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Aon launches internal platform built around social media

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Aon Corp., an insurance brokerage and human resources consulting firm, has 62,000 employees in 120 countries. The company's “product” is the knowledge in the brains of those employees. Aon's ultimate goal is to share that knowledge in an efficient, effective way with its clients. That goal is driving Aon's new internal social program, People Finder. Last year, Frank Helmert, Aon VP-global interactive marketing, and his team set out to find a way to systematize the knowledge within Aon via a peer-to-peer platform so that employees could find other employees who possessed the knowledge their customers needed. It was born of the challenge Aon faces in finding the appropriate person with the necessary knowledge among all its employees around the globe. People Finder was the result. Essentially an Aon intranet, People Finder combines social media and content marketing to help Aon employees locate the fellow employee they need, whether a marine insurance expert in Argentina, an actuary who speaks Japanese or an experienced hand with public-private partnerships in Canada. Helmert said the effort is central to Aon's business. Helmert quoted Aon's president-CEO: “Greg Case said, "This is not a marketing agenda. This is not a human resources agenda. This is an Aon agenda.' ” With People Finder, Aon employees also can locate documents such as white papers, sell sheets and RFPs. Employees can also create their own customized internal newsfeeds, called “My Aon News.” And employees can find other Aon employees according to their position in the organizational chart as well as their areas of expertise. “We organized the content in a way that makes it easily accessible,” Helmert said. “We are locating expertise efficiently.” A central part of People Finder is a social media aspect of the platform. Employees can use the platform to microblog and communicate with each other directly. “This is about the peer-to-peer flow of information,” Helmert said. “It's not about top-down communication.” To help organize the information in People Finder, various departments and geographies have “Knowledge Ambassadors,” who spend about one-quarter of their time ensuring that the content is up-to-date. “It's a significant time commitment,” Helmert said. The project brought together disparate databases across the company, which has been built out from almost 450 acquisitions made over 25 years. Helmert and his team used Microsoft Corp.'s SharePoint to create the platform. People Finder is being rolled out across the company. So far, Helmert said, employees are beginning to grasp the value of the platform. “They immediately recognized this is helpful if you want to build a good team,” he said.
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