The death of internal email and its replacement by social collaboration tools has been the subject of discussion at several meetings I’ve been to over the past few weeks. A significant number of companies, it seems, are following a similar path as information technology business Atos, who has pledged to phase internal email out completely by the end of next year.
The business believes email is outdated, unwieldy and a waste of time and that only 10 per cent of the average 200 emails its staff receive every day are actually useful. It is encouraging them instead to communicate via instant messaging and a range of internal collaborative tools similar to social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Now speaking as someone who suffers from chronic email overload, this all sounds quite appealing. But judging by the expressions of some of the HR folk at the meetings I attended, not everyone is likely to instantly embrace this concept. Many HR people still seem to be stuck in a mindset of trying to ‘control’ social media in all its forms – and are clearly concerned that chaos and anarchy will reign if they start adopting more social approaches internally too.
It’s a shame that so many HR people are entrenched in this standpoint. The profession is in prime position to help the business share knowledge, create communities and find more collaborative ways of working. The technology to do this is already widely available. Cezanne OnDemand HR software solution, for example, has a new social HR portal which allows users to share documents, communicate across the business and seek feedback on plans and projects.
For those who have yet to be convinced of the benefits of communicating openly and in real time, here are five reasons why internal social portals make perfect sense:
Social tools make it easier for employees to see what others are doing. People from across the business can add value to work in progress by inputting their views, knowledge and experience, even if it’s not something they are directly involved in. If everything is out in the open there is less duplication of effort, more co-operation and the silo mentality disappears. Teams can communicate with each other quickly from wherever they may be and it’s much easier to track progress on projects.
The right information
If there are spaces where people can openly share documents, it makes it much easier to keep everything up-to-date. It eradicates the problem of numerous ‘versions’ of reports circulating around the business with no-one quite sure which is the most current. Information can be updated quickly and easily and everyone knows where to find it.
More knowledge sharing
Email is static. Questions may go unanswered for long periods because they are stuck in an overflowing in-box. Progress on a project is hampered because important information is hidden in a closed communication between just two people. If you allow employees to ask questions and discuss issues openly on an internal social forum, however, you are not relying on one person to be available to give the answer. Real-time communication helps people respond more rapidly to customers and empowers them to find the answers to problems themselves.
No longer will you have to wait for the annual employee survey to find out what people in the business are thinking and feeling. Social collaboration tools allow you to keep a constant check on the internal temperature and to pick up any stirrings of discontent early on. You can reassure people quickly in times of uncertainty, quash incorrect rumours and nip any problems in the bud at an early stage.
Give employees across the business the ability to work together in a social space and it’s amazing what they will come up with. People whose paths don’t normally cross start talking to each other and new insights and exciting ideas begin to emerge. Ideas that may have been festering in one department can be picked up by another and taken forward. The pace and quality of innovation increases – and because everyone can see what’s happening, the level of excitement and enthusiasm in the business grows.
What’s your view? Has your company been experimenting with social collaboration tools internally? Or do you think it’s a fad that will never really take hold? Let us know what you think.