Building a Virtual Company Community

An iPad with a virtual meeting.
on 27 July 2020
  • virtual
  • communication
  • building community

In the A/E/C industry, most firms have a split of field employees and office personnel. The field personnel at Summit often refer to their truck as their office, and with that comes distractions and difficulties that office staff don’t have to deal with.

Between meeting client demands, dealing with weather conditions (currently extreme heat), navigating the potentially hazardous surroundings and much more, field personnel are up against a list of daily challenges that can make communication and connection difficult. On the flip side, you have the office team members or corporate office personnel working long hours to complete tasks like proposals, audits, and insurance compliance as well as finding new opportunities to support the organization in a completely different way from our field teams.


Each of these groups are working equally hard under circumstances that are unique to their environment, and creating a connection between the two can be a communication challenge. All challenges aside, one of the things that I love most about Summit and the A/E/C industry is the dynamic environment that we are a part of.

What Does This Mean For Communication?

There will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to communication because of the diversity of the roles and responsibilities that make up our team. However, we recognized that we needed to find a way to keep our company connected.

Recently, we launched a company intranet to help build out our company community, connect our groups that spread out across the southeast, and provide our employees with an internal resource for important company information. Below is a list of ways that employees can use our intranet:

  • Find company information like insurance benefits, IT policies and proposal templates easily.
  • Build out their employee profile with a fun bio and let people know what they are a resource for.
  • Post project photos to tell us what our team members are up to and where they are.
  • Give a shout out to a team member that is doing a good job.
  • Just simply give us an update on how they are doing and what they are working on.

What excites me most about the intranet is building an online community for our employees. The more we grow the harder it is to stay connected. Giving our employees an opportunity to share what they are up to and what they’ve accomplished is a huge advantage of having a company intranet.

We started this project well before Coronavirus was an issue, and during this strange time where connection is difficult, I am so happy that employees now have a platform to share their voice.Bringing technology in-house isn’t hard but turning it into an engaging and vibrant space where everyone feels welcome and participates frequently is a challenge. At the end of the day it is going to take time for people to adjust to this new change, and like everything else this is not going to work for all of our employees. As always, we will have to adjust, adapt and be flexible with our team, but now more than ever I see the immense value in building our virtual company community.


Adoption of Collaboration Solutions

How often do you use each of the following technologies at work? Percentage that use platforms at least weekly, by age.

Graphic showing the adoption of collaboration solutions based on age.

Reference: https://www.iflexion.com/blog/sharepoint-intranet


So What Does a Successful Intranet or Virtual Community Look Like?

It Encourages Collaboration and Connection Across Disciplines

  • We are a multi-disciplinary firm with a wide range of skill sets and strengths. The intranet can serve as a great way for people to elaborate on their experience in their personal profile and get to know team members in other states. It promotes a culture of getting to know all of the people in our firm.

It Promotes Transparent Communication

  • The intranet will serve as a platform for updates from our company leadership about our mission, vision and strategy. Communication that used to get lost in company-wide email blasts will now be posted on a regular basis in a single place, with opportunity for comments and questions.

It Fosters Inclusion

  • The intranet will be platform for ALL VOICES at Summit.

It Encourages Innovation

  • If we aren’t being innovative, we aren’t growing, and If we aren’t growing, we are creating a stagnant environment with limited opportunities for our employees.

It's Easy!

  • Who wants to dig through files to find a policy when you have it within 2 clicks!

As we continue to build this virtual space, it makes me think about what it means to build community. The definition of community is - a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals; and I would much rather see people I work with as a community and not just a group of co-workers. My hope is that through our virtual community (intranet) we can build strong connections between our office personnel and field personnel, break down communication barriers, and make our satellite offices feel connected and in the know. A company intranet will do nothing but strengthen our fellowship and help us reach our goals, and I’m excited to get the journey started!

MEET THE AUTHOR

Ginny Kirk Andrews Headshot

Ginny Kirk Andrews
Ginny Kirk manages marketing and communications at Summit. She enjoys working with employees across the company to tell the Summit story, and strategizing innovative ways to tell that story. Her favorite part about working at Summit is that even after 3 years, she still feels like she learns something new everyday. Outside of work she enjoys spending as much time outside as possible, walking her dog and cooking.

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