January 18, 2012 | Written by: Peter Bjellerup
Implementing Social Business is different to most of what businesses have done over the past decades. The running of companies and organizations has traditionally been focused on systematizing, defining processes and implementing various control mechanisms. This approach is also reflected in the IT systems that have been developed and installed; ERP-systems, registries, security systems and systems for structured storage of data – to provide some examples. They all are about defining structures, processes and control points for information and the work of staff.
Social Business is different.
Without sidestepping the administrative systems, Social Business is about releasing the power, enthusiasm and knowledge of the people in your organization. A pivotal component lies in allowing staff to find each other as well as knowledge across established structures and independently of geographical limitations. This is where I see the potential. This is where magic is made.
When a member of staff in one part of the organization struggles with something new and difficult only to suddenly learn that a colleague in a different part of the organization, maybe geographically remote, has done something similar before and can re-use and add to that experience – then you start to see the potential for efficiency and agility.
As another member of staff happens to find out that a colleague is about to approach a customer, that he has experience from working with and easily can contact each other to transfer some insight and advice to increase the potential for a successful sale – then you start to see the potential for growing the business.
When a third person finds a blog entry by an unknown colleague with a shared interest and is inspired to an innovation or a new business concept – then you start to see the potential for business development.
A fourth employee may have grown tired of her role and is contemplating leaving the company when she suddenly, via an internal community, becomes aware of interesting job roles somewhere else in the company, you start to see the potential for improving attrition.
These are four hands-on examples of how social business is good both for business and for employees. Still I haven’t mentioned the possibilities for building and distributing knowledge and experience in communities, ease of finding experts to ask when in a tight spot or the increased potential for employees to drive their professional development themselves by finding, choosing and learning from the knowledge amassed and shared between colleagues.
Some concepts recur in all the examples above; employees, chance as well as possibilities and inspiration. All of these are quite different from concepts hitherto of high esteem in corporations: systems, processes and control. By making your business social, you release the power of your people and give them the possibility – as well as show them the confidence – to develop themselves and the organization.
There are four major categories of advantages for the company:
- Efficiency and agility – As knowledge and experts get easier to find and use, you facilitate problem solving and reduce the “re-invention of the wheel” which unfortunately is all too common.
- Building and distribution of knowledge – By making the experience and knowledge of employees accessible, primarily through the use of self-defined communities, experts build and develop their knowledge together. And, other employees learn from their expertise, either directly or through their published and shared works. In addition, this obviously makes the company less vulnerable to loss of institutional knowledge due to attrition of individuals.
- Attracting and keeping staff – In addition to finding greener grass on your own side of the fence, there’s a constant influx of young and well educated people into the labor market. They are used to social tools outside your organization and expect the same possibilities inside as well.
- Inspiration and business development – Innovation thrives in intersections, where people and ideas meet in unexpected combinations. Unfortunately, this is a rare event in your mail inbox. But when staff communicate and freely share thoughts, activities and ideas – THEN chance meetings occur and new ideas are born as well as new applications of old ideas.
What about advantages for employees? Well, read through the four bullets above once more and add the increased possibility to drive and steer your professional development.
In Annual Reports we have read, for many years, that “Our employees are our most important resource”. With the technical possibilities available today to enable your business to become social, is it now possible to release the potential of that resource. It’s time to prove that those fine words weren’t empty. Go Social Business!