Becoming a Social Business
Dr. Steve Elmore

In the past decade we have witnessed a fundamental shift in the way people work and solve problems. Social behaviors driven by hyper-connectivity have found their way into the workplace, greatly influencing knowledge sharing, decision-making, collaboration and management. This makes traditional, hierarchical, organizational, and information models less effective and less competitive in the global marketplace.Social business technologies are the business offspring of social media and have been the great enabler for these new work modes. Social businesses have better insights into people, ideas, and activities inside the organization. Providing more transparency around decision-making, they encourage employees to ask questions and provide valuable input. Social businesses also have a greater ability to collaborate between geographically dispersed individuals and teams, and create a knowledge legacy that can be leveraged for competitive advantage. Cross-functional and ad hoc teams are far better at achieving successful outcomes, so the ability to find talent has become increasingly important. Consequently, users now spend more time developing a personal brand and socializing their knowledge so they can have a better choice of projects.

Image by slightly_different from Pixabay

Organizations can no longer afford to reward employees who hoard knowledge. Employee loyalty and turnover is a significant issue, and professionals are taking their best ideas out the door if the culture and technology has not been put in place to create an information legacy. As much as 80% of organizational knowledge is passed back and forth between peers, experts and managers. Mentoring is beginning to move in both directions as more technically savvy employees share their knowledge with leaders. Social business technology can contribute to a more connected, collaborative workplace, as well as mitigate the impact of employee turnover.

Employees embrace social business software because it enables greater situational awareness within the organization, higher levels of connectivity and access to institutional memory and tacit knowledge. Mobility has enabled workers to connect anytime and anywhere, and they no longer accept the limitations of being tied to a desktop computer in the office. These new behaviors are not only breaking down the barriers between work and life, but also professional, public and private personae. This requires new management paradigms, workflows, behaviors and tools.However, becoming a social business is not a slam-dunk. Aside from the myriad of poorly selected and implemented technology solutions that can bring an organization to its knees, any lack of social DNA requires change management planning that begins in the C-Level suite. Without the necessary leadership paradigm and support, social business initiatives will not only fail to thrive, they will be more difficult to correct later when the initial trust and goodwill has been lost. Once the leadership is on board, it is critical to build a social business roadmap.

“Build it and they will come” does not work. Organizations must first understand their goal in being social and tie any initiative back to measurable organizational objectives. They must thoroughly understand their employees, especially if they are demographically skewed towards late adopters or primarily engaged in transactional behaviors. They must create compelling user experiences and select social technologies that can integrate with back office systems so that the nature of the work itself is transformed. They must also develop communication, measurement and improvement strategies that recognize the various phases of user adoption and what triggers each.

Social is not a fad diet, it is a lifestyle change. Organizations that truly wish to become a social business must first commit to change, take action, and then act consistently. Change the thinking throughout the organization—decide what you can do together with your customers and partners more effectively than without. Move quickly and deliberately to put a strategy in place that meets your unique social fitness requirements. That may include finding the right coach to help you get started and inspire you to greater heights. Visualize your optimal organizational physique and change your behaviors as the organization begins to change, because the growth is not linear or predictable. Finally, create and evangelize consistent social behaviors until they become self-motivating and sustaining. Done correctly, you will find a socially calibrated organization is a lean, agile, high-performing machine that delivers high returns to the individual employee and collectively to the enterprise.

Dr. Steve Elmore is a leader in the development of Social Enterprise collaboration and information strategies and has been a trusted advisor to many of the world’s leading global financial services, manufacturing, distribution, assessment development and research organizations. He enjoys advising organizational leaders of new concepts, trends, and mental models that impact organizational collaboration and effectiveness, and develop playbooks to help them lead more effectively in a social enterprise setting. As Vice President of Social Business Strategy at 7Summits, he develops 7Summits’ industry-leading social business services with new concepts, trends and models to impact organizational collaboration and effectiveness.