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Losing Control and Other Myths About Enterprise Social Networking

1915431_167354600987_6393460_nIf you’re not already using social media or your organisation doesn’t value it, taking a leap into enterprise social could feel like jumping out of a plane for the first time.

Exciting and terrifying…

Ahead of her session at Enterprise Collaboration Innovation & Tech Fest 2017, Rita Zonius, Head of Internal Digital Communications for Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, enlightens us on the top reasons why people are fearful of social in the workplace and the real benefits of a good enterprise social network.

People’s concerns about enterprise social are rarely about learning how to use the technology and are more to do with their comfort levels in working openly and feeling in control of their work. It’s one thing to engage routinely with people you know in emails or meetings, but to pose a question or share your views openly for anyone from anywhere in your organisation to see and to comment on can make people feel vulnerable, even in positive environments where there’s really no good reason to fear speaking up. 

The Positive Network Effects of Enterprise Social

Enterprise social networks (ESN) provide a platform for people’s voices to be heard and for serendipitous knowledge sharing to happen. Rather than spin your wheels finding the right person in your organisation to help you solve a problem, working more visibly with social can bring the help directly to you. And quickly.

Then there’s the ‘network effect’ of visible answers to questions saving time for hundreds, even thousands, of your colleagues who have the same problem. This is just one use case. The opportunities are endless when organisations go beyond simple connection and apply enterprise social to dealing with live business challenges.

But…Old Habits Die Hard

Despite the obvious benefits of embracing enterprise social technology, there’s still a fair bit of resistance to its uptake. If you’ve been good at your job and have climbed the corporate ladder without having to be social, then why change an approach that’s worked for you? This mindset is then reinforced in organisations through systems and processes that celebrate the contribution of individuals above all else. If you are rewarded only for what you deliver and there’s no value attached to collaboration in your organisation, then sadly people will tend to align with that way of working.

Most of this resistance comes from a place of not understanding the true potential of working visibly through enterprise social technology, coupled with the fear of exposure. But many of these ideas are myths. Let’s correct some misconceptions.

Myth 1. People Will Say or Do The Wrong Thing In Enterprise Social

If you’re clear with people at the outset about how enterprise social works, they will understand what they post is visible to everyone in the network. This means mischief-making and errors are rare. A common saying in today’s digital newsrooms ‘we may be wrong but not for long’ also applies to enterprise social networks – post something inaccurate or do the wrong thing and the network will do the work to fix it. Catastrophic ESN train crashes are rare.

Myth 2. It’s Not Real Work

If you use your ESN to pursue real work, then your ESN will be treated as a serious business tool. Organisations that succeed with enterprise social don’t limit their activity to chat – they focus on creating business value. This means encouraging people to build a habit of using their ESN in the daily flow of work and putting in place community managers to build communities of practice mobilising people around hard business goals and objectives. Sounds like real work to me.

Myth 3. You Can ‘Launch And Leave’ Your Enterprise Social Network

You can’t put enterprise social technology in place and then expect people to figure out why and how they should use it all by themselves. That’s akin to inviting people to a meeting and then not having a clear purpose behind it – a waste of everyone’s time. Helping people understand the benefits of enterprise social and how to make the most of it requires a solid plan, including ongoing communications and training.

Myth 4. Enterprise Social Will Transform a Dysfunctional Culture Into an Open One

An ESN is not a silver bullet to address underlying cultural issues. If your organisation doesn’t value diversity of opinion, or it punishes people for speaking out, there’s no tool that will magically change that. Along with introducing social technology, there must be action to address behaviours, systems and processes that run counter to creating an open and collaborative environment.

Myth 5. Lots of Likes, Comments and Activity Means Your ESN Is a Success

It’s easy to get caught up in ESN metrics such as the volume of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ as measures of success. What’s more important, however, is taking action on what you see and hear in your ESN. For example, if you’re a leader with a mandate to change a process that’s a problem for customers or your people, then you should do so. When positive business change comes about as a result of people speaking up and doing their work more visibly in your ESN, then you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction.


Don’t give up on enterprise social

If you’re working to make an ESN stick in your organisation, don’t give up. People who are initially hesitant to try enterprise social find the fears and anxieties associated with using it slip away once they give it a go and discover its benefits. As enthusiasm across your organisation grows, the ESN wins across your organisation will snowball.

It’s then organisations previously wary of social realise it can make a big difference to business outcomes.


Hear more from Rita Zonius at Enterprise Collaboration & Innovation Tech Fest 2017 where she’ll be presenting two sessions: “What it Takes to Launch an Enterprise Social Network That Sticks” and a panel discussion on “The Why, What and How to Develop a Collaboration Measurement Framework”.


About the Author

Rita ZoniusRita Zonius is Head of Internal Digital Communications for ANZ Bank. She has more than 20 years’ experience in corporate communications, leading and inspiring teams of communication professionals to mobilise employees around business. She leads ANZ’s Internal Digital Communications team, established in 2015 to support ANZ to realise the business benefits of enterprise social technologies, including driving a collaborative and engaged culture across ANZ’s workforce of around 55,000 staff globally. ANZ’s work in this area was recognised recently by the International Association of Business Communicators as part of its 2017 Gold Quill Awards program and also in the Asia-Pacific Excellence Awards in PR.


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