Matt Plaskoff stole an idea from his brother, who helps Eli Lilly chemists share expertise via multinational Web sites, and brought it to the jobsite for his 25 employees.
The Tarzana, Calif., remodeler made "knowledge sharing" easy and anonymous via his intranet. Tapping into the password-protected site from anywhere with Internet access, employees share examples of real, on-the-job, learning experiences. The 100 construction categories in the "Shoptalk" section cover everything from yard drainage to finish carpentry. One recent entry was advice to always prime under the countertop above the dishwasher so steam doesn't cause the counter to crack. Users can scan categories or search the database.
"I got tired of learning my lessons over and over," Plaskoff says, "so I thought we could put all the lessons in there and new people could learn before the mistake was made again."
There are nearly 500 entries. Authors of the most recent 100 are rewarded with $10 movie gift certificates to prompt participation. Plaskoff receives an automatic e-mail when entries are posted, so he knows whom to reward, but he doesn't reprimand the employee for any confessed mistake.
Plaskoff's intranet site also is used to exchange other information, such as em-ployee/vendor contacts and messages, as well as to cache frequently used forms. He set it up through VPI.net of Laguna Hills, Calif., which creates sites for $1,500, with a monthly licensing and hosting fee from $25 to $250, depending on the site's intricacy.