Monday, January 14, 2013

Why the bad luck with your enterprise social network?

Author: Shankar Bharatan

Employee social networks is no more the ‘the topic’ today.  Many organizations have jumped on this bandwagon.  In the initial days, there were skepticism and concerns that employees might crash the site, connecting and conversing the way they do in popular social networking sites.   But the employees completely surprised their employers.  After the initial check and a cursory ‘Hello World!’ nothing much happened.  What happened?  Aren’t people crazy about social networks?

The fundamental flaw lies there, in that social network analogy.  Personal social networks are interesting places where one can meet his friends, know what’s happening with them and in general with the world.  Apart from the general networking pleasures, it’s a great place for a person to learn new things and validate his own ideas.   There’s so much of personal incentive in using Facebook. 

Sadly, enterprise social networks don’t provide these incentives.  They just become one more channel for internal marketing, thus offering no new learning. Moreover, most enterprise social networks have such loosely defined purposes that to an employee it conveys a message that it need not be taken serious.  

On the contrary, enterprise social networks with well-defined purposes can work a great deal to improve employee productivity and workplace processes.

HR is a great function that can get you started on a fantastic note on your enterprise social network initiatives.  Here are 3 areas where you could use your enterprise social network, and, for the incremental effort put in, reap big benefits:

§  Its estimated that 80% of learning happens through informal means whereas organizations spend 80% of their training budget on formal courses.  Rethink your learning strategies.  Apart from videos as learning materials, many courses can be converted into an experience-sharing format, a form of question and answers that makes them easier to consume.  Your authors and trainers can come from your own talent pool.  Incentivize them enough to keep up the good work.

§  Use the social network to greatly complement your regular appraisal process.  Allow employees to validate their coworkers’ skills and competencies, provide contextual references and testimonials of their work.  As compared to the annual appraisal process, this is a much more natural way of understanding one’s performance and potential.   Besides, it saves a lot of time in collating all information during the final appraisal.   It might be possible that this initiative might be used as a mutual admiration club, but in most cases, employees will not risk their own reputation by vouching for the wrong guy. 

§  Social networks are a great place to stay in touch.  Why restrict it to your current employees?  Build an alumni network, or a network of external talent.  Together with your employee references, these networks could be the sources from where you’ll pick more than 50% of your next hires.

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