The term ‘Social Business’ has many different meanings; for some, it describes how businesses leverage social networking services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to market or sell their services. While this externally facing definition is certainly valid, ‘Social Business’ also describes how companies are using social networking concepts and technology to enable their employees to interact in new and exciting ways.
Not unexpectedly, many organizations fear a mysterious productivity drain that they expect to occur if they embrace these technologies. This same fear has paralyzed many organizations for decades. First it was email, then the internet, then instant messaging, and now social. However, social is different because the technology simply enhances natural human behaviors: building and maintaining relationships. Because building and maintaining relationships take time, the sooner companies get past their fears and embrace ‘Social Business’, the more value they will obtain from their investments. It pays to move first.
But what value truly exists in becoming a ‘Social Business’? While hard ROI numbers are difficult to calculate, there are many areas that we can explore where value is hiding, just waiting to be discovered. So, here are the top 10 ways in which social creates value:
Improved Email Usage: Social technologies change the way we communicate. Instead of employees receiving a gluttony of unwanted announcements for chair massages, parking restrictions, holiday treats, and IT change management windows, social technologies allow users to opt-in to these messages, only when needed and appropriate. This frees up our email systems to be used more effectively, allowing today’s knowledge worker to salvage valuable minutes from their day which can be used on more important tasks. Also, as ubiquitous and critical as email is, at its core it is an anti-social tool. It encourages faceless communication and enables people to hind behind their cubicle walls and not interact. A ‘Social Business’ needs more.
Improved Employee Base: Attracting and retaining top-talent can be a strategic differentiator for companies. It is expensive to lose an employee. Some studies have shown that it can take up to a year to regain the productivity and efficiency of a lost employee, not to mention the time and money surrounding identifying, recruiting, interviewing and hiring someone new. Additionally, the Consumerization of IT has put new demands on the technologies companies provide employees. Employees expect to be able to apply the same technology methods they use in their personal lives towards business purposes. By proactively providing these technologies, employee satisfaction goes up and undesirable attrition goes down.
Increased Employee Engagement: Social technologies provide unique communication opportunities that were very difficult in the past. Communities can be established that cross functional and geographic boundaries and enable communication and collaboration on key business issues. Communities enable the ability to contribute to the overall success of the organization. When a direct line is drawn between individuals and the corporate direction, employees stop thinking of themselves as employees and start thinking of themselves as owners. The entrepreneurial spirit fostered by these communities increases commitment and improves decision making, as a broader perspective is adopted across the entire organization.
Increased Efficiency: Efficiency can be defined as spending the minimum amount of time and effort towards solving a problem or performing an action. In today’s world, efficiency is paramount. For many of us, gone are the days of the 9-5 job. Mobile technology has enabled us to be constantly connected, and therefore we tend to work 5-9 instead. That work is not just performed in the office anymore. We are working anywhere and everywhere and need to be über-efficient to balance our personal lives with our professional lives. Social technologies can provide this when effective mobile interfaces are provided. Social technologies themselves demand more efficiency. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, has theorized that the maximum number of relationships that any individual can effectively maintain is about 150. After that number, the time and effort is takes to maintain the relationship is just too great. Social technologies, when implemented correctly, enable us to efficiently form and maintain new relationships with those otherwise outside of our realm. These new connections allow us to expand our resources, gaining help and helping others in ways never possible before.
Foster Innovation and Creativity: Many companies pay lip service to their ability to innovate, but few can truly foster innovation across their entire employee base. Like a suggestion box on steroids, social technologies can enable the ability to collect, manage, socialize and deliver on new ideas. Idea Campaigns can be run on specific topics, to encourage innovation in key strategic areas. The entrepreneurial culture formed by communities is further enhanced by innovation processes that are visible to every employee. Incremental improvement becomes standard operating procedures. We no longer point to the everyday challenges as someone else’s problem – instead we are enabled to contribute, solve, and improve ‘our’ company.
Stay tuned for Part II and the top 5 ways in which social creates value! In the meantime, please feel free to comment below.