As you begin your research on introducing an enterprise social network into your organization, there are a few questions you should answer to ensure your culture is ready. 1. Is your workforce already using publicly available web 2.0 technologies and tools to work smarter? Don't kid yourself on this one, you may be blocking Facebook and Twitter from your employees but many are already sharing their PowerPoint presentations via Slideshare, exchanging links to useful information they come across on the web via Instapaper, and collaborating on proposals, budgets, and other documents via
Google Docs. In many cases, your employees are even updating their LinkedIn profiles with the hopes of being found by their next employer. Why are they doing all of these things you ask? Because they can, and because you haven't provided them with an in-house alternative so that they can leverage today's best technologies to make them more efficient.
2. What are your goals for introducing a private and secure enterprise social network? As with any other initiative, you should have some goals for rolling out an enterprise social network. Else, why pursue one? Consider carefully your goal before falling head over heels over a particular piece of technology to achieve your goal. This can’t be stated enough, as there is a huge and growing market for tools that will catapult your business into the “social” era. Are you looking for a medium for your CEO or Chairman to communicate with the front line more efficiently? Are you looking to provide a platform for your employees in similar positions to share best practices on-the-fly? Are you looking for a platform to connect employees who are geographically distant but who need to collaborate on projects more effectively? Whatever your goals are make certain that they are clearly defined. Different platforms deliver different capabilities and you may quickly find that a standard out of the box solution might not meet all your needs
3. How will you introduce it and who will be responsible for "seeding" it and developing the network into an invaluable tool? Rolling out a tool of this nature isn’t simply something you can impose on your staff. An enterprise social network can be a great opportunity to re-emphasize how much your organization values communication and teamwork. You should give much consideration to the type of HR policy that will accompany the roll-out of the tool, how you will communicate how the tool can and will be used, and specifically- the benefits TO THEM of using this valuable tool. Additionally, someone in the organization should bear the responsibility of seeding the community’s forums and generally be available to answer questions about its use. Ideally, the platform is designed WITH staff so that you can gain internal buy-in for the platform even prior to its launch.
4. How will your organization respond to both the praise and the criticisms that will be aired in the network? Empowering your staff with an enterprise social network can be a double-edged sword. If your organization isn’t accustomed to honest feedback, this may come as a shock. When and if the organization gets criticized, the response can either encourage the growth of your network or stymie it completely. While praise is generally received positively in an organization, it is important not to retaliate against individuals who offer constructive criticism of the organization’s products and services. Instead, these comments should be viewed as learning opportunities from which the company can improve. Overreacting to criticism will only discourage further use of the network as employees fear “big brother” and any consequences that may result from their candid use of the network.
5. Is your CEO on board? Lastly, the answer to this last question is crucial to your network’s success. Not gaining the buy-in of your CEO or of your executive team for a project that will touch everyone in the organization is a recipe for disaster. Gaining their support for this initiative involves educating them on this technology and how it can vastly improve the way you work. This is where everything you learned in coaching “up” the corporate ladder will come in handy.
Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.