Many organisations have social networks to communicate, collaborate, and have their employees connect. Often these platforms are launched with great success but the required organisational change is not fully addressed and the organisations miss out on major benefits these social networks bring.
We define 3 key stages in the maturity of the use of social networks in organisations. The stages are defined based on user activity. The stages are:
Becoming faster and more agile
The more mature the usage of social networks, the more value they deliver to the employees and the organisation.
For now we have defined 7 areas of maturity. I will write a series of articles on them. We will close the series with a masterclass ‘Enterprise social networking maturity’ in Amsterdam on Thursday September 6th. You can register here.
We have defined the following areas:
Communities of Practice
This article covers leadership.
In the past as most companies grew, they created hierarchies to deal with the issue of span of control. Very quickly leaders were so far removed from the workforce that they felt disconnected and the workforce didn’t engage with them. Because of these structures we created ways to communicate that worked well for hierarchies. Examples are newsletters, cascading emails, intranets, etc. These are all resolutions to the communications issues large hierarchies create. Most of the communication innovation in organisations has been in digitising paper based communication instruments. Sadly the way we communicate has remained the same for decades.
Social networks hold great opportunities for leaders. The opportunities mostly focus around being able to access all employees directly. For some communications the hierarchy no longer exists. The company feels small and agile again.
When social networks are introduced to organisations we often see that leaders need some time to adjust their communication techniques to the new opportunities. Below the maturity levels are described.
In this stage leaders use the social network to push information to their people. Leaders share links, write blogs or posts about things that interest them. They typically look back on passed events. If social platforms offer the possibility they can take advantage of (live) video broadcasting. Some leaders also chose to give insight into their personal lives.
Some leaders find some time to look around on the platform and respond or like content they see on an adhoc basis.
Although often these activities are an improvement compared to the visibility of the leaders previously the activities do not really benefit the leader or the company. The activities can help improve the awareness of the leaders and companies priorities as they are more visible in this way.
In this phase leaders start to understand the power of the network. Involving employees in defining strategy, in innovation, or in solving problems has tremendous benefits. It is partly about the direct benefits of people responding to your questions and solving problems or coming up with new ideas. The other side of the benefits are more related to all employees becoming one with the companies future and learning what's important. The example below will not only get ideas to create empowerment in the company culture but also conveys a strong description of the future state the company's culture.
In this maturity stage leaders often shift from looking to the past to looking to the future. Asking the company questions can be done in the short timeframe of about one hour we call these jam sessions. For more complicated topics one usually takes a more time which is referred to as a challenge.
Another type of activity in this maturity stage is endorsing exemplary behaviours. Leaders scan the platform for activities that are well aligned with their priorities or are aligned with behaviours they value. They respond to these examples with likes or even encouraging remarks. Public endorsements are powerful instruments to amplify and scale activities and behaviours that are valued by leadership. Smart leaders arrange for a community manager or P.A. to scan the platform for exemplary behaviour.
Faster and more agile
As leaders start to see the positive results from asking the company smart questions and the dialogues that result from them they start to strategically plan series of dialogues to increase the pace of change in the organisation and better align all employees with the company’s future. Leaders start to view the social network as an important instrument to lead the company into the future.
Leaders create plans around using the social platform that align with their personal and organisational agenda. They look ahead a few months to a year and identify key goals they have that require change, communication, alignment, and engagement. These topics are broken down into smaller sizes and translated into questions to the company. These questions typically have these purposes:
Make people aware of a changing context to which the organisation will need to adjust.
Turn awareness into readiness to change
Communicate the change and have people understand the impact to them personally.
Get people to help and inspire each other to make the change.
Refocus the company on its core.
Align the company around it’s key priorities
These topics are translated into several Challenges and Jams, but they are also made more tactical by aligning interventions with a leaders meeting agenda. The result is a dialogue plan for several months that contains a small number of big interventions (Challenges and Jams), a larger number of smaller interventions around meetings or decisions, and some more personal or ceremonial posts that show the social side of a leader.
Below are two examples. The first example shows a leader that wants to focus the organisation on the increasing pressure from competitors. Besides telling the company about it he get’s all employees involved in proving the point. Hundreds of pictures of competitors make a very strong point and can be key in preparing a company for required change.
The second example is a tactical example where the leader travels to a location to solve a problem and uses the social platform to gather input but also indirectly inspires people to solve the same problem in multiple locations.
The next article will cover the maturity levels of the way communication departments use social networks.
If you want to take part in the social network maturity masterclass you can sign up here.