Creating a Social Business Culture
It’s hard to dispute that social business is increasingly popular. Billions have been spent on software over the past few years, with the market predicted to continue its upward trajectory. Despite this investment however, success has been hard to come by, with industry estimates pinning the success rate as around 20%.
There has been no shortage of advice and guidance on how to do things better, be they tips on improving adoption of your enterprise social network or proving the ROI of your endeavours. Despite these efforts however, success has still proved elusive.
I think the reason for this is cultural. Organizations have a particular way of working that is almost hard coded into their DNA. Many of these organizations have been around for a very long time, so they may reasonably believe that the way they work has stood the test of time.
You should be under no illusions however. Social business is fundamentally different to what has been before. It represents a significant shift in how organizations behave, and I believe it is this shift that is underpinning the failure of so many efforts in the social business field.
There remains a propensity to say all the right things about promoting collaboration and innovation, you may even buy some tools to help employees to do just that, but there remain a whole lot of systemic factors that are telling employees that collaboration or innovation aren’t really what you want.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Take collaboration for instance. If you want collaboration, you’re saying you want employees to share their knowledge and help their colleagues out. Wonderful, and no doubt a very noble aim.
Think about it though. Most employees have a job description. Does that job description contain anything in it at all about collaborating with colleagues? Does it even afford that employee an amount of time that they can spend away from their regular work helping a colleague?
Or think about how you pay your employees. If there are any performance related elements to your pay structure, how many of those are geared around collaboration or team success? If you’re like many organizations, that number will be very low, with the majority of performance related pay offered for individual success.
Which of course then feeds directly from what it is that you measure. I mean all employees have KPIs. They’re the heart of the adage that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, right? Sure, but if the KPIs you set people are based on their individual achievements, are you really promoting collaboration?
These are just some of the factors I discuss in my recent book The 8 Step Guide to Building a Social Workplace. It focuses on the various ‘levers’ you can use to encourage certain behaviors in the workplace. Human beings, adaptable things that we are, have shown throughout our history that we are experts at adapting to our environment. Provide the right environment therefore, and you will have a much better chance of building a social business.
The eight levers that I talk about are:
- Decision making – if you want to tap into insights from your employees for instance, and yet decisions are made according to hierarchy and status rather than knowledge. Think about how decisions are made and whether that promotes social behavior.
- Reward – we touched earlier on how rewards work to reinforce behavior. This can be intrinsic as well as extrinsic of course.
- Measurement – closely associated with the reward lever is the measurement one. Make sure you use it to promote social behavior.
- People – people are arguably the biggest area for scope, from the way you recruit to the training you offer. Think about the kind of skills required of your team in order to encourage knowledge sharing.
- Information distribution – it hopefully goes without saying that knowledge sharing requires a large dollop of transparency when it comes to information. Think also however about areas such as feedback and performance appraisals and whether they could be delivered in a more social way.
- Physical environment – there has been a lot of discussion recently about collaborative workspaces, and whilst enterprise tools have empowered a lot of virtual collaboration, the way people interact physically will still play a role in supporting behaviors.
- Task – task is an interesting one. There has been a great deal of attention over the last 30 years or so in optimizing performance. Lean, six sigma et al have done wonders in making workplaces efficient. This could involve collaborative tasks too, but you might also want to think about the way tasks are managed in areas such as open source software or crowdsourcing projects.
- Organization – does the way your organization is structured promote and encourage collaborative behavior? Think about it from the org chart all the way down to ensure you’re doing all you can to encourage collaboration.
Now I’m not advocating doing each of these 8 things, but these areas taken as a collective do a great deal to define how work is done in any organization. If you want to change the behaviors therefore, you need to create an environment that promotes the new behaviors.