Monday, April 19, 2010

Digital Social Media Adds Business Value to Innovation and Communication Connectedness

Is the use of social media in your workplace supported or blocked?

If you answered yes, then your organization is one of the majority of firms with over 100 employees that have yet to embrace the use of social media in the workplace for the average worker.

In a study conducted by Robert Half Technology entitled "Whistle But Don't Tweet At Work," many organizations are struggling with how to integrate social media into the workplace.

However, there are a growing number of firms such as IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Toshiba that are becoming highlyconnected workplaces.

Using digital social media tools such as blogs, microblogs, corporate social networks, wikis are providing new and effective ways to connect employees rapidly globally enabling mass collaboration opportunities.

Although some still question is their a positive ROI on the realities of uber connectedness, our research and work with clients throughout NA and SA are proving out that these companies are seeing improvements in communication, cross-functional collaboration and are finding employees are developing more creative approaches to problem solving.

More companies are discovering that a virtualized and connected workplace is not just about implementing a new set of collaboration SW toolkits - rather it is more about embracing a cultural shift to create a more open and transparent environment where employees are encouraged to collaborate virtually.

Recent research provides evidence that there are business benefits to becoming an more connected organization:

Access to social media improves productivity.

According to Dr Brent Coker from the Department of Management and Marketing at University of Melbourne in Australia, workers who engage in "Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing" are more productive than those who don't.

"People who surf the Internet for fun at work — within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office — are more productive by about 9% than those who don't," he says. "Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that's not always the case."

Millennials will seek jobs that encourage the use of social media. Those born between 1977 and 1997 — the ones you need to hire to replace the retiring boomers — are networked 24/7 and expect the company to accommodate pervasive connectivity.

An Accenture survey of Millennial preferences for various technologies at work found that they prefer to communicate via instant messaging, text messaging, Facebook and RSS feeds. What's more, they are prepared to bypass corporate IT departments if these tools are blocked. One Millennial MBA, typical of those we meet, says, "I need to access my Facebook in order to do my job." Has blocking Facebook today become the equivalent of denying an employee access to a phone at work 40 years ago or email 20 years ago?

Companies that provide access to social media create a more engaged workforce. Take the case of Cerner Corporation, the health IT firm. In 2009, Cerner implemented uCern, a corporate social network. In 2010, it will extend this social network to its customers and suppliers. Why? Because uCern has demonstrated significant business benefits to Cerner such as allowing employees to have increased access to experts across the globe, reducing the cycle time from discovery of new products to launch of new products, and increasing employee engagement and satisfaction in the workplace.

As we scan the workplace of the future, we see that everything we know about work — where we work, how we work, what skills we need to stay employable, what technologies we use to connect with colleagues — is changing. And these changes will only continue to accelerate as we move toward 2020, as the Millennial Generation will comprise nearly half of the workforce by 2014.

Companies who want to attract and recruit the best talent will realize becoming virtually connected will be a business imperative.

The journey starts with asking key questions like:

What business benefits are you trying to solve?

Will an increased ability to collaborate across the organization yield faster time to market, increased innovation, improved productivity, and increased collective intelligence as people are able to find knowledge and experts quickly?

Will engaged employees reduce your turnover rate and subsequent expenses related to hiring new talent?

Who needs to be involved in the coalition to become connected?

This is not an HR, IT or Learning initiative. Rather becoming continually virtually connected is simply the reality of the new way of working.

To bridge access to these capabilities for ensure the realities of this new way of working moves ahead successfully, organizations need to create a coalition of executives from Human Resources, Corporate Learning, IT, Legal Privacy, Security, and Corporate Communications. These are the ones who will plan, monitor and agree to a set of social media guidelines to ensure responsible use. Typically the process ownership for policy on employee usage is linked to employee code of conduct policies with strong leadership from HR and Legal, with the other working leaders in large global companies coming together to ensure all the respective interests of the different impact areas are considered.

Having recently designed and completed 5 programs in this area, we have learned that the policy and guideline sense making is not as complicated as ensuring the monitoring practices are put in place to comply with compliance requirements for using these toolkits for customer and business needs. Fortunately we have worked with the worlds toughest financial services organizations and so we understand the security and information management monitoring requirements - and if these tools can move into companies like JP Morgan or the Bank of America (doing major testing) currently, then there really is no excuse for other companies not to get going with the realities that this is the new way of working.

I liken this to when the wild wild west was moving from pony to buggy and to train express and these machines caused havoc in unsettling how we worked. As liberating as these are, each generation is faced with learning new ways of working and the Baby Boomers that have not been weaned with these ways of working and yet are in leadership positions throughout the world... need to recognize that more open, transparent and fluid communication problem solving approaches using collaboration solutions is the new world reality.

Our firm works to help C level executives understand the value of these approaches, and develop the right organizational structures that are needed to support these types of change.

We have learned that change management and cultural change and leadership development support sytems are key to operational success of deploying digital social media environments.

What type of change management plan needs to be put into place?

Recognize that the biggest hurdle is your culture and internal processes — not the technology behind the adoption of social media. Focus on finding ambassadors and influencers, then make it easy for them to share and participate in a social media pilot. Recognize that in the web community, status is built upon making meaningful contributions; so be sure to include recognition and incentives for participation early on.

Can your organization really hold on to policies that do not support the 24/7 hyper- connected lives employees are living outside of the workplace? Increasingly they are bringing digital expectations with them to the workplace.

We do not think companies that compete for global talent want to continue with outdated policies. Do you?

Stay tuned for our upcoming digital social media webinar on Web 2.0 Policies leading practices scheduled for June 11th. To register in advance contact


Lisa said...

I'd like to share a resource for those whose companies are blocking employee access to social media apps. It's a helpful whitepaper called “To Block or Not. Is that the question?”

It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, SharePoint, etc.)

This is worth sharing with your IT Dept.

Dr. Cindy Gordon said...

Thanks Lisa will check out.
Kindest Dr. Cindy Gordon

Stu said...

Good article and thanks Lisa for that link too!

Stewart Higgins
Intranet Expert
Intranet Software

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