Speed Your Company’s Social Transformation From the Inside Out

See how you can move your organization more swiftly towards social, by adapting one or more of the approaches that I heard at the BusinessNext conference I co-hosted with Mark Fidelman. This column (which appears, in full length in my Quotable and Connected Forbes column) is co-authored by a valued colleague and friend,  social enterprise strategist, Andy Jankowski.

“If HP only knew what HP knows,” former HP executive Lew Platt once famously said. Now that enterprise social software can spur companywide, transparent sharing and collaboration, there’s no excuse. In fact, providing employees with easy and obvious ways to learn faster together and from each other is proving to be one of the most successful approaches for companies to stay competitive and spur employee esprit de corps.

That discovery wouldn’t surprise Teresa Amabile, author of The Progress Principle. She found that employees are most likely to become higher performing and happier when they experienced regular, even small wins, had the opportunity to keep learning with others, and were authentically affirmed by their bosses.

“Human communities depend upon diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability.”?~ Sir Ken Robinson

Since social software tools speed idea sharing throughout an organization, they multiply opportunities for employees to get things done better together, hone skills and receive wider recognition. In so doing, the company culture becomes more open, productive and tight-knit. Smart firms are viewing their employees as ardent, articulate and connected internal and external ambassadors of their personal and company brand. In so doing companies optimize and retain their top talent.

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.”?~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

In 2009, the Canadian telecommunication corporation TELUS started its social transformation by establishing a “Learning 2.0’ system that encouraged continuous, iterative shared learning and collaboration among their 35,000 team members in different countries. Their tools ranged from TELUS Buzz, a microblogging platform of updates and questions to their version of an internal YouTube channel. Both encourage formal and informal learning and other functions such as on-boarding new employees, according to TELUS senior director and head of learning and collaboration, Dan Pontefract, who believes such measures reinforce TELUS’ “future is friendly” credo. He says, “It helps us do our job better and faster and its more engaging.”

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”?~ Eric Hoffer

These steps proved so fruitful that the company expanded the program in a bold way. The firm allows employees to work from where they want, when they want. That change is tied to two key business metrics: increased employee satisfaction scores and their customers’ likelihood to recommend them to others. This reflects a shift from a ‘Command and Control’ leadership model to one of ‘Cultivate and Coordinate’” according Jacob Morgan, author of The Collaborative Organization, and principle at Chess Media Group, who witnessed the transformation first hand. Pontefract calls it a shift to a “flat army.”

“Intelligence will become more and more collective; innovation and order will become more and more bottom up.”?~ Matt Ridley

BASF, a multinational chemical corporation, made a major move towards social by using IBM Connections to create, “a comprehensive internal online business network for employees to share knowledge, collaborate, and unify the company,” according to Social Business by Design co-author and chief strategy officer at The Dachis Group, Dion Hinchcliffe. Connect.BASF is one of the most extensive internal enterprise communities. According to Hinchcliffe, “this online system included information rich, social media-style employee profiles, status updates, communities of interest, searching and tagging capabilities, blogs, forums, bookmarks, file sharing, and wikis.” While the company hoped to increase worker efficiency and company value, yet Hinchcliffe knew that would only happen if employees were motivated to participate. That’s why BASF focused on showing employees specific ways they could perform their jobs better, using the tools.

“We tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system, and wonder why our deepest problems never get solved yet sometimes we are able to solve a deep problem because what I don’t know is what the person to my left or right does.”? ~ Peter Senge

See the rest of this column over at Forbes.

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