By adaptive - March 12th, 2014

Corporations are rapidly adopting internal social solutions to streamline, manage, inspire and ignite. 2014 is the year of the internal social network

Last year leading analytics firm, Deloitte, released their 2013 Technology Predictions that said 90% of Fortune 500 companies would have partially or fully implemented an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) by the end of the year. This is a 70% increase over 2011 and a step towards more collaborative platforms and internal communications for organisations across the globe. The ESN or ISN (internal social network) is shifting from a trend to a tool and one that has enormous potential.

Still with Deloitte, but this time in their report Tech Trends 2014: Inspiring Disruption, the firm points out that now is the time for the CIO to work within the business to create a digital vision, a “digital backbone put in place for external stakeholders that can be used to drive internal engagement across almost every process and domain.”

So, what exactly is the internal social network and why is it so important? Jacqui Walford, Director of Marketing and Business Development at HLB Mann Judd explains. “Internal social media is the use of social media platforms, such as an ESN, for improved internal communication within the organisation. These provide social media functionality, but within safe and secure hosting with data encryption and they are developed specifically with the enterprise in mind. The functionality is business-based and not purely social.”

For Dani Booth, Search Manager at Jelf Small Business, internal social media plays a vital role in keeping employees informed and enthused. “Traditional methods of communication are largely one way, with little to no room for real-time dialogue,” he adds. “Through internal social, organisations can create opportunity for two-way conversations with technology that staff are already probably familiar with.”

The ESN has the potential to streamline a vast repository of information across the organisation. When you look at the size of the average enterprise, they have staff in different countries, different silos across the business and all working on different projects.

Often, communication between departments is weak or non-existent which can result in work inefficiencies and unnecessary expenditure as departments unknowingly engage on similar initiatives or reinvent wheels that are already turning elsewhere. And those are just some examples of how poor internal communications can have a negative impact on morale, efficiency and the bottom line. Here are some statistics that should make any business pause:

  • 46% of c-level decision makers plan to increase budget on collaboration technology and workers waste over 2.5 hours per week due to poor internal communication.
  • Social media is an effective way to build community, but only 56% of companies are using it to communicate with employees
  • When employees understand their overall role 91% will work towards that success, but that drops to 23% if they don’t.

Talking across the water

The ESN has the potential to break down the barriers between organisational silos and remove issues of distance and time, especially if it can be created in such a way as to engage the employees and gain their full co-operation.  The infographic by APCO and Gagen MacDonald below paints the facts into a pretty picture – internal communications mean business.

Internal Social Media

Jonny Gifford, a research advisor from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, believes that the value of the ISN is in its ability to strengthen employee voice and practically support business activity with the added benefit of workplace cohesion.

“The traditional idea of good communication with employees is that it is two way,” he adds. “ESNs can change this dynamic dramatically, taking us from two-way communication to multi-directional communication as views and ideas are shared ‘up’ at the same time as communicated to colleagues.”

The day of an idea disappearing into the corporate ether can be potentially replaced with instantaneous feedback across the organisation. An active ESN can bring in responses from colleagues in other parts of the business and solutions can be developed for universal deployment, not just for one silo.  

Walford says, “Internal social improves collaboration across geographies, reducing travel costs by allowing for instantaneous communication. It increases knowledge sharing and gives employees faster access to internal experts. It also organises company information, making knowledge management simpler and less costly.”

Gifford believes that the ESN has the potential to bring employees closer together, strengthening the sense of workplace community.

“The personal side of social media helps with this, so it’s important employers don’t clamp down or discourage conversations because they don’t fit in with the business purpose that they’ve decided social media should be used for,” says Gifford. “From the evidence we’ve seen, ESNs are rarely abused by employees and chatting with colleagues across the organisation can help build closer relationships which helps later on when it comes to work conversations.”

Michaela Clement-Hayes, Content Manager at FusePump agrees, “Social media was designed to grow and build communities so it makes sense that companies use it internally to improve communications. It helps companies create a sense of togetherness and has the potential to improve inter-departmental communications.”

A solution that worked

There is no better way to assess the value of your business implementing an ESN than to look to an organisation that’s already done so and seeing how it has affected their performance.

The RSA Group launched Yammer, an internal social networking hub, 12 months ago and now has 6, 800 users of which over half are actively engaged by Liking or posting a message every day.

“We helped drive this engagement by sharing #yamtips every week, hosting master classes and organising reverse mentor relationships for those less technologically savvy,” says Jenny Burns RSA Global Head of Social Media. “We have ensured that Yammer is linked to business objectives, in our case that was improving the customer experience, and now it is used for a variety of things such as problem-solving, sharing ideas and saving money.”

At RSA, Yammer has become their social layer that connects people to teams, offices, news and information, which is free from hierarchy, silos or geographic boundaries. It has complemented their intranet and events and has organically grown with many staff finding it a place where they can take work-related conversations to the next level.

“We have been able to successfully drive productivity, involve people and increase employee engagement,” says Burns, “At RSA, we’re also seeing a number of other benefits including ideas creation, best practice sharing, problem solving and recognising or celebrating good work.”

In the next feature we will be taking a deeper look into internal social media to find out how to harness it more effectively to create more productive outcomes.

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