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.

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