More and more companies have the challenge of how they can make their worksplaces more productive with modern collaboration tools. In companies that successfully use social collaboration tools for connetcing with each other and sharing information, employees say they find colleagues with relevant expertise and the right knowledge easier and they can solve problems faster. They can find experts by following conversations in social networks.
These tools should support and help employees make faster decisions, develop more innovative ideas for products and services, share knowledge and make their work more flexible and more productive.
For the past two decades, companies have tried to reach these benefits through the implementation of knowledge management databases, but with limited success. This is because determining who has expertise and understanding the context in which it was created are important components of knowledge sharing. Databases do not provide this type of information and connections.
In other companies social collaboration tools or an enterprise social network are hardly used. I see so many companies that make the same mistakes over and over again when they introduce such tools. That’s why I describe the following five key recommendations for successful introduction social enterprise networking and social collaboration tools.
Recommendation 1: Define the purpose
Many CEOs I asked why the would like to use social collaboration tools responded with the argument, „Other companies are doing it, so we’re trying to do it“ or „You need that to be an attractive employer and attract young talents“. But few of them had a solid business case.
Managers assume that only by providing such tools, the organization automatically becomes smarter and more social. And many managers rely on their younger employees to set a good example within the organization and expect them to do pioneering work in the use of social instruments, as they know how to use social media tools in their private lives. But the motivation for private use and business use is very different. If you privately connect with friends, it doesn’t automatically mean you do so when working with colleagues.
Most employees do not know exactly why they should use social tools in their work. So people don’t use them at all, or without realising it, use them in a way that decreases rather than improves performance. In my experience, employees need to see the value and benefits for themselves to succeed with collaboration tools or with an enterprise social network.
Recommendation 2: Allow personal and informal communication
Most companies limit the tools only for the communication for dailly teamwork. Personal communication is completely excluded and declared as a waste of time. Executives worry about loss of productivity.
So many companies have strict guidelines and prohibit private communication. However, they forget how people network. People build strong relationships with other people through common interests, in private mostly through the same hobbies. It’s hard to start a conversation with someone you don’t know well. It is even more difficult to ask this person for help or a favor.
Employees start exchanging knowledge when they have gained personal insights about other employees by following them and watching them communicate through internal social networks. In this way, people create unexpectedly good connections within the organization. Open common interest groups have an enormous impact on the success of an enterprise social network.
Encourage people to follow other employees they don’t know instead of focusing on those they already know and talk to offline. It may also be useful in the future to remember and follow up on seemingly now irrelevant details about colleagues when problems arise. And every piece of information contributes to a complete, vivid picture of the organization.
Empfehlung 3: Recognize personal learning
People spend much more time as „observers“ in social networks than they produce content themselves – such as writing articles, exchanging information or creating documents. People can acquire two types of knowledge in an enterprise social network: direct knowledge and meta-knowledge.
Employees get direct knowledge when they observe the communication of others to solve problems. If the employees work onsite, this mostly takes place in the coffee kitchen. The information and knowledge exchange in an enterprise social network also provides employees with unexpectedly useful information. Employees who acquire meta-knowledge don’t learn to do something, but learn who has the necessary expertise or who knows someone who does. So they can connect with these people when they saerch for a solution of a problem. Learning happens indirectly and this is often not recognized.
Recommendation 4: Maintain focus and avoid information overload
Communication and behaviour of employees is clearly visible in an enterprise social network. This can support cooperation. But not everything that is visible is important or useful. Sometimes social content causes people to focus on and react to the wrong information. It is often assumed that what is most visible – the loudest shouting – is the most important. This is a mistake. Quieter introverted employees with enormous expertise are often overlooked or not heard. Such employees have different motivation to use social collaboration tools and make their work and ideas for others visible – not for self-expression, but for real practical help
An enterprise social network is most useful when employees are confronted with ideas and insights from other employees across the enterprise – especially from those employees they would not normally encounter. This can easily lead to information overload, because not all information is directly related to one’s job or role in the organization. The challenge is to keep attention on what is important and relevant. For this reason, companies tend to use enterprise social networks only within departments. However, this contradicts the idea of cross-functional networking. You can’t exploite the full potential of social collaboration tools.
Recommendation 5: Be a role model
If managers are not present and active in the enterprise social network, the employees won’t use it either. And if managers only use it for formal announcements like company news, employees will see it as just another tool for management to distribute information, not as a way for them to communicate and connect with each other.
As with any initiative that requires cultural change, leaders must be a role model for the behavior they want. If they notice a good idea or see that employees getting involved, they should also give public positive feedback as „likes“ or comments. So they can show appreciation. This also motivates other employees to become more active in the enterprise social network.
Introducing an enterprise social network and social collaboration tools in a company may look simple. It is assumed that you just need to select the right technology and tools. In addition, it is assumed that employees have experience using social media in their personal lives. So they can therefore transfer the use of such tools in a corporate environment. Both assumptions are a mistake
The reality is much more complicated: to achieve the benefits of such tools, you need to avoid the usual pitfalls and develop the strategies described in this article. Only then employees can become more involved in the business, communicate and share their skills and knowledge better, and collaborate more effectively.