Ask ten people what Social Business means to them, and you will come back with ten different answers. But if you look closer, you will soon find the common denominator: it’s about putting people back in business.
It is about getting the right work done in a better way by connecting people, helping them have valuable exchanges and build and maintain fruitful relationships. By bringing coworkers closer together to each other as well as to partners, customers and other stakeholders, your company can become [almost] as responsive, agile and innovative as it was when it consisted of only a handful of people.
If you are working for a company that has grown well beyond a few dozen people, where the workforce is distributed across several teams and locations, your company should definitely be making serious moves towards Social Business. Well, at least if it has the intention to stay around for many years to come. But how do you know it is making moves in the right direction?
The obvious answer would be to go out and look for signs of concrete steps that your company is taking towards becoming a more social business. If you do, chances are you might end up with a list of signs that something is happening. But if you miss seeing some major roadblocks all other efforts might be in vain. Instead, why not look for signs that your company is not getting social business and see what can be done to fix them?
Here are a few signs that you could start looking for:
1. Social Media is Used as a New Broadcasting Channel
This is the obvious one. Your company is present in social media, but is using social media services such as Twitter and Facebook merely for broadcasting: distributing press releases, news, announcing campaigns and so forth. There is no listening, no conversation, no personal voice speaking.
The Twitter accounts aren’t typically used to follow other Twitter users, and if they are, they don't listen to what they are saying. They don't care to check who is following them, despite that it might be existing and potential customers or potential new recruits. It's just a task for someone in the marketing department to publish the same things they publish on the corporate web site or elsewhere on the web.
2. Organizational Changes are Used to Boost Knowledge Worker Productivity
Instead of making all the necessary moves towards becoming a virtual organization where organizational structures exist primarily to support work getting done by the necessary people, wherever they are, your company is still seeing organizational changes as the primary way to deal with inefficiencies and improve knowledge worker productivity.
Organizational changes are typically focused on changes in the management structure and how people are managed as "human resources." The role and impact that people's informal networks have on getting work done is usually not being considered. As a result, blunt organizational changes can do more damage than good. Instead of focusing on getting (the right) work done as the main priority, they put the question of organizational belonging at the center of everybody’s attention.
3. Teamwork is Streamlined at the Expense of Networking
Your company celebrates teams and initiatives that aim to improve team performance over everything else. Doing so, it does not properly see the interdependencies between different people and teams within the organization and how these interdependencies determine the performance of individual teams as well as the performance of the entire company by avoiding sub-optimization, reusing knowledge and using available talent and information to the fullest.
When trying to achieve their objectives as a team, team members have no time nor support from either management, performance models or information technology to build and maintain their networks in a way that makes them put the performance of the company before the performance of their own team.
4. Knowledge Workers are Kept on a Tight Leash
In a factory producing physical goods, work is tied to the machines and the production system within the building. To keep labor costs to a minimum, cheap labor with minimal skills are hired. If this can't be found in one place at low cost, it can be found elsewhere where wages are lower. With lower wages often follows lower skills, so work and workers need to be supervised by managers so they follow instructions and do not divert their attention away from the machines.
Your company is using the management practices which were designed for industrial (factory) work also for knowledge work, although knowledge workers engage in intellectual tasks which are not as dependent on physical places as industrial work. Besides, knowledge workers are more capable of knowing what to do and when than the manager, as the knowledge worker's tasks and objectives change every day. They need trust, support and flexibility to be productive, and managers stressing the importance of office hours and face time because it gives them a sense (illusion) of control do nothing other than scare talent away and demotivate people so they don’t perform at their fullest.
5. Customer Service is not Treated as Core Business
Your company is seeing customer service as something that costs a lot of money and does not contribute to the core business. It is seen as a necessary evil, but any ideas on how to reduce costs related to customer service are warmly welcomed, even if it means cutting back on quality. If costs can be cut in customer service, then cutting costs in customer service makes it to the top of management's priority list.
Customer service is sometimes seen as a strategic differentiator that is used when products and services are becoming commodities. Looking at it that way makes customer service seem optional. Some companies make providing products and services at a lower price than competitors the strategic differentiator, often at the expense of customer service.
If your company decides to outsource customer service to someone who can provide it cheaper, they fail to understand that customer service is a way to meet customers, learn about their experiences with products or services, gather intelligence about what their needs, and receive feedback on their experiences -- which obviously includes the customer service they receive.
Outsourcing customer service doesn't only make it harder to feed this knowledge back to the core business, it signals to everyone that you're not really interested in learning from customers to ensure they get the customer experience they deserve.
Instead of cutting back on customer service, you should put all your people in customer service. Stop seeing customer service as an organizational unit and see it for what it really is: the services that you provide to the customer to ensure the best possible customer experience. You will know when your company has become a social business when everybody in your company and any advocate for your company, your products or services can contribute.
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