How do we *do* social? In our wiki? In the document management system? …or do we just buy Chatter/Yammer/SocialCast? These questions are being asked in many organisations – my own included – and the answer is not always easy. Truth is we *do* social where it makes sense. It’s not about the tool, it’s about the context.
What about the social intranet? Personally, I’m not too fond of the term as it indicates that we need something new. A new intranet. This may very well be the case, but I find it much more important to look at when, where, and most importantly why people should use the social features on your intranet.
Chris McGrath and Ephraim Freed from Canadian ThoughFarmer have written a very interesting white paper that dives a bit deeper into what a social intranet is and what it can do for your enterprise. Among other things, they advocate that HR need to take a lead role in making companies more social and the workforce more engaged. I agree that HR is a vital player due to the fact that they reach all corners of the enterprise but your social initiatives should be carried out in a symbiosis between Comms, IT, and of course HR.
One of the conclusions from Jane McConnell’s Digital Workplace Trends 2012 is that the emergence of collaboration solutions in companies is re-creating corporate silos – the very thing that increased collaboration was supposed to break down – but the main difference is that by introducing a social layer, i.e. a social intranet, you can bridge the silos and the serendipity of social media is likely to make it easier to discover gems of knowledge.
According to a study by Gallup, presented in the white paper, the companies with the most engaged employees have seen much higher growth rates than those with less engaged employees. This fact alone ought to command at least some attention from management. It’s hard to disagree that a happy employee is more likely to be an engaged employee – it’s harder to agree on how you make people happy (and make more $$$ along the way).
I strongly believe in the intranet as the hub for the digital workplace but as I wrote earlier I’m not too sure whether it should be dubbed a social intranet. It’s a matter of words, agree, but I would like to see it as “The People Centric Intranet”. The most important task on intranets in numerous surveys is to find people. The consumerization of internal platforms creates an expressed need to connect and follow fellow employees and share updates with them but you still have a large proportion of your intranet that consist of documents, forms, etc. which is not very social.
One of the big questions is what benefits you will get from a social intranet. It depends on the resources that you put into it but also on the culture of your company. If informal communities are common place, I would venture a guess that you are much more likely to succeed than if you come from a more traditional culture. A cultural change is a big job and this is where HR – due to their wide reach – would be formidable change agents. You people who can act as ‘flight attendants’ on the journey. You need to get safely airborne but once you are in the air the attendants need to make sure that the passengers are happy and have a comfortable journey. Hopefully it’s going to be a long haul flight :-)
One of the finishing comments in the whitepaper sums everything up very nicely:
“Successful social intranet become virtual places that employees inhabit rather than visit”
I personally believe that this should be the ultimate goal for all intranets – social or not.
These were some of my thoughts after reading the whitepaper. I strongly recommend that you download a copy and put it on your Easter reading list – you can find it here: ThoughtFarmer – Social Intranets & Employee Engagement