Workers in many companies have begun using social networks for internal communication. Facebook has now created Facebook At Work to tap into this. This new version of Facebook will let businesses start their social networks for employees, much like the original Facebook, which was only open to university students.
It’s not the first time this has happened, but it may lead to more companies adopting social networks. Yammer, Slack, and other platforms are based on the same principles that made Facebook a successful social network – connecting with colleagues, building a network, and sharing information to encourage debate. They also allow users to collaborate in private or project-based groups, as well as with special interest groups. These platforms are especially attractive to young workers who use social media sites for their personal lives.
It can also encourage personal interactions between co-workers that transcend time zones and geographical boundaries. According to some evidence, this can enhance the relationship between employer and employee.
Benefits and risks
Social networks in the enterprise can add a layer of informality to formal communication. Social networks can encourage knowledge sharing by requesting information from colleagues.
These networks encourage informal communication that is not possible via email. Workers feel empowered by the direct connection with colleagues, regardless of their hierarchy. It can help to reduce communication channels and improve decision-making.
There are still risks. Some CEOs may not like being questioned in public, while others might be uncomfortable with it. It is possible to hide behind the keyboard and say things that you wouldn’t do in real life. This could be career-threatening if it was visible to everyone.
No longer counts slacking. Twin Design via Shutterstock
paradox exists when it comes to the ability of social networks like Facebook and Twitter to create connections between co-workers. These networks can help those who already have a good network to get even more out of it than those who don’t, isolating those people further. These networks are often not managed centrally, and this can cause problems to spiral out of control.
Balance the potential and pitfalls.
Business leaders’ willingness to change business and cultural processes will have a significant impact on their ability to take advantage of the benefits that an internal social network can provide. Engagement with the web is crucial, as well as setting the tone for how it’s used.
Senior staff should be visibly engaged. Real engagement is more than just uploading a video of a quarterly report or staging a Q&A. Instead, it’s about executives interacting with their staff and learning what’s happening. A social network for business is a great source of information, so companies should make it even better. Tacit approval also shows that the staff is not engaging in illicit social loafing but rather a good use of their time.
Businesses should encourage informal, direct discussion. This can result in better decision-making, and better engagement. Social norms can help manage the risk that some people will go too far. Once the rules are set, they tend to self-police.
Employees should be free to develop networks in any direction they choose. This will result in the natural development of ideas, strategies, and processes, as well as new products. A corporate social network may not be a requirement, but an open culture is synonymous with the social nature of this technology and certainly facilitates it.
The social revolution has not stopped at organizational boundaries. Some CEOs have used this as a catalyst to transform cultural change within their company. Burberry, IBM, and Deloitte are just a few of the companies that have used case studies to demonstrate how they successfully implemented changes. As we become more and more dependent on technology and social networks, other businesses need to take notice.