Larry Irons quotes Stewart Mader on the potential use of wikis in onboarding people. While I agree that wikis could be a key enabler in such a scenario, they are not sufficient. If we were to look at onboarding as a knowledge management problem, there are three major things we need to attack:
- Give newbies in the team a safe environment to lurk, listen and learn from those who have been in the team/organization for a while.
- Give them the right tools to find out who knows what, whom to turn to when they
have a problem and general team dynamics – Essentially to help them understand
how work gets done in the team.
- Enable social proprioception in the team. Clive Thompson wrote
about the idea of social proprioception sometime back. He says like
proprioception which is the body’s ability to know where the limbs are,
social proprioception enabled by tools like Twitter gives a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination. [emphasis mine]
Social proprioception is extremely crucial for teams and more so for virtual teams. Tools
like Twitter bring in a new dimension to the “signaling” aspect in
Andrew McAfee’s SLATES model for Enterprise 2.0.
I believe there is a need for an ecosystem which first allows people to ask questions – specifically in the context of onboarding and also in the larger context. "Asking questions" is an intrinsic part of human nature. Social Q&A platforms ,Microblogging platforms within enterprises [ read Yahoo Answers and Twitter for the enterprise] and even plain old discussion forums can play a very important role here. Most of one’s knowledge needs begin with questions like "Where can I find information on HR benefits for my position?" or "Whom do I speak to clarify this clause on Sarbanes Oxley?" and so on. Questions come first and people need a place to post this. Answers may point to Wikis/Blogs/Expert Profile Pages and so on. We need to put conversations before content.