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Manage online community volunteers

2021-11-01 来源: 51Due教员组 类别: Essay范文

网上社区特别是人力资源的很大一部分是自愿的在线社区成员,管理这些志愿者特别是他们的表演,在企业创造有益的在线社区是一个主要的挑战。本文研究的在线社区和志愿管理员的基本属性,消除人力资源绩效的障碍,并试图找到方法来处理这个特定领域的障碍。

 In recent years, online communities have became a favored tool used by many companies in their marketing. Inspired by such trend, there is an increasing need for these companies to recruit and develope human resources to establish, construct and maintain online communities. And, particularly, a large portion of the human resources is voluntary online communities members. To manage these volunteers, especially their performances, is a major challenge faced by companies to create beneficial online communities. This article studies the basic properties of online communities and their voluntary administrators, connects Vernon’s (2006) Removing the barriers to HR performance, and tries to find approaches to deal with the barriers in this specific area. 

Rise of the online community网络社区的兴起

Establishing business with the help of online community has become a common tool employed by companies inside information technology territories. There are two kinds of online communities in terms of their functions. The first kind acts as the major products or services of some companies. The second kind acts as an complementary tool to provide additional service to some companies major product and service. This article only discusses the second kind. Also, the forms of online community can be vary, including bulletin board system, forums, blogs and etc. And accordingly companies may use them to fulfill different purpose of marketing, including communicating companies’ ideas, gathering consumer feedbacks, creating platforms to let consumers help each other, or simply to maintain a large consumer population. Shared by all the forms of online community, the simple reason for companies to employ online community strategy is that these platforms are lowering the operation cost of these companies by not only taking advantages of low cost Internet channel but also outsourcing a significant portion of the companies’ business to their online community users. Steam is a online community created by the video game distributing company, Valve Corporation, and one of its content named Greenlight, which “is a system that enlists the community's help in picking some of the new games to be released on Steam”(Valve Corporation, 2013). Basically, communities can do a lot of work for the companies, and, in this case, picking the games. Thus, the companies are employing this tool due to a core cost-efficient reason.

Volunteers: Supply and Demand志愿者:供给与需求

在信息技术领域内,企业借助网络社区的帮助,成为企业内部的一种常用工具。有两种类型的在线社区在履行职能方面。第一种是作为一些公司的主要产品或服务。第二类行为作为一种补充工具,以提供额外的服务,一些公司的主要产品和服务。本文只讨论第二种。此外,网络社区的形式可以是各不相同,包括公告板系统,论坛,博客等并据此公司可以使用它们来满足市场不同的目的,包括传达公司的想法,收集消费者的反馈,建立平台,让消费者互相帮助,或者干脆保持一个庞大的消费群体。

Running an online community needs a lot of full-time administrators, moderators or community managers. Work of these administrators consists two major parts, development and maintenance of online communities, and both of them needs occasional changes and sustainable input of labor. The detail work of these two parts varies a lot, but in general, development means to add meaningful contents into the communities while maintenance means to eliminate undesired contents and keeps the communities in order.The sustainable input of labor is often less skilled and repetitive. For a company its other operation units can work 8 hours and five days a week. But an online community possibly need the administrator team to spread its members to work in a more disoriented order, and in some online communities the administrator team should cover twenty-four seven. And for most online communities, the numbers of community could be counted as thousands or even millions, which means a remarkable demand for administrators’ mass quantity and reasonable quality. From the perspective of a company, employing staffs to run the community means to pay extra than its in-company employees. This is neither cost efficient, nor consistent with the online community strategy as I stated in the last section. But online community is no different from a real community in some points. Lots of companies put their full-time employees only in the top level of the communities’ administration and recruit considerable amounts of voluntary community members to carry most of the less skilled but heavier workload.

Williams and Cothrel (2000) highlight that an online community should motivate its members to participate, and the nature of participating online community is voluntary. Based on this concerns, encouraging and training community member to be a administrator is suitable to meet the needs. And from the perspective of the common community members, they prefer to seem autonomy in the communities and enjoy freedom of speech in the largest extend. So, there is a sustainable supply of actively participating community members who want to develop and maintain the community and ask for very little or even no returns from the company . As the supply meets the demand, voluntary members become a necessary part of the moderator team for most online communities.

Challenges and barriers for volunteer management对于志愿者管理面临的挑战和障碍

Research for human resource management has always been focused more on paid employees rather than volunteers, let alone the new emerged online volunteers. Even the voluntary community managers are often not officially employed by companies, they are still valuable human resources for the companies. Their dedication to the community work, performance represents how well the communities work to some extend, which in return could affect the performance of these communities. The nature of community volunteers consists three aspects: they take this work voluntarily; they work virtually; they are also members of the community. The prior two features are the sources of the challenges for human resource management. Cnaan and Cascio (1996) identify the difference between volunteers and paid works. According to them, for HRM, the most significant difference between paid employees and volunteers is the motivation. Since there is no tight financial connection between the company and the volunteers the common motivation methods, for example, incentives, titles, and promotions, could not work very well for volunteers. Additionally, The devotion of these volunteers are more towards the community itself, rather than towards the company (Tippins, & Marquit, 2010, p.22). Since most of the volunteers are directly recruited from the community, they often do not have certificated qualities and need a bit of further training, and they often have a real-life work that is more important than this virtual part-time voluntary. Also, for these are online communities, a company and its HR managers are commonly not physically located in the same place with the volunteers. This means there are great communication barriers between the company and its volunteers. Weisband (2008) points out that, “a major challenges in sustaining an online group is inducing people to devote the time and effort needed to perform these community maintenance activities”(p.175). In detail, there are challenges in time arrangement. The ideas would be misunderstood in written form. And a volunteer acting perfect could even be someone sent by rival companies to sabotage the company’s online business. In order to design a effective HRM system, these two challenges must be seriously concerned.

