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Ready for the next revolution? Social tools and workplace communication
Ready for the next revolution? How advances in social
tools could affect your workplace communication
Hands up who remembers when email first took hold in the
90s? It’s hard now to imagine life without it – but there was a
time when it was all a bit scary and not everyone thought the
speed and immediacy it brought to business life was
necessarily a good thing.
Fast-forward to 2013 and if the technology pundits are to be
believed, we are on the brink of another workplace
communication revolution. Social tools – technology-enabled
platforms which allow employees to communicate and
collaborate across boundaries and in real time – are being
widely lauded as the next big thing.
The latest research from Microsoft suggests that employees have been quick to
appreciate the benefits of the new, more connected, way of working. In a recent
global poll, nearly half of employees surveyed said social tools helped to increase
their productivity, while 40 per cent believed they encouraged better teamwork.
Yet despite the thumbs-up from staff, a significant proportion of companies didn’t
recognise the value of these tools. Now, given the widely publicised issues with
social media, this finding is maybe not that surprising. But social tools are unlikely
to go away – and, since companies have much to gain from them, it makes sense
for HR and business managers to find a way benefits from this more social and
collaborative way of working.
The new social tools are also an important weapon in the war for talent. The young
people entering the workforce now are digital natives. They expect to be able to build
networks, share ideas openly and collaborate with people both in and outside the
business – and are frankly quite bemused when they join a new employer and find
they are not able to work in a way that is second nature to them.
The very latest generation of HR software solutions are beginning to incorporate social
HR features into their systems that put collaboration at the heart of what they do.
Cezanne OnDemand, for example, includes social workspaces, areas where employees
can share ideas and documents away from the distractions of Facebook and Twitter.
Here are five reasons why companies should start to embrace the new social tools.
Encouraging collaboration: Technology has made it much easier for employees to join
forces and collaborate – within their teams, across departments, over global boundaries
or even with peers outside the business. A dispersed sales team, for example, might
want to work together on a new pitch or maybe HR needs to collaborate with line
managers on planned changes to the performance management process. Social tools
allow collaboration to take place anytime, anywhere on an ongoing basis, rather than as
a one-off event. Of course it also makes it easier for a wider group of people to be
involved. There’s no need to get everyone together in the room. Users can simply log
on and feed their ideas into the pot when it suits them or when inspiration strikes.
Inviting feedback: It used to be that the annual staff survey was the only feedback a
business got from its employees. Social tools, however, have shifted feedback from a
static, isolated event into a continuous two-way street. It’s a great way for companies
to ‘take the temperature’ when they are undergoing change or introducing new
initiatives. They can get instant feedback on their plans and are much better able to
tackle any anxieties people may have head-on or to nip potential problems in the
bud. It’s also a great way to pick up on previously unforeseen issues with a new
product or service. Front-line staff are often the people who know best what will or
won’t work and their feedback can be hugely valuable when it comes to fine-tuning
an offering or avoiding pitfalls.
Building engagement: Social tools can play a huge role in helping employees feel
more engaged with the business. This is not just an issue for large organisations.
One of the biggest problems facing SMEs as they grow is retaining the ‘family’ feel
of the early days and making people feel they are still an important part of taking
the business forward. Internal social platforms allow the business to keep everyone
up-to-speed with what’s going on and to invite their ideas. But they can also be a
great tool for getting people involved in corporate social responsibility initiatives –
seeking volunteers to help with a local charity project for example, or generating
excitement and involvement around a plan to make the business more
environmentally friendly. Research has shown that staff who are engaged are more
productive, motivated and loyal to their employer – so if there are tools out there
that can help you achieve that, using them makes sound business sense.
Communicating clearly: Making sure all employees are kept in the loop with company
news and information is always a challenge. Emails languish unread in over-flowing in-
boxes and people are constantly surprised by developments the business thinks it has
clearly communicated. The latest social platforms provide a place where everyone can
access company-wide announcements and important HR policies and documents. It’s
a great way for the business to ensure everyone has access to what they need to know
– regardless of where they may be based or how busy they may be.
Supporting virtual workers: Thanks to advances in technology and the breaking down of
global boundaries, it’s becoming increasingly common for companies of all sizes to have
people working remotely – whether that’s from a home base or on the other side of the
world. Recent research has suggested that although businesses have embraced the
concept of virtual working, they still have some way to go when it comes to effectively
supporting dispersed teams of employees. Internal social platforms provide a
mechanism for bringing people together, combating isolation and making everyone feel
part of the team, regardless of where they may be based. They allow managers to
communicate regularly with their people and coach them through projects and give
remote workers a space where they can share their experiences, take part in team
discussions and seek advice and encouragement from colleagues.
Are you using social tools in your business? Let us know how they are supporting your
growth and improving productivity.
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