As employees interact with each other on enterprise social systems, the structure of the organization itself changes. Silos give way to shared networks, knowledge sharing and collaboration across locations and business units.
Through these social interfaces with existing and ex-colleagues, college alumni and peers on external networking sites and communities, employees derive learning not just from the content but also the process of their interaction.
By engaging in social networks and communities of practice, people can connect with worldwide experts who share their expertise. They can watch Youtube videos to learn how to do something. They can leave a question to a community and have the collective respond to their question, such as on the question and answer site Quora. They can also receive free education provided by Professors and world-renowned experts via Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), which are offered by sites like Coursera and Udacity.
As individuals engage and connect with others who share similar interests they discover behavior and mental mindsets different from the command and control mindset of regular organizations. This shift in the nature of management, leadership and organizations toward collaboration and networks necessitates a concurrent shift in how employees relate to each other in the virtual and social world.
Here are four points to remember when you use Social Media to engage and connect professionally:
- Conversation is Critical - To influence someone, you have to talk to him or her. Conversation starts with sharing. Sharing aspects of your points of view, your knowledge is what triggers others to respond to you.
- Learning happens by Doing and Sharing - We all learn in different ways but the key to success in today's ever-changing world is to continuously learn. Learning professionals need to understand that their role is to curate the best learning experiences and not just create “training programs,” which are delivered via "classroom" or "e-learning" as they do today.
- Give to Receive - Social media is the epitome of the “giving it away thinking.”Give away ideas, thoughts, links and information. Telling people, "here's how others/websites/communities can be useful to you," makes them come back to you again and again and increases your own influence.These people also share your contribution with their networks, which also increases your status as an influencer.
- Social Recognition - The big driver of giving behavior is being thanked publicly for one’s knowledge and contribution. Social software uses this aspect of motivation to drive sharing by providing tools like leaderboards, and badges (called Gamification).Startups have already begun making tools that use social recognition to create behavior change and role modeling behaviors within organizations. HR’s traditional “Reward and Recognition” systems will progressively need to be crowd sourced and gamified to unleash the potential of employees.
So, how does this make you a better professional?
As the world becomes more open and digitally connected, behaviors that made a manager successful in the industrial age will not work in the hyper-connected social world of the 21st century.
Traditionally, a good manager epitomizes planning, directing, giving feedback and allocating resources to team members. But as the world hurtles towards faster change, two emerging factors are influencing the manager’s role and performance.
- Managers “know” less than their newest employees – and are, therefore, more likely to be disconnected from the outer world of customers and partners.
- As knowledge becomes more diffused and spread out both within and outside the organization, there is less certainty in the choice and making of decisions.
Giving people information or helping them connect with others who can help them, without expecting any help in return, is the anti-thesis of corporate behavior but the hallmark of the altruism that drives social behavior and contributes to building trust and credibility. Such trust and credibility are critical to building social capital – which helps more than traditional authority when information or help is needed.
The ability of professionals to “verbalize their work” by sharing details is what drives conversation and discovery of new connections and information. This also prompts others to connect and help when needed or asked.
Acknowledgement of such help publicly is a social recognition system that drives more sharing behavior, which in turn impacts the usefulness of the entire network and raises the collective intelligence.