well-received, with about half the firm’s employees registered as users and some 82 user groups created in the first three weeks after the site was launched, says Anne Lang, chief human resources officer.

Groups and discussion threads enable users in Grant Thornton offices around the country to share information about topics related to work, skills, best practices or personal interests.

“As the firm grows and we look for more creative ways to build relationships both inside and outside the company, theGrid provides new opportunities for employees to develop friendships and gain colleagues outside of their region, location and service line,” Lang says.

In conjunction with the social networking effort, Grant Thornton launched a knowledge-sharing platform called K-Source, which connects people to content so that they can work more effectively. K-Source contains four main technology solutions: a searchable storehouse of information; a people-finder with a skills directory and search engine; general news feeds; and a personalized dashboard for users to receive specific news and market intelligence.

“The two technologies complement each other nicely, bringing together a tremendous knowledge-sharing platform with a powerful personal networking component,” Lang says.

While most of theGrid’s content is user-generated, there haven’t been any problems with people posting inappropriate discussion threads, Lang says. The firm has provided training for group moderators who oversee the forums. “There are policies and procedures surrounding the groups and forums, so people have a good understanding of what to do and what not to do, she explains.

Social networking “brings a level of empowerment to our people,” Lang says. “They can start groups of interest in a way that doesn’t have to be a formally firm-sponsored group.”


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