The CIPD’s latest report on how social technology can give companies competitive edge makes fascinating reading. It’s the first piece of research I’ve seen that gets to the heart of how social media can be used inside the business to drive innovation, improve working practices and get employees really engaged with their work and with each other.
The problem, as the report’s authors point out, is that although employees themselves are often champing at the bit to start collaborating and communicating in the virtual space, their ‘leaders’ are often still hesitant (and in some cases, scared) to embrace the medium and do not fully understand the power of the data it can produce and the advantages a more ‘open’ approach can bring.
For those who still need some convincing, here (courtesy of ‘Social Media and Employee Voice: the current landscape) are 10 reasons why your business, whatever its size, should seriously be considering using one of the latest generation of internal social platforms:
People expect it
The rise of social media has given consumers an unprecedented level of ‘voice’ – and people now expect to have that in the workplace too. As many businesses have already found to their cost, if you don’t give employees channels in which to have their say, they will go off and create their own anyway.
It makes the business more agile
Internal social platforms allow you to tackle business issues faster. It makes it easier for people to find the right person who has the right information to crack the problem or help you get ahead of the competition.
Many minds are better than one
Internal networks allow you to harness the wisdom of the crowd. It gives you access to the collective intelligence which will help you make better decisions and come up with more creative insights.
It speeds up innovation
Giving people access to a platform where they can easily share ideas and collaborate means that brainstorming happens on a continuous basis rather than as a one-off event. The technology also makes it much easier to keep track of the progress of projects and to get insights from people both in and outside the business on how any hurdles might be overcome.
It shows how work can be organised better
Many businesses have found that internal social platforms have given them a deeper insight into work might be organised differently. Looking at how colleagues inter-act and build teams informally, for example, can help you see if your current structure is the best one or if there are ways of organising tasks and people more efficiently.
Enthusiasm is infectious
On-line forums, blogs or internal ‘twitter-type’ feeds bring people who have shared interests together and can help create a sense of excitement around projects or topics. People will feed on each other’s enthusiasm and become naturally more engaged with their work.
Communication is faster
Social platforms give you the opportunity to get important information or key messages out to people quickly. They allow you to communicate with people in real time so everyone knows what’s happening and there’s less chance of misunderstandings or misinformation taking hold.
Employees can take charge of their own learning
Social media facilitates just-in-time learning. Employees can find out what they need to know when they need to know it – either directly from internal colleagues who already have the knowledge or via signposting to the best sources of information.
New people can get up and running quickly
Internal social platforms make it much easier for people to settle in and negotiate their way successfully through those first difficult few weeks. It’s not just about having somewhere to house the relevant information on-line – but also giving people access via discussion forums to their new colleagues so that they can start to build relationships and get their questions answered.
It provides an on-going pulse
If employees are able to voice their thoughts and opinions freely via internal channels it will help you capture the ‘mood’ of the business at any given time. You can nip little gripes in the bud before they become big issues and can reassure people if they have concerns at times of change.
To those reading this who might be feeling that it’s a step too far and doesn’t really apply to them… according to the report’s authors: “It is not unreasonable to propose that by 2020, many organisations will be wholly reliant on their internal social network. The internal social network stands to become as essential as telephone and email are today.”
At Cezanne, we’ve been working for some time to incorporate social features into our HR software. We saw in our business how social technologies were helping our teams to work together more easily and productively – and realised that an HR software system provided an ideal framework for enabling this more social way of working. With an HR software system you already have a single place that everyone can access, that ‘knows’ who your employees are, their roles, even the security permissions they should have. For us, it was a logical extension to create a dynamic social workspace where employees can share documents, posts, pages and links.
What’s your view on social technology in the business world?