David Hale, Consulting Senior

At home, millions of employees have their own Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking accounts. At work, do you use these tools to organize events and communicate with your co-workers?  For most, the answer is probably not.  With good reason, these social networks are not managed, private or secured within the confines of each business’ virtual walls.  However, a new wave of online, cloud based services called enterprise social networks (ESNs) have entered the market over the last few years and matured. As an example, over 85% of Fortune 500 companies are using Yammer, an ESN geared for businesses. ESNs are transforming the way we communicate with each other. They provide an online, private community where employees can post messages, updates, ask questions and more. These ESNs promise to enhance collaboration, engage your employees and allow them to spur innovation from within. Looking at these benefits, does it make sense for your business to take advantage of an ESN?

Enhance Collaboration

An estimated 61% of time spent per employee is “coordinating collaboration” (source: McKinsey Global Institute, The Social Economy, July 2012.) Teams are running in circles.  This means that actual work is getting done only 39% of the time.  A majority of the time is spent duplicating work and searching for information across various systems. Does that sound like an effective use of time?

ESNs can improve team alignment by allowing employees to collaborate across offices and continents.  Some ESNs, like Yammer, have a built-in translator that will allow you to translate posts automatically so international teams can collaborate in a faster, more effective manner without requiring separate translation services. These networks also allow you to structure communications into groups, allowing employees to communicate on projects and events with simple posts rather than lengthy emails with many copies.  There’s an estimated 25% boost in productivity in social organizations that use ESNs alone.

Engage Your Employees

Most employees are disengaged.  A recent study from a Gallup poll showed a startling 71% of employees are not engaged.  How does this happen?  Communications and company wide announcements are top down via one too many emails and don’t allow for feedback.  Employees often  feel their work is not recognized and don’t understand how their role fits into the larger piece of the organization, thus making them feel disconnected within the organization no matter the size.

Enterprise social networks can change the statistics by increasing employee engagement.  Expertise can be identified much quicker in a social network when co-workers need assistance. These networks can accelerate the onboarding, learning and development for new individuals in an organized group, rather than showing an employee different locations for saved files, policies, templates, forwarded emails, etc.  And the most important piece of increasing engagement is sharing best practices—allowing each other to share best practices so employees across an organizationknow what works and what doesn’t. Helping others is what creates a deeper connection with each other and, inadvertently, the organization.

Innovate From Within

Organizations today face increasing competition as they struggle to bring better value with their products/services to markets. Companies are now realizing that change is a requirement for their future success to thrive and grow. How big or small of a change depends on each organization, but, across all organizations, change is often met with resistance. An estimated 57% decline in workforce productivity happens when change occurs. (Source: APQC, HR’s Role in Change Management, 2010).

Enterprise social networks are about giving your people the chance to do more within your organization.  Allowing them to collaborate in newer ways and share ideas has led to higher employee engagement, deeper collaboration and more innovation as a result.   For example, Red Robin restaurant and Yammer received the 2012 Social Product Innovation Knowledge Excellence (SPIKE) award. Red Robin used Yammer to coordinate and release a new menu item, called Red Tavern’s Double Burger. To release this item, it required coordination from over 2,000 restaurant managers and over 250 corporate employees to get this item in restaurants quickly and effectively.  This is just one example of how a large organization used an ESN to communicate and coordinate with all employees and was recognized for their effort.

The social journey has many benefits that can help your organization survive a disruption in the marketplace in which competition is continually growing. However, it requires a commitment from executive management to be continually involved with the network to make it a success. Organizations are now deciding if the time is right to start their own ESN.  If you’re interested in learning more about the social journey, contact us today.

 For more information about ESNs, please contact David Hale at dhale@blumshapiro.com

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