From the angle of the companies, there are also some facts mentioned in earlier paragraphs that stand as challenges of HRM. Fundamentally, these companies will not invest too much on the online communities in order to keep cost efficient. Thus it is often seen that they are running online communities with out-of-date technologies, and leaders of the online community departments are not fully aware of the importance in volunteer management.

From these major challenges, the barriers of HRM could be identified. According to Vernon (2006), there are three kinds of general barriers in HR function.

The first is the skills of the function. “While HR has strong traditional administrative skills, it needs additional expertise to broaden its contribution across the business”(Vernon, 2006, p.1). In a general broad of view, Vernon means HR functions does not have enough cross-functional penetration in financial appreciation, technology awareness and process management. Specifically in managing online community volunteers, the HR functions are far less than in the general scale but still share the same problem. For many volunteers, their roles or functions are highly concentrated in the administrative area, which is often the primary work of maintenance. But as I mentioned before, maintenance is only one side of the coin. Development, however, should need more creativity and more efforts than maintenance, which also means it need more complicated and bold cross functional skills. For example, if a voluntary manager of an academic forum want to intergrade the findings of the community, he or she should at least possess a certain attainments in the specific area, the skills and writing styles to edit threads, and the technique to effectively communicate the authors. Though these skills do not seem to be as complicated or professional as those financial abilities or the data analysis in a paid work, they do need intentional training, experience and, mostly importantly, devotion. As I am talking about part-time volunteers working virtually, to meet such conditions is not as easy as they seem to be. In a result, the inadequate skills of the function restrict the performance of online community volunteers and further restrict the functionality of online communities.

The second barrier is the use and integration of technology. “HR has invested significantly in technology, but has yet to demonstrate a real return on investment or quality improvement”(Vernon, 2006, p.1). Generally speaking, the concept of technology is quite broad. No matter what kind of technology HR invests, the return on investment is highly dependent on the technology user. Employing new technology among volunteers in an online community should tightly connects the technology with the community hardware and shows clear information. I am currently working as a voluntary administrator in an online community, Baidu Post Bar. The company, Baidu, however, does provide management tools but the user interface is not convenient for its volunteers, even if I believe the company is fully capable of providing better tools. Additionally, in order to conduct performance evaluation on subordinate administrators and keep the administrative work in order, senior administrators need to gather the statistic data and community member feedbacks of how they develop and maintain the community. Baidu has build a statistics system and a complain system to meet such need, but for technical reasons and heavy reliance on manpower, these systems runs in quite low efficiency and lack essential functions. For company, volunteer and community interactions, such kind of barrier in technology that blocks the efficiency and accuracy of volunteer management. In essence, the barrier could originate from insufficient awareness of HR, or complex and redundant procedures mentioned in Vernon’s (2006) article.

The last barrier included by Vernon is the role and engagement of leadership. “Many business leaders underestimate HR’s potential to contribute to business performance, which is exacerbated by HR managers failing to drive and sell the changes” (Vernon, 2006, p.1). Since it is not possible to have specialized HR department for online communities, the leadership challenge shows only through the regular management systems. In online communities, companies often apply a power hierarchy to ensure its control over the communities and the leadership connection is only tight between direct lines. Thus volunteer management includes multileveled leadership. Baidu Post Bar is a typical online community with high power hierarchy. Baidu place its own paid employees on the top level of the online communities sections, which is the top of the power hierarchy. Then, some of the volunteers will be put in the inner circle next to the employees, which is very similar to a guild of volunteers. Several lower levels of the volunteers locate below and they are in charge of the daily operation of the community. And common community members are in the bottom. The barrier of the leadership is thicker as the power distance goes further. Furthermore, the engagement of leadership gets even more diluted as the volunteers mostly work virtuality and there is no easy way to establish a normal connection as volunteers who are physically located together. In communities that very little affiliation is formed with the company, there is a high possibility to find open conflict between the administrators and common community members. Leadership barriers causes low engagement of volunteers and community members, and harm the health of the community.

Removing the barriers拆除障碍

Vernon’s (2006) article provide general pattern that could be used to turn the three barriers into opportunities. But considering some differences between HRM for paid employees and volunteers are fundamental, a lot of these general pattern should be amended. Furthermore, the situations, structure, and purpose of different online communities are quite various. And even within a certain organization, HRM practices vary within and across different categories of volunteer positions (Cuskelly, Taylor, Hoye, & Darcy, 2006). Its hard to give a solution to all. But there should be some general principles when regarding the HRM efforts as a essential part of building better online communities.

Diversifying skills for volunteers tears down the first barrier. In order to have volunteers of versatility, companies and communities should put efforts in recruiting and training. Valve Corporation is an example that recruit voluntary moderators only by invite. Lieber (n.d.) believes that Valve only make such a invitation to a Steam community member when he or she is a remarkable contributor of the community and meet certain internal standards of communication skills, characteristics, and intelligence. I think certain capabilities of diversified skills are something the company is looking for. Besides recruitment, training is another option. But it should be noted that, often online communities ask for quick response to new situations and have far more-than-enough supply of talented members, training is more time consuming and expensive than recruitment. Recruiting new volunteers should always be a major focus, but training through practicing is also a necessary process. Enhancing both recruiting and training with intentional focus should be a major effort of volunteer HRM. Before recruiting and training the company or the community leader should figure what is the need of the community, and how will it align the interest of the company the community and future volunteers. In the mean time, the company or the community should notice a threat that the community is continuously losing some experienced members in the long term, because the volunteers’ commitment towards the organization is alway weak on a macro level and the companies I discuss may not have retention plans for them . The organization should always be prepared to import new blood and have well planned exit management for those who quit.

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