"We had been using social media to hire people," said Shankar. "I had been looking at the B2C use of social networking, and it gave me the idea of using it for B2E--business to employee. What I saw in B2C was that it was bringing the customer and the company into a public forum. Somewhere at the end of 2010, I posed this idea and said, 'Can we look at this as a concept and see whether we can provide [human resources] to employees using social media, but also can I get the pulse of employees--whether they are happy about something, unhappy about something, etc.?'"
Shankar said he gathered about 20 or 30 "eager-minded people" who started working on the project with him, defining what the social network should look like and what its goals would be.
[ Enterprise social apps too often get a lukewarm reception, but there are steps IT can take to improve adoption and use. See Why Employees Don't Like Social Apps. ]
When he proposed the idea to top management at HCL, some of the biggest concerns were around productivity.
"There were a lot of questions about uses and abuses," said Shankar. "I told them if I find any misuse I will shut it down." He told management that he would monitor, although not censor, use of the network, but that he believed people tend to be more responsible in a public forum.
HCL developed its own social network for internal use, called Meme. The platform, which was modeled after Facebook, was announced with a call from management to use Meme to "connect, share, learn, and grow."
The site was opened for use among employees in April 2011, and it took off from day one, said Shankar. "In nine months we had 50,000 people using the network," he said.
Shankar said the platform has been especially popular among younger employees, for whom social networking is a very familiar communication and collaboration tool.
HCL shared some of stats from its use of Meme so far.
-- Almost 60,000 employees have subscribed to Meme since it was launched. The greatest month-over-month growth, 24%, was seen four months after the platform's launch.
-- There are currently 1,579 groups being run on Meme, ranging from Smile a While, where employees can participate in contests, to Meme on Mobile Feedback, where mobile users can share feedback and enhancement suggestions.
-- 49,917 photos have been uploaded in 15,290 albums.
-- 38,498 messages, averaging about 11 per connected employee, have been sent over the platform.
-- There have been 2,400 queries in Ask HR tab.
Indeed, the Ask HR function has been one of the most useful features of the network, said Shankar.
"The biggest use that happened was enabling what we call support functions or staffing services," he said. "Employees can post questions in an area called Ask HR. We are a growing company and hire a lot of people. It brings all employees into a common wavelength of culture."
Social media are generating tons of data, but that data only becomes truly valuable when examined in context. Attend the virtual Enterprise 2.0 event Social Analytics: The Bridge To Business Value, and learn how social analytics will provide the bridge to unlocking business value. It happens Feb. 16.