As businesses work to differentiate their products or services, grow the bottom line, and expand globally, they need to think seriously about the important role that their employees play in helping the business achieve successful outcomes. Businesses must invest in processes and technology to recruit and onboard the best people, address performance gaps with key learning activities, provide career development plans, and align pay with performance. Activities like human resource management (HRM) deployment in the cloud and the use of mobile and social technologies for HRM processes catapult HR to the cutting edge of innovation.
Social networking is hot, and it’s smart to think about how your organization might use it to generate benefit equal to the market hype. As you develop your social technology strategy, it’s particularly important to steer clear of a fallacy of thought that often creeps into technology strategies for enterprise communication and collaboration.
Oftentimes, an enterprise social strategy, like enterprise collaboration strategies before them, will have among its goals a phrase suggesting that the technology should “change the way people communicate.” Superficially, this phrase may accurately describe part of the effect, but at a more fundamental level, it violates a very important change management principle. To make my point, I’ll back up and start with a little history.
I used to communicate via paper memos and phone calls, but it was cumbersome and time-consuming. Email has come to replace much of that. So, the “way I communicate” has changed, right? On the face of it, yes, but, looking more closely, not really, at least not at first. Compared to my “before email” days, I still communicate the same types of things with the same kinds of people — only email made these communications easier (for the most part). I started using email because (1) it could improve the existing way I communicated and (2) it fit my work and life context — it was just a new program to use on my handy desktop PC. Once email became part of my context, I realized that I could use it for communications that were too costly before. At this point, it did, to a degree, change the way I communicate.
We inhabit an age in which empowering technology is readily available first to individuals, not institutions. Consumers and employees will always get the new good stuff first. And it will always be so. The economics of technology investment seal that deal. The consumer market is bigger and easier to get started in.
In this empowered era, smart mobile devices, social technology, pervasive video, and cloud computing are the anchor tenants of the new technology platform. These technologies are available to every consumer and employee, even yours. The question is what to do about it? Two things:
Because customers can hijack your brand (consumers in the US make 500 billion impressions on each other online every year), you have to use empower your customers with better information than they can get from their networks. You have to honor your customers as a marketing channel.
Because employees have ready access to technology to improve their working lives, you have to give employees permission -- and protection -- to adopt these technologies. You have to honor employees' use of consumer technology as a source of incremental and sometimes breakthrough innovation.