They thought that they’d be strutting around corporate halls like the kings of cool right about now. But instead a good number of the IT Execs who introduced Social Enterprise tools into their workplaces are sitting around like wallflowers who can’t get anyone to come to the dance.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water...

“Who knew that people who are addicted to Facebook in their personal lives would refuse to sign-up for a corporate facsimile at work,” says one CIO. He and the other corporate executives quoted in this article agreed to be interviewed with the understanding that neither their names, nor the names of their employers, be used.

Another manager reveals that fewer than twenty of his company’s 8000 employees have posted pictures and resumes into an internally-branded Linkedin-like site. (The idea behind it is to help workers find expert resources within corporate walls.) At still another company, only the CEO (not actually the CEO but an individual who is the “mouthpiece for the CEO”) and a few self-promoting employees take advantage of a twitter-like app.

And when it comes to crowd-sourcing on questions like “What will our workforce look like in 2016? What do we need to do to prepare?” the crowds at the office seldom show up. “You can’t blame IT and you can’t blame the software, the interface is slick, it’s easy to use and it works,” says the manager who set up the wiki. He claims that the reason no one is contributing is because there’s no incentive to answer.

You've Made the Investment

And while less than a few dozen executives were queried for this article, the findings aren’t atypical. Forrester Research reports that 64% of the companies it surveyed say that they haven’t received much, if any, benefit from their social software investments.

Harvard Business Review blogger Tammy Erickson concurs in her recent post “Why We Use Social Media in Our Personal Lives -- But Not for Work.” Her opening echoes much of what I heard in my interviews, “We've spent a fortune on collaborative technology, but no one is using it...”

Erickson argues that the way to get Social into the enterprise is to “make sure the social media in your workplace has the same characteristics as social media in your personal life.” She suggests that companies consider:

  • Strategy: On Facebook you’re sharing photos and updates with family and friends. What is your purpose for engaging in the enterprise?
  • Technology: Erickson says it needs to be designed around user behavior. With Yammer, SocialCast, SocialText, Jive, Chatter and more than 50+ solutions available on the market, it shouldn’t be hard to find a fit. The IT managers I spoke to didn’t see technology as the problem.
  • Organization: Erickson says it should be “supported by new structures and practices as necessary.” I say that social software should help workers do their jobs better, faster, or at least make them more pleasurable or interesting. Otherwise there’s no motivation to engage.
  • Personal Engagement: Erickson says that a catalyzed individual discretionary effort is required. You can’t force people to be social.

Or, more simply stated, even if you build it well (from a technology and user-interface perspective), there’s no guarantee that they’ll come. Therein lies the frustration.

Room for Improvement

Consider that at the request of one company’s CEO and Human Resources department, IT built a “Griping Wall” on which workers could anonymously air their grievances. “There’s not a single complaint,” says the director in charge of the project. He claims that employees don’t trust that the messages they post won’t be traced. “This angers my CEO,” he says, “Because our employees anonymously write about us on external sites like and all the time. We were hoping to keep the whining within our walls.”

Other reasons workers, reportedly, don’t do “social” in an Enterprise 2.0 way is that they don’t believe they need to find connections in their places of work -- they are already connected via company email and internal messaging. And when it comes to collaboration, Sharepoint sites, eRooms and the like are already in place and people already know how to use them. It appears that there would have to be a compelling reason, a significant gain in pleasure or productivity, or a gimmick (like the promise of an iPad if you make 100 connections) before workers would opt in for a change.

While this might seem like a dismal prognosis for the future of Social within the Enterprise, it’s not. My conclusion, instead, is that there’s room (lots of it) for improvement. Social is not going to away, so we need to learn to do it better.

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