Social media has changed many aspects of our working lives, it’s used for connecting with customers, creating conversation, strengthening a brand and advertising, amongst other things. However, it’s not just a B2B and B2C channel, it can also be used internally in an organisation in order to create a productive and efficient workforce.
I’m not talking Facebook and Twitter here of course, but about internal social networks that are set up on a company intranet (network). These can be fully branded with company colours and logos and include a wealth of features that encourage employees to really get involved with the company they work for and other workers.
What is enterprise social media?
Enterprise social networking allows workers to connect via chat, message boards, video and wikis in order to encourage collaboration and increase productivity. They should not be confused with social enterprises, which are businesses that have a social purpose, such as one that tackles environmental issues. These have a very strong ‘social mission’ and are a different thing altogether to enterprise social media.
According to Harvard Business Review, enterprise social media tools enable ‘grey markets’ within businesses to properly organise the company in order to give value to certain processes.
“Social media inside the enterprise and out lower the costs and increase the power of individuals to productively coalesce and coordinate on their own initiative,” Harvard Business Review points out.
Enabling better communication
Many enterprises have such poor collaborative and communication tools that employees tend to create their own networks within the company. Historically, social media has been seen as a potential threat to the security of an enterprise, and whilst this is true of popular networks such as Facebook, it’s not of social enterprise platforms.
This is because these are within the firewall, on a closed network (the intranet) which belongs to the company. This makes it a difficult matter for malware and hackers to gain access to it, so the security risk to a social media platform that’s a part of the intranet is minimal.
A social intranet can include the following:
- Blogs & bulletin boards
- Videos and images
- Surveys and feedback
- Team workspaces
- A commenting and sharing function
The social aspects to the intranet don’t have to be sprung on an unsuspecting workforce all at once. They can be implemented by taking a phased approach when executing your social intranet project plan.
Communication and interaction
Getting the company employees talking and working together as a team can be tricky. Employees naturally tend to form groups with those they work the closest with and get on with the best. This means that interaction is taking place in small pockets, which are scattered throughout the company and may not bring much to the table in terms of real collaboration.
By implementing a strategy that will enable workers to communicate more freely with others in different departments, productivity can increase dramatically. This can be done with some simple surveys and feedback forms placed on the intranet as a starting point to designing the social aspect to an intranet.
Ask relevant questions when carrying out this first phase research that will pick up how social is likely to be used in different parts of the business, such as:
- Would you like to contribute blogs/wiki information that’s relevant to your job
- How would you use a chat function
- Which departments you would like the opportunity to collaborate with in special workspaces
You’re looking for feedback from the employees that will dictate how you design the intranet, so keep questions highly relevant. Remember that social is about transparency and coordination too, as well as the power that being able to properly communicate gives.
Whilst to some bosses the ‘power to employees’ idea may seem daunting, that’s not the case. A company that allows its employees a voice and a means to express themselves will have a happier workforce than one that doesn’t.
For more information on how this works, check out our previous post on Culture and Morale in the Workplace.
One of the first things to think about when planning the social intranet is how knowledge sharing can be facilitated across the network. Whilst bosses may be reluctant to get involved at the ‘grass roots’ level, it really is necessary to do so. Senior staff should all have their own blog and social profile that can be accessed by employees of all levels, who should also be encouraged to interact and comment.
Wikis should be created too and an employee (or even several) should have the power to upload information to this in the shape of documents, images and videos which are relevant to their job. Imagine if everyone in the company was to do this, putting up information that is informative and diverse, so that eventually there is a knowledge base that covers everything the company does. That’s a powerful asset for any business and it’s something that employees will enjoy adding to and accessing.
This is a vital part of the intranet and should be fully encouraged from the start. Include a search function so that workers can find each other, profile pages with a photo and details about their job. Create groups and workspaces and in no time, your company will feel more like a large family. The idea is to encourage everyone to work together, to promote the idea that you’re all in it together, at every level, from leaders to administrators.
The way that we work is evolving rapidly and the smart enterprise is the one that takes full advantage of everything that we’ve learned from social media. Within the enterprise, it increases knowledge, strengthens team-working and allows for increased productivity and communication.
There is no good reason at all for not having an intranet that includes social elements and it really is something that only adds value to the business and creates an environment where employees feel that they have a voice and so can therefore make a difference.