I remember when things were just getting started with Enterprise 2.0, then Social Business, how we were all trying to prove the business value of social technologies and even our very existence as 2.0 practitioners in the workplace. Do you remember how tough it was to justify yours to senior management? How things have changed since then ....

Fast forward to 2014, and while the conversation around measuring the business value of Social Business persists and is perhaps more relevant, the focus and intent of the questions have shifted. There is no longer a need to justify it, but rather an opportunity to evaluate the maturity of different initiatives as you progress on the Social Business journey. No one can deny the impact of social technologies at the workplace anymore -- and that’s a good thing. We have finally moved on.

Beware the Low Hanging Fruit

The dialogue has evolved, although we may at times still have the impression we are running a circus, as Carrie Young brilliantly indicated in “Social ROI = Return On Insanity.” This happens when we stop thinking outside of the box and the inertia kicks in that’s so pernicious in the business world: only measuring the low hanging fruit.

This is far too easy. Measuring the usage of social technologies at the workplace is far easier than the significant impact on the overall business outcomes. This is where the real challenge currently lies. I have advised clients all along that to measure the business value of your social business initiatives you should aim higher than the low hanging fruit for your critical business KPIs. The ones you have cared about throughout the years, perhaps decades. These provide the opportunity to truly change your business through the digital transformation.

There is also an opportunity to rethink how we approach these KPIs. In the Social Era it remains a challenge to measure emerging 21st century business models with a 20th century mentality. And that is where the circus begins...

There may be a better way. Let's explore it.

A New KPI 

The main business goal of most companies is no longer to just profit per se (although still a major driver), but essentially “to delight their customers,” as Steve Denning would say. Each of us can remember very well when the last time was that we had a delightful experience as a customer, and more importantly, when we didn't. I bet our first reaction was: “Wow! What a delightful client experience. I wish I could repeat it again!"

And that's essentially what we want for our customers -- to improve their overall client experience. But in order to do that we need to aim at improving the employee experience as well, and that's when problems arise. Very few people would deny that the client experience is defined by the employee experience. Happy employees = happy customers. It's good for the business.

Unfortunately, employees are not very happy. Recent reports from Gallup claim that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. Yes, let me pause there -- only 13 percent.

That essentially means that your business is being run by only a slightly over 10 percent of your employee workforce. If that's not a worrying sign, I don't know what is. How can we possibly define the client experience as delightful if employees aren't there in the first place? Want to find a new business KPI that matches today's No. 1 business problem? Look no further: employee engagement (commitment, involvement, compromise -- whichever moniker du jour you favor).

I strongly believe (and always have) that Social Business can reignite a disengaged workforce, while also helping reengage vendors and clients. The apathy is permeating beyond your employees to your customers and business partners. We need to do better. We need to do MUCH better.

It's a challenge to strike a renewed sense of purpose, meaning and more effective way of getting work done when employees lack a strong sense of belonging, of feeling appreciated, trusted, respected and valued. When you enable your employees to think and act differently through emerging social technologies -- giving them autonomy, flexibility, responsibility and, above all, ownership of the work they do -- you start to realize you've entered a different league when measuring the business value of Social Business.

Measuring the usage of social tools is helpful for clarity and awareness, but don't stop there. Go deeper. Work with your knowledge workforce to co-create new KPIs based on their employee experiences. Chances are high they know better than you whether they are doing the right job with clients based on their interactions with them -- out in the open, working more publicly and transparently, working out loud. Success will be their new reality when they reengage to delight their clients.

Showing the Way to the 21st Century

One of the many worthwhile examples that demonstrates how this can be done is TELUS, a national telecommunications company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner at TELUS, confirmed its employee engagement rates increased from 53 percent to 83 percent and that it correlated this to an improvement in business outcomes -- a.k.a. revenue. I know what you're thinking -- wow! From 53 percent to 83 percent through applying and embracing social technologies and a new kind of leadership, Open Leadership.

That’s just one example of many of how we can aim higher to strike a balanced, measurable set of outcomes to prove the ROI of Social Business. We need to stop paying for the circus and get down to action. The real action.

So, who wants to jump the shark and move into the 21st century to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? This is your new ROI: start by improving the client experience through the employee experience.

The rest is just a distraction and one that should be avoided. At all costs.