Social at work?

It’s the communications question near the top of the list for businesses now: how do we use social media internally, for our employees?

Behind the question there seems to be the assumption that people want to communicate with their business colleagues the same way as with their friends.  There’s also an assumption this would lead to business effectiveness.

Be sure to test both those assumptions.  “Social” is the key word in social media: people participate to make connections that benefit them personally, and that driver may have little to do with how they want to get their work done.  What they may prefer is to channel their skills at using online platforms into using virtual workrooms among their teams, with focused outcomes.  So some methods may be the same but with a very different purpose.

As for business effectiveness, everybody hates a time suck.  If hanging out — with work colleagues — means longer hours at work and fewer with actual friends, then the price of hanging out is too high.  The test, as it’s always been, should be whether better outcomes result when new platforms are introduced.  This will be the test of SharePoint; while it’s not a social platform per se, it’s going to have to consolidate or reduce other activity — emails, meetings, review loops — if employees are going to run with it.

Ask your people to test your proposals.  They’ll tell you.

Engaged with what, exactly?

Taleo, acquired by Oracle, sells performance management software solutions, among other things.  In a recent ad, they suggest that better aligned performance management is key to mitigating employee disengagement.

The idea is that, if the carrot-and-stick part of the employment proposition is clearer, people will be better focused and more engaged.  Relevant goals (entered into Taleo’s proprietary software) show people how their efforts tie directly to business success, and those goals will increase focus and engagement.

Taleo, with respect: there’s more.  A very significant component of an engaged career is not whether one’s efforts matter to the business, but whether the business matters.  More and more employees identify with being a “99-percenter” and the suspicion that hard work makes the rich richer and everyone else not so much.  If better goals only clarify the mechanics of that, then oops.

Here’s business coach and writer Tanveer Naseer:

“Measures . . . are merely the outcomes of your organization’s shared efforts and not the real driving force which motivates your employees to contribute their full talents and abilities. For that, employees require something deeper and more meaningful – a noble cause which they are internally driven to rally around and bring to fruition.

“Our noble cause is that shared purpose that allows us to move past focusing only on the ‘how’ and seeking to answer the ‘why’, fostering a deeper sense of meaning in what we do and an understanding of how our efforts can impact others beyond our office walls.

“It’s the reason why some companies have managed to thrive and expand their market base despite the uncertainties present in today’s global economy, because they’re not simply reacting to what’s going on around them. Instead, their efforts are based upon a reflection of how to respond to current conditions in a manner that holds them on course to their shared purpose.”

What would you tell your next rock-star recruit?  How does your business make a difference?