This article accompanies HR Problem Solvers for 2010 .
Keeping employees connected and informed can be challenging for any company, no matter the size of its workforce or what business it's in. But when the majority of your employees are virtual, those challenges can be especially daunting.
Just ask Ascend One Corp., a financial-services firm based in Columbia, Md. At last count, roughly two-thirds of its 750 employees were working from home full-time. So when it looked for a way to ensure that separation and distance didn't impede its employees' abilities to collaborate and innovate, it looked to social media for answers.
In October 2009, Ascend One's HR team developed and launched Vibe, an internal state-of-the-art social-media portal that leverages tools such as blogs, video, podcasts and forums to encourage knowledge-sharing and teamwork.
"We had an intranet before," says Sherry Myers, senior director of human resources for Ascend One, "but it was very much a product of ... the old-style Internet, with search capabilities but no place for people to go to share ... ."
Myers says Vibe -- which stands for Virtual Interactive Business Environment -- took things to a new level, giving people the ability to connect with others.
Whether working on-site or remotely, Ascend One's employees each have their own Facebook-like home page, where team members can post photos and personal information. They can also use the portal to learn the latest company and industry news, and collaborate across departments and teams on specific projects.
In addition to giving employees the ability to post to specific internal blogs and forums -- since its inception, the portal has hosted more than 400 blogs on topics ranging from quality to community involvement -- it also gives them access to productivity and career-development tools without ever leaving the portal site.
Vibe is still relatively new, but early indications suggest it's a huge hit with employees. Comments have been extremely positive, says Myers, noting that the portal averaged 357 visits per day in the month of May.
Ascend One Corp., Columbia, Md.
Read all of the 2010 HR Problem Solvers.