As more and more people share and connect with each other on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, many organizations are wondering if they can replicate such technologies internally within their corporations and what benefit would that be.
There are many benefits to implementing social networking. Here are some of them:
- Employee Engagement – Today’s generation is entering into the workforce after spending years on social networks. For them, usage of computers has primarily been to network with classmates and friends. Usage of email is falling. And texting and messaging via mobiles is also rising. When this generation enters the workplace, they are put off by the traditional business applications – which are not social and collaborative. Static intranet which is a series of HTML pages, in which information is centralized and which do not focus on feedback, commenting or sharing also seem outdated to them. Having a social intranet where employees can share and engage with others goes a long way to build employee engagement. People build networks that cut across the silos of teams and departments.
- Employee Communications – Traditionally employee communications have had two very basic approaches. The poster in the cafeteria and the “All employee” email along with a “town hall” meeting. However using a social intranet which has the ability for employees to “like” and share their news, and add comments makes employee communication move from a “passive-broadcast” model to a conversation between the organization and the employees. Participation by employees in the conversation also builds ownership. One of our clients, India First Life, uses the intranet to communicate with fifty thousand agents who are not employees, but are the people actively selling their insurance and financial products. Any new products or schemes are communicated to them via the social network and people give their feedback which is incorporated before finalization.
- Learning and Innovation: A social network where employees share their status, activities, bookmarks, documents helps in building an awareness of what colleagues are working on and serendipitous learning. Ideas submitted via a social network within the organization help in developing a better idea. Dell has used an internal employee site called “Employee Storm” to improve systems, processes and products. Our client FlyDubai – a budget airline based in Dubai – uses the social intranet to get ideas from employees on ways they can reduce costs on a daily basis. This also results in employees focusing on the business imperative, every single day. Conversation reinforces the single minded focus every employee needs to have. FlyDubai also uploads multimedia content (presentations, polls, videos) of its training so that people can converse around these content and focus on learning more and more even after the classroom sessions are over.
- Building an Open, Collaborative Organizational Culture: The mere fact that an organization deploys an internal social network shows that it values openness, transparency and feedback. Usage of the tool by managers, employees and organization leaders would add to the perception that the organization is moving on a road to greater transparency. However it is when employees become engaged and build their networks across silos.
The key to achieving success in using a corporate social networking tool is not in the tool, but in the objective behind using the tool.
Once the objective is clear, an assessment needs to be done as to what the current status is – and what the tool can address, and what needs to be changed in the structure and processes to meet the objectives. (At Qontext we have tools like questionnaires that make the assessment process easy)
Post the assessment, roles are allocated (like which senior management team members would be involved, what is the cross functional team in charge of the deployment, who will be the community administrator and who is the community manager) and the tactical steps before the implementation is finalised. Implementation needs an active facilitation of the employee communities and this is the step where most organizations falter. Leveraging community management to get people to share and connect with each other is a skill that requires not just knowledge of the tool, but also group dynamics and people facilitation.
About the Author
Gautam Ghosh is Product Evangelist of Qontext (http://www.qontext.com ) a social intranet and collaboration tool . You can read his blog at http://www.gautamblogs.com and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/GautamGhosh