We are all aware of the tremendous impact social media giants Facebook and Twitter have had on how we communicate with one another. More and more they are becoming the primary forum for exchanging ideas, getting news, and keeping up with what is going on in our world.
Social media is often categorized as a consumer technology, much like games, eBook readers and programs to download music. But aren't business users consumers, too? Wouldn't it be great if our businesses were as open, communicative and collaborative as the social web we use in our personal lives?
According to a recent Gallup study, increasing engagement among workers can increase a business' output by 25%. The more involved a worker felt in the impact on their business, the more they felt like their ideas and views mattered and the more productive they were. McKinsey also did a report that highlighted that companies who employ enterprise social networks saw business productivity increase by as much as 30%. Despite the conclusions, the fact remains that adoption of enterprise social tools is still low, with only 3% of organizations out there using enterprise social networks according to McKinsey, and employees need guidance convincing their C-level executives of the business benefits.
Enterprise social networks inevitably will change the way we work. With greater acceptance of BYOD and ubiquitous Internet access, today's worker feels that they are able to contribute and get their jobs done using the tools that they want to use, on the devices they want to work on, wherever and whenever they want to work. While more and more workers are no longer physically connected, data and information continue to grow, and grow, and grow. It is getting harder to get answers to questions that normally could have been asked by peering over the cube wall and simply asking a co-worker. The number of face-to-face meetings may be decreasing, but the need to collaborate has never been greater.
Innovation is expected to happen at even quicker rates just to maintain competitive advantage. Enterprise social networks, like Yammer, Jive, Huddle, and Tibbr allow workers to seamlessly share ideas, answer questions and find information at a much faster rate than before.
So, what do organizations have to do to get going with enterprise social networks? I think there are 4 key elements to a successful deployment:
1. Executive Sponsorship. If a C-level or other highly influential executive is not involved in the decision and the execution of a social network within the enterprise, it will go nowhere. No matter how many millennials are using it, a social network just won’t work without a champion to support the changes necessary for enterprise-wide adoption. It's not just writing the check that indicates support – it's using social networks to progress key initiatives and to manage important projects; helping the social network to become the life-blood of an organization. The C-level executive has to use the network for themselves and their own projects – only then will others in the organization lift their heads and take notice.
2. Ambassadors. There will always be those individuals in organizations that top management has relied on to "get the word out" – the ones that always seem to be the go-to folks for everything from the company's summer outing to recent corporate restructuring. These individuals influence the state of a company almost as much as the senior management team. It is critical, then, to identify the key influencers within the social network and use them to help others become engaged.
3. Buzz. The more the organization hears about the good things happening within the social network, the more they will flock to it – especially if the ambassadors are getting praise and accolades from the executive sponsor. A natural competition between groups is surely to occur as workers begin to engage with the network and make it part of their day-to-day experience.
4. Measurement and Management. All the buzz in the world is great, but at the end of the day everyone wants data. Measuring the impact of enterprise social networks is no easy feat – especially is there are a number of different social networks being used by different departments across an organization, but there are tools available that can help. Holistically measuring and understanding how the social network is becoming the backbone of the organization is the only way for management to fully comprehend the positive effects and prevent any misuses. While restrictions placed on social networks should be few to maximize their inherent collaborative nature, some management will be needed to protect the organization and the innovative ideas its employees are developing.
At the end of the day, what gets measured will get done. Enterprise social networking is one corporate initiative that benefits the company and the worker in ways that are still being calculated. And with leadership, support, positive energy, and cold hard facts they are sure to grow and become the new way in which we work. Facebook for the enterprise? Yes, and so much, much more.
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