Editor’s note: This article is the second in a three-part series.

Nalco Champion, an Ecolab company serving the energy sector, borrowed from social media the concept of a discussion board, where topics are posted for consideration by individuals around the world. In creating this CORE program, Nalco Champion has taken knowledge transfer, capture and preservation to a new level.


Without active participation, even the best-conceived knowledge transfer, capture and preservation program would fail. To increase user adoption, the CORE program used gamification by putting a point system in place where employees were encouraged to earn at least 150 points per year. Posting and replying to questions earns an employee 50 points per post. Reading a post chalks up one point. These goals are set at the beginning of the year and reviewed periodically as part of the organization’s formal performance management process. Each employee’s points are published as part of the monthly activity metrics that identify demographics of CORE users, including the relevant region and job family.

The CORE program plays a non-invasive role in terms of management schedules. Managers are already charged with achieving certain goals as a standard component of their jobs. In effect, the discussion board provides a means for them to highlight issues that challenge goal achievement and drive them toward a quick resolution. This approach enables managers to focus their attention on running the organization while providing an effective tool to achieve organizational goals. Discussions also give managers insight into the challenges global employees and field sales personnel face.

The success of this approach relies on the motivation of all parties involved to post issues as they occur, regardless of who may be at fault for the situation. Managers encourage the use of discussion boards to post issues knowing that some accountability may fall on them, but, ultimately, employees’ willingness to post information hinges upon managers’ clear demonstration that surfacing problems and quickly arriving at viable solutions is a more valuable contribution to the success of the organization than blaming individuals who encounter problems.

As an additional incentive, exceptional activities that contribute to effective knowledge-sharing are recognized with a CORE award that includes enterprise-wide recognition and an award “coin,” which has become coveted by recipients.

The Program Governance Model

Behind the scenes, the CORE program operational team ensures that it functions smoothly. The administrator oversees the functioning of the entire program, and members of the team stay aligned with the activities of the various networks through a monthly call. These calls are facilitated by the network leadership teams from the business, who are the “go-to” people recognized by their peers and other stakeholders as having an appetite for learning and sharing while representing stakeholder groups or other constituencies.

A group of coaches works with sponsors, managers and leaders of the various networks to guide them toward best practices in managing the discussion board. Communications specialists with writing and graphics expertise create and post success stories and help keep the CORE program brand of “everyone contributing to the quick resolution of problems” in prominent view.

Each network must have a sponsor, an executive who sets the scope of each network by identifying challenges that the discussion board might play a role in solving – challenges that are his or her responsibility to resolve. Working in conjunction with a coach from the CORE program operational team, the sponsor creates a written charter for the network that focuses on the achievement of organizational goals.

The sponsor identifies a network manager, who is responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the network and drives the activities that meet the requirements of the charter’s business case. The network manager is responsible for ensuring process credibility, has a reasonable degree of content expertise, and demonstrates a facilitative leadership style with the ability to coach and mentor.

The network manager appoints a network leader, who posts network announcements and monitors replies to posts. The network leader is responsible for developing professional expertise among members of the workforce and should be a good communicator and comfortable with technology. The network leader serves as a facilitator to keep the operation of the network running smoothly, which positions him or her to accept increased responsibilities in the future.

The network sponsor, network manager and network leader are not always selected from the same management unit but are individuals chosen in terms of how best to achieve the network charter and organizational goals. Additionally, every network manager and network leader is required to complete specialized courses, developed and delivered by the CORE program operational team, that help prepare them to succeed in these roles. These classes are on topics including program governance, site administration, adoption metrics, user engagement, recognition and identification of success stories.