By Peter Nguyen-Brown, nSynergy COO and Co-founder
As COO of a company with 11 offices over five continents, it should be challenging for me to keep across everything happening in the business. But in reality, our social culture makes it easier than you might think.
To begin with, to anyone who believes social collaboration is just a passing phase or ‘Facebook for the enterprise’ – I’m here to tell you, you have been misinformed. Similarly if you are concerned that social collaboration will wind up being just another disparate business system to worry about – in actuality, this technology has the capacity to integrate with and share information from virtually every area of your business.
Social collaboration is the reason our business is able to remain connected, agile and profitable in multiple markets. It does this by acting as an unbreakable thread which connects each and every person, 24/7, 365 days a year. The prevalence and value of our social interactions has resulted in all employees regarding the intranet as their ‘home base’. Company HQ. The central point from which they start and finish their days, and coordinate their individual tasks. It’s also the place where they build real relationships with colleagues in other locations and gain awareness of activities occurring in and around the business.
Since implementing social collaboration technology, my personal email traffic has reduced by a staggering 60 per cent (the company-wide figure is closer to 50 per cent). Given the average number of actionable emails I receive is around 80 per day, this has banished some 15,000 emails per year, eliminating around 500 hours or 50 days of administration, and releasing me to focus on more strategic, higher value business tasks.
How does a social COO operate?
Let me show you. Here is a snapshot of my activity on our social news feed today:
- Uploaded a follow-up document from our Board meeting and shared with the Board community (13 comments, 7 likes)
- Shared monthly reports with Global Leadership Team in the Leadership community (18 comments, 8 likes)
- Shared a collection of slide presentations from a recent Microsoft Conference with all employees (22 comments, 11 likes)
- Followed up an all-company meeting with details on our new Modern Consulting Practice strategy (10 comments, 33 likes)
- Recognised a team member from San Francisco for demonstrating one of our core values (8 comments, 19 likes)
- Added my congratulations to our Sydney team who have secured a third contract with a major client (16 comments, 16 likes)
- Answered a question by one of our Principal Consultants regarding which former extranet projects would make relevant case studies (24 comments, 9 likes)
- Added three new colleagues from New York, Shanghai and Sydney
- Followed two new communities
In addition to these actions, I scanned the news feed and noticed a number of activities and updates in regards to project milestones, people and communities, which adds huge value to my day in terms of ambient awareness.
The power of ambient awareness
This refers to how we absorb knowledge and store it for future reference – a very powerful tool to arm your employees with as it helps protect you from developing silos, as well as creating shared accountability. For example, before we adopted social technology my first port of call each morning was my email inbox. Now, opening the social newsfeed is the first thing I do every day, without fail.
It goes without saying that expectations around social use and awareness are within reason. There is a distinct difference between spending several minutes scanning and contributing each day, and wasting hours posting non-business related content. The good news is we have only had to ask an employee to dial down their social activity on one occasion, in almost two years. (I believe the fact that each leader in our business utilises social daily, but purposefully, help to set a good example).
Higher user adoption
The knock on effect of a highly-valued social culture is that it helps you to achieve sustained adoption of your intranet, adding continuous value to your employees (and your business). That social interaction also helps people be more productive, useful and visible also results in higher engagement and satisfaction levels.
Staff often tell me that one of the reasons they love working at nSynergy is that they feel so close and comfortable with the owners of the business, and that they can make a positive impact, which makes me extremely proud. However one example from outside our business comes from the CIO of a major client, who was responsible for managing a large intranet rebuild project. As such, he needed to get buy in from other business leaders and ensure it was well adopted by staff. With guidance from us, he leveraged social tools to share his vision, gain traction and receive feedback as soon as the intranet was launched. This resulted in many useful conversations and high awareness across the business. The best thing was that employees immediately saw the power of social collaboration, which led to high user adoption levels.
Measuring social ROI
In my view, social ROI is primarily about increasing productivity and efficiency. Social collaboration reduces the time and effort it takes to get things done, which is vitally important in such a dynamic business environment. These productivity gains help keep our business ahead by driving faster innovation, harnessing our IP and providing the most valuable outcomes for clients. This is why we are in business – it’s that simple.
Social collaboration is harder to measure when it comes to things like culture. However, in my experience, it certainly goes a long way towards building or enhancing a culture people want to be a part of.
I will wrap this up with a final anecdote. Last week, two staff members (both very effective social users) from our New York office came to Melbourne for the first time. Upon arrival at the office, they walked in to be greeted with handshakes, hugs and even a few high-fives. It was a particularly noisy few minutes with everyone talking at once and asking our guests questions.
You would never have guessed that these people had never met – they were like long lost friends. As I sat back and watch everybody interact in this way, it occurred to me that what I was witnessing was the power of a positive social culture in action.
Got any questions for Peter? Get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.