Pearson preaches the power of collaboration

One of the main attractions of JiveWorld 2014 was the fact that you could hear from a plethora of companies in a range of industries who actually use Jive's software themselves.

Whilst there we went one better and spoke to Kim England, head of internal community and collaboration at education firm Pearson PLC, about how the company has implemented Jive into its infrastructure.

Pearson is the largest education and book publisher in the world, so communication between employees is essential, but also extremely difficult, "one of the challenges Pearson had was that, through the acquisition of lots of education companies, we were just not communicating, not collaborating and it was really difficult to find people and information."

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So, in December 2010 Pearson introduced Neo, its own internal communication and collaboration platform running on Jive's software. It started off with 500 early adopters and by the time it was launched officially in March 2011, this figure had risen to a whopping 10,000.

Why does England think it was so successful? She said, "we had really, really fast engagement across Pearson and I think largely that was because it was easy to use, it looked amazing and people could really grasp how it could help them get on with their job.

"But I think it was also because we had such a gap and suddenly I could talk to somebody in Iowa or Beijing and I think that really plays well to what Pearson's about, which is learning and connecting with people."

Neo is now regularly used by around 80 per cent of the organisation, which is an impressive statistic for such a large company. As England pointed out, "you are always going to have disengaged employees who just don't care about anything and we're actually ok with that."

She also raised an interesting point regarding cultural differences which, for a company as global as Pearson, is something that needs to be taken into account. Employees in China, for example, may not be as willing to use a platform like Neo, as the work culture there is different compared to that in Europe.

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But how do you deal with this type of problem? England believes "it just comes down to education," which, appropriately, seemed to be a central theme in our conversation.

"I think people who are in some of these C-suite roles, the decision makers in companies, they maybe don't really understand Facebook and Twitter enough to know that these two things are completely different.

"They probably see it as something that's a huge sucker of people's time whereas what they don't always see is that collaborating and connecting, whilst they can be a huge sucker of time, they can also be incredibly effective in saving time, saving money and making ideas happen."

In terms of the future, England identified integration, gamification and analytics as Pearson's three main areas of focus going forward and was also on hand to offer some advice for any companies looking to invest in a similar platform.

Her top tips: "You need a really strong community manager who is relentless at being able to take rejection and get knocked back but still be excited about the platform. You also have to really trust your community and let it evolve.

"It's a very hard job but it's also a very rewarding job."