Chances are that you’ve heard people discussing enterprise social. You may even use it within your business. Enterprise social uses social media and communication technologies, such as chat and mobile tools, to provide a framework for collaborative working. People are used to interacting across social platforms in their private lives. Businesses should reflect this in the workplace to get the best from their employees.
Businesses that prioritise collaboration can significantly increase operational efficiency. The Aberdeen Next-Generation Communications (NGC) study showed that collaboration can result in a 245 per cent higher rate of sales reps achieving their targets and 131 per cent increase in operational efficiency.
Although every business is different, there are five common ways in which enterprise social helps a business become more successful:
1. Improved employee engagement
One of the most valuable benefits of enterprise social is vastly improved employee engagement. Most businesses recognise that employee engagement is directly correlated with higher productivity and it is often a key goal of the businesses that OBS works with.
Improved engagement comes when employees feel socially connected with the business. The feeling of having a voice, contributing to the bigger picture, connecting with other like-minded employees and generally feeling valued are all attributes that help engagement levels.
Enterprise social can also help remove organisational silos and flatten hierarchy by providing an open, transparent platform and encouraging collaborative interactions at all levels. It enables ‘collective intelligence’, which is the development and aggregation of knowledge across an organisation. Using enterprise social, organisations can create and discuss ideas with relevant people around the business and share any learnings. This makes employees feel valued and heard. It also maximises efficiencies and avoids the same mistakes being made across multiple departments or locations.
A survey conducted by Gallup revealed that only 13 per cent of employees feel they are engaged at work. Further studies showed that companies with socially engaged employees see 18 per cent higher productivity and a 51 per cent lower turnover.
2. Improved knowledge management
Shared knowledge is a powerful tool for any business. Every time an employee needs to find, learn or re-discover information there is an organisational cost associated with that activity. With employees spending up to 28 hours a week just finding information required for their role, communicating via email and collaborating with co-workers, this can be a significant cost for any business.
Having a central information repository for everyone in the business encourages better knowledge sharing and collaboration, and effectively reduces the effort and time spent finding information.
3. Better team collaboration and organisation
Adopting enterprise social allows employees to engage with co-workers like never before. It supports better team collaboration by making it easy to interact with colleagues regardless of department or geographical location. I’ve seen many situations where great ideas have come from collaboration between team members that do not usually work together. Enterprise social further supports the collaborative approach by allowing team members to share documents quickly and easily, and any required updates can be done straight away.
4. Improved productivity
Enterprise social allows users to crowdsource ideas and solutions. It generally provides a larger audience than email. I have seen several examples of collaboration uncovering hidden organisational knowledge and talents that were forgotten and filed away in employees’ resumes.
A shared platform means that more than one person can work on a document at any given time and provide instant feedback to other team members. Colleagues can see changes as soon as they are made and have an informal discussion about the document. Other co-workers can then be brought into the conversation and contribute where needed. This can significantly reduce approval times, improving customer service levels and productivity.
5. Improved HR functions
Employee onboarding is probably one of the major costs incurred by an organisation. Despite this only eight per cent of large companies feel they have necessary programs to help employees adapt. Enterprise social can help with this by reducing the costs associated with training and upskilling of new employees. Given that employees are rarely up to speed immediately, this saves valuable resource and time. Essentially, new staff can be productive sooner with less training.
The centralised nature of an enterprise social platform means learning resources are easily accessible. It also lets an organisation maximise its online courses and training opportunities across teams, offices and even different countries. With up to 80 per cent of people learning through informal methods, learning shouldn’t stop when you leave the training room.
It’s clear from these benefits alone that organisations not yet using enterprise social are missing out on valuable opportunities to increase productivity and effectiveness and improve organisational culture. Almost every organisation can benefit from enterprise social in different ways, so choosing the right tool is vital.
Understanding the issues and use cases that social technologies can remediate and support is the first and most important step before choosing the right enterprise social solution. The technology is the easy part. The focus should be on people and change management.
About the Author:
Peter Cooke, enterprise social specialist OBS
 Employees are engaged at work. October 2013 Gallup Worldwide
 The five elements of a simply irresistible organisationApril 2014 Forbes
 Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance. Author: Jay Cross. John Wiley & Sons, 25 Jan 2011