Top 5 Ways HR Can Operationalize Enterprise Social Networking Success
By Sanjay Joshi
More than 60 percent of adults worldwide are reportedly using social media. However, any discussion or reference to the implementation of social networking technologies in an organizational setting is often met with detached interest and misgivings from business leaders. The senior management seems least attuned to the value that can be created from quick, short updates along the lines of Twitter or Facebook within the enterprise. Further, certain eager companies that initially endorsed the introduction of social networking features with reluctance and thin enthusiasm, were left to seethese efforts waning to a few but dedicated stalwarts in the company.
The problem with setting up an unfulfilling enterprise-level social network has more to do with the leadership approach of viewing it all as technology deployment and not as an instrument of forging new ties, which in turn, engenders value creation. Simply put, in addition to the IT consideration, while making a move to an increasingly social business environment, there are a number of key factors, which demand the attention of HR professionals. How will staffers network in the new space? What positive effects will the business experience from such an interaction? What are the possible ways to gauge the success of the social networking platform? How does the organization derive social networking’s full potential? To obtain useful responses to these and other such larger questions, here are five sure-shot ways, which facilitate HR leaders to successfully implementan organization wide social network:
- Realize organizational buy-in on priority. Introduce top leadership and all employees to the benefits of enterprise social before its actual implementation. A definite first step would be to organize brainstorming in focused groups to determine effective ways to use the enterprise network.This not only breaks down departmental barriers but also encourages and excites employees to leverage the power of network, thereby yielding outstanding business results. Indian companies, particularly, have an advantage in its younger workforce that is quick at adapting to platforms mimicking Twitter and Facebook. “The formal changes to informal. Hard messages can be communicated in a casual manner without jeopardizing the morale of the younger employees,” remarks Rajesh Lalwani, CEO and founder of leading social media agency, Blogworks.
- Recognize the opportunity. McKinsey Global Institute in its latest findings noted that social technologies despite having found widespread adoption at the consumer level have ‘generated only a small fraction of the potential value they can create’ for enterprises globally. It also revealed that these technologies could unleash USD 900 billion to 1.3 trillion in value in four major sectors of the global economy, namely, advanced manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, professional services and consumer- facing financial services. Interestingly, two-thirds of this value realization opportunity resides in enhancing collaboration and communication within and across enterprises.
A first step would be to critically examine extant forms of informal and formal collaboration networks harnessed by employees at individual levels. The opportunity lies in vastly improving such internal collaboration through social technology that can scale across the whole enterprise in a span of days.In addition, HR leaders must ensure and facilitate that collaboration networks are employed successfully not just by employees who know each other but also by various members of an organization to connect actively with those with similar interests and processes regardless of the geographical divide or degree of acquaintance.
- Build quantifiable goals.The adoption of enterprise social network in Indian context lies at a nascent and limited stage. However, the February 2012 Altimeter study titled Making The Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks states that more than 50 percent of American adults utilize an enterprise social network on a daily basis, yet quite a few organizations strive to retain engagement on these networks. To effectively leverage these networks, it pays to establish objectives linked to internal network usage and quantifiable business results. The following four measurable, enterprise wide social networking goals offer a good starting point:
- Cutting the volume of internal meetings and email communication
- Enabling inter- and intra-departmental collaboration
- Making a particular business process better
- Sharing of frequently updated best practices
- Grow engagement by positive reinforcements for proper usage. Providing incentives or rewards go a long way in motivating people beyond their current levels of participation and usage of enterprise social networks. Such incentivized acknowledgements could include monetary benefits, virtual awards, featuring most liked blog posts or tips on company intranet and recognition, like Employee of the Month.
- Enable employees to centralize and share information and expertise. Internal social networks can help pull apart hurdles posed by an organization’s hierarchical structure that often hinders progress. The workforce feels empowered with ready availability of information, expertise and tools for quick collaboration and communication in multiple directions. Organizations should also encourage continuous feedback from employees on issues related to change and create social networking policies, which allow them to create efficiencies and enhance processes.
If Gartner research findings are anything to go by, internal social networking sites will replace emails for 20 percent of business users by 2014. While this may or may not happen, what is certain is the critical role enterprise social will play in propelling an organization more predictably towards its stated business outcomes.
Sanjay Joshi is an Editor at SHRM India.