How Social Networking and Collaboration Technologies Can Help
According to Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace” 2013 survey, only 13 % of employees are actively engaged in their workplace. This figure must be troubling for any business leader. Although there are many factors involved in engaging and motivating your employees, we will see how social and collaboration technologies can help business leaders to rally their staff around your company’s vision.
There are different ways employee engagement can be defined. The way I define it is that you feel engaged in the workplace when you see a connection with yourself, your work, your company and broader society. If any of the links are missing, it impacts your interest and motivation level. First, let’s look at couple of complaints people have when they describe their workplace environment:
- Feeling of not being heard
- Lack of clarity around company strategy
- Both job at hand and skills/interests are not aligned
- Lack of recognition for effort
- No socialization opportunities
To engage and motivate employees, business leaders have to look at it from multiple dimensions. Many factors may be contributing to low engagement levels. For example, it may be compensation strategy, communication gaps between management and employees, team structure, company organization or any other specific management practices being used.
In this digital age, technology can help a lot to remove complaints without incurring significant costs. In subsequent lines, we will see how social and collaboration technology can play its role to address each concern effectively. Social networking technologies have already proven their value in the consumer space. Now it is time to exploit these benefits within the business space. Here are couple of the approaches that can be used to exploit social and collaboration technologies to enhance employee engagement. Please note: this is not a complete list regarding how these technologies can be used. You can tailor these approaches by keeping in your specific context in mind.
Communicating Company Vision and Strategy
Often employees find it challenging to relate their work with a broader company strategy and roadmap. They cannot see a link between what they are doing and what the company is trying to achieve. A corporate portal can be used for internal communications to share the company strategy and how it relates to each department, team and individuals. CEO’s can conduct online town hall meetings, which can be broadcasted across the whole company. CEO’s can also share broader strategies and explain why the company is pursuing specific initiatives and projects. This will allow employees to see how they are contributing to broader company objectives.
Often times, people have very well defined jobs and don’t necessarily have very many interactive opportunities with other people in their workplace. They may become isolated from the rest of the company and may know very little about what is going on broadly within the company. Enterprise Social technologies with Microsoft SharePoint can be used to create communities around specific topics. These topics could be related to work or may be generic. Employees can then join these communities based on their interest and share knowledge with other community members. This allows people from different departments to collaborate informally and solve business problems, which may not be directly related to their primary job. On the other hand, it also creates socialization opportunities to build relationships among employees.
If you have a news feed within your corporate portal, a one-line update by a manager, recognizing efforts and performance of an employee can do wonders for him as well as for rest of the employees. Public recognition sends a strong message to everyone showing that management recognizes the efforts and work done by employees.
Regular Corporate Communication
Sharing regular updates with employees keeps everyone informed. Often times, information is not shared regularly with a broader audience, which creates communications gaps. You may be unaware of a new exciting project that your fellow team members are working on. There’s the possibility of duplicating efforts; you may be working on a problem that was already solved by another team member. Such scenarios also indicate opportunities for knowledge sharing. Managers sometimes send email updates which have limited impact. If something is shared on the corporate news feed or portal, it stays there forever and has much more impact than occasional emails. Also, this gives a reason for everyone to visit the corporate portal to catch up on the latest updates as well as refer back to past ones.
Opportunities To Express Yourself
In the digital world, it is much easier to share your ideas and opinions. A corporate blog and wiki site can be used to create a platform where everyone can share his or her ideas and get feedback from fellow employees.
Like any other initiative, overdoing or doing it without proper control and oversight may have its own implications. There are specific best practices to make social initiatives successful but I will leave this topic for another day. One thing is sure that social and collaboration technologies have established their value in consumer space. It is up to the business leaders to decide how they can bring these technologies in business world and reap huge benefits out of it.
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Saeed Ahmad is a seasoned professional with diverse experience in business technology with special focus on social networking and collaboration solutions within the enterprise space. He is currently working on solutions to help companies expedite product innovation process using social technologies. Saeed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.