While lots of businesses are now recognising that ‘social’ is something that needs to happen, usually the focus is very much on the external, the ‘what are we doing about (insert the social network of your choice here)?’ type of concern. Very few are looking internally and recognising the power of connecting the efforts of employees through social and collaborative digital tools to drive business success.
Back in late 2010, McKinsey published some research about the rise of the networked enterprise, finding that companies using the Web intensively gain greater market share and higher margins. It also specifically referenced the internal benefits of using Web 2.0 to become an internally networked organisation, the perks including ‘more flexible processes…information is shared more readily and less hierarchically, collaboration across organizational silos is more common, and tasks are more often tackled in a project-based fashion’. And who doesn’t want that?
At UBM we have our own internal network called The Hub which sits on the social business collaboration platform from Jive Software. While the platform currently has its limitations, the concept is sound and I quite simply couldn’t do my job to the best of my abilities without it. It’s now so integral to what I do that I’d have serious reservations about working for an employer who wasn’t using an enterprise solution.
If you don’t yet have a similar collaboration platform, here are my top 10 reasons why your business needs more social in its corporate life:
1 – You can harness the power of many
The greatest innovators of our time didn’t create in a vacuum, they surrounded themselves with the best people to help them get their vision accomplished. By using a enterprise social platform you can connect the minds of many and turn this to your competitive advantage by generating collective intelligence.
2 – You don’t need to continually reinvent the wheel
Ask Mark Twain said, ‘there is no such things as a new idea…we simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope’. Your enterprise platform is your business’ mental kaleidoscope. Chances are, someone, somewhere in your organisation has done something similar to the project you’re about to start work on, and wouldn’t it be great to tap into that knowledge and find out what worked – and perhaps more interestingly – find out what didn’t?
3 – It can support a global culture
At UBM the Hub is the only system which connects everyone around the world and this makes it pivotal to the development of a company-wide culture by enabling the free flowing of ideas, information and values. Many large companies, especially those built on acquisition and partnerships like us, can really struggle to foster an internal global culture, so by connecting employee behaviour and encouraging collaboration using these tools you can really support cultural connection and future proof your organisation.
4 – You can reduce your reliance on email as your number one internal communication tool
Email is a very poor communication tool, it’s not collaborative nor conversational. It makes working on projects tricky, it creates misunderstandings, trails of information get lost, attachments get misplaced. It makes people lazy – opting to send an email rather than have a conversation. People hide behind it and use it to shield themselves from blame (“It’s not my fault it didn’t get done, I put it in an email”) rather than communicating properly in the first place. Internal social tools help reduce an organisations’ reliance on email by moving the communication and collaboration employees are trying to do over email into a platform specifically designed to support them. Take a look at this article on Social Media Today for more on what makes email so inefficient.
5 – You can find the people you need
In larger organisations it can be difficult to find the right people, whether that’s the right people to join your next project or simply to ask a question of. The big advantage of having an internal social tool is that not only does everyone have their own profile which cover their skills and experience, but you can read the content they’ve posted about the projects they’ve worked on. This can give you a real insight into the person before you’ve even picked up the phone. The flip side of this is that interested people can find the projects you’re working on and can proactively offer their skills and advice before you’ve had a chance to track them down. And don’t underestimate the power of a system which stores everyone’s photo – it’s invaluable if you’re meeting in busy place for the first time or just trying to find them on the floor of an open plan office.
6 – It’s a great career development opportunity
Everyone’s individual profile acts as an internal CV. If the content you’re producing and sharing attracts attention, you attract attention. As a result people can quickly start to build their reputation and increase their visibility at a speed unheard of without an enterprise solution. For hiring managers and those involved in talent management this is an absolute godsend as it enables you to identify and fast track your leaders of the future and make stronger internal moves and hires.
7 – You can foster ideas and innovation through democracy
Social tools offer a level playing field to everyone within the business – everyone’s voice and content carries the same weight. For organisations who are looking to harness the power of collective intelligence to drive the development of ideas and innovation it is essential for everyone to be able to contribute and to feel comfortable in doing so. By democratising the idea development process rather than having it assigned to a certain department or job title, you’re able to foster a feeling of equality, which in turn creates the collaborative culture needed for collective intelligence.
8 – You can track trends and changes in your global marketplace
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see into the future? Well an enterprise platform is the modern day crystal ball for business as it enables you to see global shifts occurring and respond to them before you’ve felt the effect across the entire company. So if your Asia office reports a developing trend, your US office can be much more proactive in responding and adapting to this shift by having both the internal knowledge available to make informed decisions, and the time to put these plans into place to either capitalise on an opportunity or reduce a potential threat.
9 – Manage internal and external projects on a single platform
The great thing about enterprise social tools is not only can you use them to harness your internal collective intelligence and run more efficient projects, but that you can open them up to your wider community too. By opening up projects on your platform to your clients, customers and partners you can improve information flows, communication, idea generation and manage expectations in ways that you would never be able to via the phone, meetings and email alone. Why develop in isolation from your clients when running a more open project reduces the risk of miscommunication and poor quality outcomes?
10 – Leadership for the digital age
Leaders shouldn’t underestimate the importance adding social media skills to their repertoire. To really see the organisational benefits of social business platforms, senior executives need to be walking the walk as well as talking the talk when it comes to content creation, sharing and engagement. With employees becoming increasingly social savvy there is an expectation to be led by people who know how to really exploit these tools to their full advantage – I can’t stress enough how important the art of blogging is becoming for all business leaders. If you’re in any doubt, have a look at the six social media skills every leader needs from McKinsey and I regularly recommend Euan Semple’s book Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do to our senior execs who are keen to improve their understanding and skills in this area.