IBM builds camaraderie with podcasts

Podcasts connect IBM’s 370,000 employees worldwide. Audio Video

Podcasts connect IBM’s 370,000 employees worldwide

Global technology giant IBM is using podcasts as a way to improve communication—and build culture and camaraderie—among its massive employee base.

Listen to IBM’s podcasts.

The Reflective Leader:

Battle of the Bands:

How it Works:

Just a Minute:

At IBM, podcasting capabilities were rolled out to employees three years ago as a complement to an existing suite of self-publishing tools, dubbed the IBM Media Library. The Media Library also features the ability to create Wikis, or collaborative discussion spaces, and online blogs.

The tools work together to address a daunting communication task. IBM’s 370,000 employees are scattered all over the world and many of them telecommute, seldom heading into an office and, in some cases, never meeting their managers in person. Compounding the challenge is the fact that IBM’s diverse business units often operate with different models and have different communication needs.

“These are folks that we realized that we had to connect with one another. We had to become a smaller company” says George Faulkner, a new media communication specialist at IBM, explaining the self-publishing strategy. “Prior to self-publishing at IBM, it was nearly impossible to share information on a wide-scale basis. We realized that we were slowing ourselves down with regard to information flow.”

( Get Mark Ragan’s seven tips on how to create a podcast that employees want to hear.)

Millions of downloads

Perhaps not surprising, given its technology focus, podcasts have proved popular among IBM employees; the 15,000 to 16,000 podcasts on IBM’s employee site have been downloaded a combined seven million times, Faulkner reports. The podcasts, along with the rest of the Media Library, are hosted on a platform built in-house on a framework created by the company’s WebAhead development team.

Sedgwick Claims Management Services produces Quick Cast, a series of internal podcasts.

Life from Anchorage, Alaska:

“Support Our Troops” Fundraiser:

Dublin Mud Bowl:

Best TPA:

Content ranges from recorded conference calls and short interviews to video of speeches. For instance, Faulkner noted that one employee created a series of podcasts that use music and narrative storytelling devices to explain the workings of a variety of different technologies. “It is a smorgasbord of content,” Faulkner says. “There is no telling what is going to be published on a day-to-day basis.”

Monitoring content is largely left up to users. All IBM employees are guided by a code of conduct that emphasizes trust and individual responsibility. The company also has a set of “social computing guidelines,” developed by managers and employees, which govern online behavior, both internally and externally.

That approach has been successful, Faulkner says. “The number of times that someone has been fired or disciplined or reprimanded equals zero,” he notes. “If someone gets close to the line, you can’t delete [content] or tell them to delete. You suggest that they edit or engage in open communication about it. We are seeing that when someone steps close to the line, the wisdom of the community steps in and really good conversations and good decisions come out of it.”

Tailored to work flows

Podcasters can tailor access to their work needs. While some may make access available to anyone who cares to listen, others limit access to their work groups or supervisors.

“It’s really fascinating to see how people in different jobs utilize these tools,” Faulkner says. Some of the trends that have developed are surprising. For instance, Faulkner expected IBM’s sales force to become frequent podcasters. But that hasn’t happened. “They’ve been a hard nut to crack,” he says. On the other hand, IBM’s software community is “crazy for the stuff,” Faulkner observes.

For employees who use them, the podcasts have had positive and profound effects, Faulkner believes. “It has completely transformed the way I find answers, the way I find experts, and the way in which I stay in touch with what’s important to me,” he says.

Podcasting made easy

If the idea of creating a podcast library seems daunting, don’t worry. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. A number of off-the shelf solutions can help you quickly set up and distribute podcasts. Here are a few resources worth checking out.

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