Community Review: Corporate Communities

Whenever I think of the term “corporate community”, it almost feels like an oxymoron. I am of the mindset that my work is my work, and my personal life is my life, and if I can keep those two areas separate from each other, then so much the better. After all, who wants to see the same people all the time – complaining to your friends Saturday night about your whiny staff could be a little awkward, especially on Monday morning.

One example of an excellent corporate community is REI. I’ve had several friends who have worked there and they only have had good things to say about being a current employee, and also a former. REI looks at stewardship in three ways- people, community, and the environment. For the community, they host volunteer opportunities that employees not only plan, but actively participate in. In addition, employees can nominate non-profits (focusing on outdoor activities) for grants from REI. REI was #9 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to work for in 2011 – some of the reasons why include the benefits they extend to their community – health care benefits for every employee (including part time), free gear rentals (great for the rock climbing snowboarding cycling cashier), and encouragement of a work/life balance.

The majority of their community is based on face to face interactions, but they are also aware of expanding into the digital space. To that end, they have created a written policy clearly outlining their policies regarding postings to the general REI community pages. They encourage and recognize that employees will want to participate and respond to posts, to blog, tweet, etc. They just ask that employees identify themselves, and also state that their comments are not made on behalf of REI – a balance between “we want you to have your own opinion and you have the right to speak” vs “please be mindful of what you say and how it can be perceived.”

What goes into a good corporate community? I found a 2008 post from Fast Wonder Blog that hit many of the things you need to do to make a community work, what to avoid, and the most important lesson: no community is perfect.

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