Today’s businesses face overwhelming pressure to become more responsive in a constantly changing world. The rigid processes and established hierarchies that have been powering commercial operations for centuries are no longer desirable as modern markets become more dynamic, fast-paced and complex. In these old-fashioned businesses, information siloes reign supreme; different departments don’t share information freely, and insights from the frontline never get anywhere near management level. Together, a lack of collaboration and countless hours wasted searching for information leaves them unable to keep up with their competitors. These businesses become dinosaurs, lost in time as more agile competitors take over.
Things have changed. We now live in a social economy in which technology has made it easy to share information across platforms that become vast repositories of tribal knowledge. When companies use a corporate social network, messages generated become searchable content; records that are instantly visible to all relevant parties. That means no more executive-level personnel having no idea what’s happening on the frontline, no more blocking of information flows, and no more disengaged employees frustrated by the fact that no one listens to them. According to McKinsey, a successful deployment of corporate social networking software can also reduce the time spent on searching for company information by 35%.
Clarify use cases to provide a sense of direction
When you tell your employees that you’re implementing a corporate social network, one of the first things they’ll ask themselves is what’s in it for them. It’s only human nature. Too often do business leaders implement new technology just because it’s what everyone else seems to be doing, or it’s just the ‘done thing’ in their industry. More often than not, employees are receptive to using new technologies, but only if they can see a clear purpose in it. If there’s no clear explanation of how it’s going to make their lives easier, or all the talk revolves around benefits to the company rather than its employees, they’re not likely to show much interest. If your corporate social network doesn’t have a clearly defined purpose, there’s little chance of it ever taking off. You also need to communicate this purpose effectively, hence the need to define use cases employees can relate to.
To increase acceptance rates, you’ll also need to provide a simple introduction, preferably in the form of a video, which you can place on your community homepage. The introduction should focus more on the functional and beneficial aspects of the platform rather than the technology. For the most part, using the platform itself should be self-explanatory, at least if it provides the familiar controls that mainstream social media uses. Defining use cases is a little more complicated. The best approach is to have a member of your team illustrate in a few steps how, for example, people can use the platform to report issues, offer suggestions to management, or sign up for events. Another common use case is to link employees and contractors world-wide.
Listen at scale to break down information silos
The most promising startups and small businesses tend to be completely digitally connected, which is precisely what gives them a huge advantage over much larger companies that seem to be stuck in the old ways. Business agility is born of strong collaboration where everyone in the organisation, no matter their rank and job title, has access to the same information. CEOs have their fingers on the pulse of the business and are aware of everything that’s going on. There’s a deep sense of connectedness, and everyone is in on the purpose and mission of the entire organisation. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Unfortunately, most corporate social networks are digital ghost towns that most employees don’t even know exist.
Corporate social networks can fail for many reasons, but it’s usually corporate culture that’s to blame. Often, it comes down to a lack of leadership. Executive-level staff might, for example, consider it unprofessional, while other employees see no reason to use it other than to share the occasional cat picture. One thing’s for sure, and that’s that you can’t simply expect to install the latest corporate social network software and expect your employees to start collaborating enthusiastically. If there’s no onboarding and no one seems to be listening, they’ll forget about it in no time. Usually, the success of a corporate social network all comes down to the simple act of listening and letting colleagues know that they’re being heard.
Introduce some fun to encourage greater engagement
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about corporate social networks? Fun probably isn’t it. The term alone sounds like dull and… well… corporate, like a digital analogue to the endless, soulless cubicle farms of old. If the user experience is lacking in any sense of aesthetics or enjoyment, then you can hardly expect employees and colleagues to start getting engaged. Even if your network is highly convenient, accessible and easy to use, none of these guarantee high engagement rates by themselves. What you need is a way to tap into people’s psychology to encourage them to use the platform and appreciate the benefits it can bring not to the business itself, but to the people and their jobs.
A good place to start is to take cues from mainstream social media. Giving people the means to like and share posts and even add friends and send direct messages will provide an instantly familiar and more enjoyable experience. You can also add some gamification into the mix by using your corporate social network to launch competitions, publicise team-building events and reward your most valued users with additional recognition. Feeds and livestreams also provide a way to make the community more dynamic which, aside from making it a more fun space to get involved in, also helps keep your team informed with real-time updates and notifications. A lively corporate social network is a fun one; one that’s destined to be successful.
Make it accessible to increase acceptance rates
Corporate social media platforms, if made suitably user friendly, can provide a powerful boost to employee engagement. Features like shared files, and task management & collaboration tools serve to create a far more interconnected workplace. These enterprise social networking tools can have a compounding effect resulting in higher productivity and positive morale.
So, if you want to encourage employees to communicate better with their own team or with other departments, an internal corporate social network could be the best option for your organisation. However, as alluded to previously, it should be ensured that each team member has a clear understanding of how the network works and what it should be used for.
Corporate social networks are slowly but steadily replacing dated company intranets and other outmoded collaboration platforms. After all, the whole point of implementing such a system is to facilitate real-time information sharing and create an environment that’s driven by stronger teamwork in an increasingly mobile world. That’s never going to happen when everything is locked away in individual mailboxes and hard drives. Today, it’s imperative that your corporate social network provides a modern and instantly familiar experience that isn’t hindered by high learning curves, accessibility issues or compatibility limitations. Information should be readily available to allow people from different departments to interact seamlessly with one another.
Cloud and mobile functionality are must-haves for any modern collaboration experience. With a mobile app, there’s the ability to send push notifications alerting members to new posts and important events. Given that most people always keep their phones close by, there’s also no better way to remain consistently present, something that’s not likely to happen if all you have is a simple internal community forum. While mobile functionality is crucial for most corporate social networks, a web-based option is also important for making the experience accessible from any device with an internet connection, as well as enabling desktop productivity. To further boost accessibility and user adoption rates, it’s also useful to be able to integrate your community with the rest of your infrastructure.