If you view all forms of social networking as being synonymous with teenagers, wasting time and keeping in touch with friends from college, think again. Social networking within the enterprise is an extremely useful tool that can help organisations achieve their strategic business objectives.
Let’s get one thing straight; the difference between Public and Enterprise Social Networks
While most organisations use public social networking sites (Facebook and Twitter) to build brand awareness and improve their customers’ experiences, enterprise social networks are primarily for employees. In essence, deploying an enterprise social network (ESN) involves the offering of a collaborative platform within your organisation that is both protected from public-view and exclusively available to employees.
The Benefits of Enterprise Social Networks
Social networking within the enterprise has the potential to enhance knowledge management, innovation and collaboration. Unfortunately, enterprise social networking hasn’t been fully embraced by all organisations and it’s left others opting for a slow transition, to ensure they gain management buy-in. There also exists – in varying degrees – management scepticism; the view that enterprise social networks allow employees to waste time through posting inappropriate content during work hours.
However, companies which have deployed enterprise social networks report organizational-wide benefits, such as:
- Improved collaboration across departments and teams
Enterprise social networking helps employees to connect and work better together, regardless of their departmental function or location. Employees can easily share documents, post updates and respond to queries without cluttering colleagues’ e-mail inboxes. Employees are no longer confined to collaborating primarily within their department and can communicate across departments and office locations, from their desk or mobile device.
- The ability to efficiently find experts and share knowledge
If you’re looking for knowledge on a topic or have a specific query, you can post your question on a departmental or organisational-wide social network. Being able to set up departmental networks, through permissions, ensures that your question will be answered by the most relevant people. An added bonus is that the query and answer won’t be forever lost in your e-mail inbox; the conversation thread is viewable and can be easily found by other employees.
- Faster decision making
Both public and enterprise social networks have been designed to instantly enable individuals to communicate; this instant communication coupled with project/organisational updates, increases efficiency in the form of decision making. Employees receive information at a rapid pace, despite their office location.
- Increased employee retention rates
If your employer has taken the steps necessary to enable you and your colleagues to openly share your ideas and opinions, it will have a positive effect on morale and help employees to feel valued. Asking for employee ideas and feedback, regardless of their position within the organisation, will also have a positive impact on morale – which will in turn increase employee retention rates.
- Decrease in the amount of internal meetings
If you’ve previously tried to schedule a meeting, which isn’t a one-to-one, I’m confident you’ll have experienced some level of difficulty – particularly when you’re attempting to work around people’s schedules. This becomes even more difficult when you have to consider time zones differences and meeting room availability. Enterprise social networks remove these barriers and allow you to access business updates without having to consider people’s schedules and meeting agendas.
- Increased levels of innovation and a strong company culture
The workplace is becoming ever more disconnected as a result of increased mobile device usage, better ‘working-from-home’ policies and offices situated across multiple locations. A strong organizational culture is therefore needed to unite employees and to ensure corporate values are being communicated. Having an open culture additionally contributes to increased innovation as ideas are continuously being brought to the forefront.