McKinsey Highlights Slow Adoption Rate for Intra-Company Social Networks
Why should intra-company social networks be considered a strategic issue? Because there is productivity to be gained! The McKinsey Global Institute last year estimated that “$900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value could be unlocked in just four sectors by products and services that enable social interactions in the digital realm.”
Put in plainer English: Billions of dollars in productivity gains are there for the taking if companies can figure out how to integrate social networking tools internally to boost collaboration and innovation.
Here’s the key: Give the keys of this particular asylum to the inmates and let them design their collaborative system. McKinsey’s author makes the point this way:
“Top-down implementation directives don’t work for social technologies—and in fact directly contradict their very purpose. Organizations should adopt approaches that emphasize testing and learning; any lack of impact must be viewed not as a failure but as a lesson learned. Developing an atmosphere of experimentation enables organizational learning and keeps alive the possibility that technologies may have unexpected successes.”
Management doesn’t walk away, mind you. They are inmates in the asylum, too, and have a role to play in guiding the innovation process. Indeed, deep involvement at all levels is needed, because everyone has to participate in whatever system is developed for it to raise productivity, and participation is driven by the emotional investment each employee has in its success. Otherwise it will join the large pile of useless side projects that most organizations have started but never fully implemented over the years.
Start with the end in mind
The goal of building an intra-company social collaboration network is to raise productivity. So how can intra-company social communication and collaboration tools help do that?
Faster and more accurate communication – Employees are more engaged when they know what is going on, and what their role in mission achievement is. Well-designed social networks can help speed information up and down the organization.
Faster feedback loops – Challenging authority constructively, building consensus and getting agreement to move forward all come more easily when clear communication channels exist.
Transparency – If knowledge is power, having a system that makes sharing knowledge easy and, often, mandatory, spreads the power more evenly across the organization. Hidden agendas are easier to spot and address directly, because the gap in the public knowledge base will be glaringly obvious.
Personal Investment in success – People are more passionate about making a success of what they helped to build. They will also invest extra time in fixing the aspects of the new system that do not seem to be working.
Strong intra-company social network culture, with traffic cops – Installing an effective social collaboration system does not all by itself change human behavior. Disgruntlement and dissatisfaction will still arise when employees feel uncared for or taken advantage of, and they will use the network to express it. Having a set of intra-company codes of behavior, developed by employees, is a good start. Having employee ombudsmen who are designated “traffic cops” is another structural facet that could help. Much as a business must monitor and respond to customer posts on their public review pages (like Yelp), so business leaders must respond to posts on the intra-company sites. Keeping the discourse civil would be the only role of the ombuds-people, moving online arguments offline as appropriate and bringing conversations that might be getting testy to the attention of the appropriate leader.
Which tools are going to best help your organization accomplish all these desired outcomes? Your team must explore lots of options:
- Ask around about success stories at other companies
- Evaluate vendor options (and grill their clients about results)
- Start small with specific groups, projects or processes
- Test, test, test, learn, apply learning, expand a bit, test, test, test
Everything is more public in a socially networked world, and the glitches and misunderstandings that occur on Facebook and other public social sites will also occur on your intra-company networks. Expect them, anticipate them, plan for them. And respond constructively when they occur!
This is a worthwhile project, because the project itself is such a great way to get lots of employees engaged more deeply in your mission. The result will be an organically grown system with lots of “buy in” that could transform your organization’s ability to retain talent, develop it, and innovate.
Has your organization leveraged internal social media tools successfully? What was the development or implementation process like? What toes were stubbed? What home runs hit?