We Collaborate #3 – Social Workers

The next generation of workers expects business applications to work just like the social media it uses every day. This isn’t just a matter of choice — it’s a question of productivity. Free information flow and peer-to-peer communication has proven its ability to traverse organizational barriers to information sharing and innovation. Consumer-style interfaces fuelled by gamification, in conjunction with the power of the crowd, are no longer a gimmick. They’re imperative. A new era of social communication with the potential to drive tremendous growth for the business is already here, even more when social workers become ’employee advocates’ to the outside world.

Enterprise social networks such as YammerIBM Connections, Slack or Salesforce Chatter as well as established global consumerized web and mobile platforms such as Facebook may be nothing new but, a successful corporate social business case study may well be.

The success stories surrounding these types of social solutions may have a viral following as vendors attempt to generate the necessary hype but, is this destined to become a sustainable trend that will ultimately change company and brand communication forever?

We are now at a point where we have to accelerate cultural change through the effective adoption of social technology. The CIO is well-placed to commence this evolution as she not only has the potential to consolidate application and data silos but will also be able to harness the changing expectations of millennials due to her responsibility for future system usability and agility. Having said that, the COO quickly becomes a natural stakeholder as well, as the social perspective starts to dominate the actual way of reaching out to customers and – thus – running the operational business.

Do not transition business processes to the enterprise social network on a ‘like-by-like’ basis, however. Take a step back and, with a clear view of the business outcome in mind, redesign business processes to accommodate social in the center aiming to ensure lasting business benefits.

Social tool excellence within the enterprise revolves around two main pillars: design and openness.

Design is especially important to the new generation of knowledge workers. They have never seen a traditional ERP or CRM interface and it is safe to say they probably don’t want to. Social technology and emerging cloud APIs can bridge the generation gap between corporate IT and collaborative social networks. It  ensures new employees feel more comfortable in their digital workplace. Progressive vendors are starting to merge legacy corporate processes such as absence management into their social product offerings or add gamification techniques into the mix to increase process productivity.

Openness is about ease of access through many-to-many communication across the enterprise. ‘Open Data’ information flows (via services such as SYNAPP) underpin this approach to incrementally drive fast ideation and feedback cycles, based on insights across retention, employee engagement and individual social influence scores.

How to help business become less anti-social?

Good products and services originate from the sustained internal excellence that collaborative employees strive for every day. By incorporating social moments into an otherwise covert process, enterprises can harness the combined capability of the workforce and its social network of brand evangelists in new and valuable ways.

This does not mean that the race to a socially-powered business is without its hurdles. To accelerate adoption and usage of social tools enterprises should:

(1) Empower socially-aware employees to breathe life into the business culture and the market

Allow social tools, processes and collaboration to gradually improve known customer experience hotspots. Also consider the fast-growing potential of employee advocacy, which brings the power of the social worker inside to the outside world. Providers such as Dynamic Signal lead the way, but LinkedIn also launched Elevate and Hootsuite came with its Amplify platform.

(2) Focus on the benefits of open collaboration rather than the threat to existing culture

CIOs and COOs should be the catalyst to collaboration, rather than a barrier.  Social collaboration by definition will span lines of business, systems and IT silos; embrace this approach to ensure the customer remains at the heart of all improvements.

(3) Implement a reverse mentoring process which balances social & corporate benefits 

Operating as a social worker is as alien to parts of the traditional workforce as cost management and governance may be to the average millennial. Implementing reverse mentoring to ensure collaborating at high pace but low risk will be critical.

And bear in mind, with over 80% of modern knowledge work now focused on collaboration and sharing, enterprises may need a workforce of social workers by choice.

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2016 update series. See the overview here.