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Many organizations equate digital workplace performance to social media consumption. Senior leaders communicate their vision and objectives down through the organizational hierarchy, with success measured through the perceived employee engagement with those corporate messages.

We have been benchmarking organizations’ digital collaboration performance for more than three years, building a database with more than 130 organizations, more than 2 million employees and more than 23 million digital interactions in the process. While participants welcome being identified as a leader in our benchmarking studies, the majority are driven by two objectives: How do we compare with other organizations just like us? And what can we do to get better?

A key insight from the benchmarking activities is the best performing and most mature digital workplace environments have moved well beyond social media as a key performance indicator of success.

Why Social Media Is No Longer a KPI for Digital Performance

It has been nearly 12 months since Mark Zuckerberg flagged a significant change to the Facebook news feed algorithms with the following statement: “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

He followed with the following nod to how people engage with content on Facebook: “Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.” In essence, Zuckerberg was saying that Facebook is prepared to forgo short-term advertising revenue to build a stronger engagement platform, predicated on deeper conversations between trusted connections.

More recently we heard another social media behemoth, Twitter, is considering removing the Like button in an effort to “incentivize healthy discussion.”

I have long claimed that a “like,” while often appreciated by the recipient, is a conversation killer. How do you respond to a “like”?

Who has received a message from Twitter after viewing an amusing video?

twitter reply

This is somewhat of a radical change for Twitter, which prides itself on the reach its messages can achieve with a simple Like or Follow. 

Perhaps Facebook and Twitter have finally come to the realization that real “engagement” happens between people, with content being one vehicle to achieve that, but conversation being a much stronger one.

Marketing guru Seth Godin in his book “Purple Cow” goes further in claiming that mass media marketing, both in consumer and corporate environments, is now dead. Godin suggests people no longer have the attention bandwidth to process mass media marketing messages.

While still supporting well-targeted media campaigns, Godin is claiming the only way to get through to prospective customers now is to have remarkable products that early adopters willingly spread the word about through conversations. Godin suggests marketing messages now have to be inside the product, not around it.

Related Article: The Smoke and Mirrors of Enterprise Social Networking Performance

How to Benchmark Your Digital Performance

If Godin is correct, you will have seen over time that your social media marketing efforts, both internally and externally, reach a plateau where no amount of innovative tactics can shift the dial any further. Now is the time to stand back and reflect on what you are trying to achieve. Have you lost sight of this? Are your current metrics really going to help you predict increased business value?

Value for any business can be boiled down to two factors:

  1. Are you solving problems in the business? In other words, are you acquiring new clients, improving product quality, delivering faster, solving customer problems, etc.?
  2. Are you innovating and creating new value for your customers? In other words, are you developing new products that solve new problems or generate new opportunities for both you and your customers?

If you can’t clearly connect your digital workplace measures to how you solve problems and innovate, then it’s time to rethink what you are doing.

My company has assembled a digital collaboration maturity framework from what we assessed as “best practices” to help organizations on their digital workplace journeys. The journey moves from a social media phase (where almost all digital journeys start) through to a “social networking” phase (where people start to connect and engage with each other beyond simply sharing content) to eventually hosting the deeper and diverse conversations and collaborations that lead to true problem-solving and innovation.

benchmarking measures

You don’t have to be a benchmarking partner to benefit from the use of this framework. I suggest doing the following:

  1. Read the recent Harvard Business Review article titled “Better People Analytics,” by Paul Leonardi and Noshir Contractor. It provides a research foundation for benchmarking digital work environments through relationship analytics.
  2. Review your current digital workplace measures and locate them against each of the six journey stages above. Check if you have measures evenly spread across each of the stages. If you are missing some, meet with your digital team and brainstorm, create, trial and implement some new measures. Try to devise measures you can draw directly from your digital activity, i.e. what is commonly called the digital exhaust. That said, you may also consider using employee pulse surveys to inform more qualitative engagement measures and complement your quantitative measures.
  3. Share your results widely with your staff. Look to have employees take ownership of your new metrics. Ensure some of these measures are personal, enabling individuals to self-assess their own performance.
  4. If you are interested , share your results externally with trusted partner organizations. In the end, it is the improvement practices you learn about from others that will help you achieve your goals.

Related Article: Don't Make These Mistakes When Benchmarking Your Digital Culture