Today, companies large and small are encouraged, pushed even, to be more and more social. Customers demand a presence on Facebook. Customer service is as important on Twitter as it is on 1-800 help lines. Top employees are as likely to be snatched from LinkedIn as traditional head-hunting services.
So it follows that when a Fortune 500 company starts a new social campaign, the business world is watching. Everyone wants to find the leg up, learning from competitors’ mistakes and evolving their techniques to a new, even better campaign.
But some of the top game-changing social moves aren’t highly publicized campaigns…or even publicized at all. While that seems to go against the very concept of “social” the follow three moves from Fortune 500 companies took the social lessons learned from networks like Facebook and internalized them, creating a stronger infrastructure for employee collaboration and improving internal company culture to help maintain a roster of top employees.
At General Electric, employees were constantly being bombarded by collaboration tools that weren’t connected to one another, CIO Ron Utterbeck told MIT Sloan Management Review. When employees want to use different tools, there’s no one place to go for project management or simple water cooler chat. Some people prefer email. Others want more structured tools like Yammer. Still others prefer existing social networks. So, at GE, they created a Facebook-like place for employees to gather called GE Colab. In less than a year, 115,000 of their employes have jumped on board.
The biggest benefit? “We’re solving problems faster,” says Utterbeck. “When you belong to these groups and you can see how people are saying, “Hey, I got this problem,” literally, within minutes, three or four people comment on it and say, “Have you tried this? What about this?” People are connecting, finding the people they need.”
No employee, from the CEO to the janitor, wants to feel like a number. At IBM, their internal social network, Beehive, helps combat this problem, according to Program Director Liam Cleaver. While this is a collaboration tool, Beehive also gives users a way to connect around a virtual water cooler by sharing pictures and personal “High5s” – favorites things that can range from work projects to favorite books and movies. Says Cleaver, “Beehive has done more than anything to create a sense of community at IBM.”
This sense of community is key in keeping top talent at your company. Today’s global world makes it easy for talent in any industry to find another job or even start their own business. Create a work “family” and people will be happy to stay working for you.
Not all companies are building in-house social networks. Some are simply harnessing the tools available on the market, such as Yammer. This allows any company, large or small, to get started connecting internally.
Companies using these tools see huge time management benefits. Says LG VP of Global Learning and Development Laurence Smith, “Regular users at LG estimate Yammer saves them approximately three hours per week by getting quicker answers, developing solutions faster, and more effectively connecting with colleagues.” Three hours doesn’t seem like much until you realize that LG has about 91,000 employees. Even if only half of them are using Yammer regularly, that’s a savings of over 136,500 hours per week.
Enterprise Social Network Problems and Challenges
Internal social networks aren’t without their problems. These include:
- Security Risks: Is the network 100% secure from outside hackers? Are employees sharing information that should be department-exclusive?
- Employee Adaptation: Will employees sign up? Even when mandatory, will employees use it regularly?
- Productivity Concerns: Do water cooler functions create a distraction during the work day? Will the network be diluted with too much non-work chatter so that actual collaborative projects and work questions take a back seat or are even lost in the shuffle?
These are questions that every company certainly has to address. However, despite the problems, implementing an internal social network has been a game-changing move for many Fortune 500 and even small and mid-sized companies. Is your company missing out?