‘Social’ is clearly at the top of the hyper curve. What does this really mean to businesses? Why should an organization think about social? There are a few fundamental shifts that are making a significant impact in the way businesses are run today. First is the growing Gen Y workforce that is highly active on social platforms. A BPW Foundation’s Gen Y study published in April 2011 noted that by 2025, Generation Y will make up roughly 75% of the world’s workforce. Second is about customers and competition. Rapid globalization and technology are shrinking the world at an unprecedented rate. Essentially this means that if you are unable to adapt and innovate at a fast pace, it is very likely that another company will, and potentially steal your customers. Is your organization in sync with these fundamental shifts in the way employees, customers and competition collaborate, interact and engage? If not, how do you adapt? ‘Social’ may have some of the answers to these questions.
A social business is one that cultivates the spirit of collaboration and community at the heart of its thinking and operation. Management structures lean towards more collaborative decision making and focus less on the traditional command and control approach. On the other hand, technology enables peer-to-peer collaboration, whereas people are driven more by achievement and peer recognition. A social business is one that is engaged and deeply connects with people. It is also transparent, with fewer limits to information, expertise and resources. This type of company is nimble and able to address and anticipate evolving opportunities.
A social business approach can deliver tangible results in accelerating business outcomes across several key areas:
- Maximizing your talent. It’s no secret that people are the biggest assets of a company. Having understood the role played by employees in yielding business results, companies are increasingly focusing on leveraging people as assets to achieve business outcomes. A social approach to business will help optimize people skills by encouraging employees to step out of their typical ‘confined to job description’ roles to actively participate in business interactions and business decision making. Such an approach will help unleash the creative potential of people as assets and enable the enterprise to address customer needs better.
- Maximizing your knowledge. Many organizations possess a tremendous amount of knowledge. However, a few are able to take the full potential of their collective wisdom. Knowledge processes are by nature, social. A paradigm based on ‘social’ will make learning and sharing more participative, encouraging people to contribute in front of a larger audience.
- Drive innovation. Innovation happens at the periphery where the customers meet your business. A ‘social business’ approach enables the organization to pull ideas from the people at the periphery – your front line staff and customers.
While a ‘social’ approach could deliver tangible results, these results cannot be achieved simply by rolling out a micro-blogging site, a wiki or an intranet with a few collaborative features. It requires a carefully thought out change in management approach and a technology platform that suits your organization’s culture and practices. A careful reengineering of your business processes is required for ‘social’ to be enabled. I will discuss some of these considerations in detail in my upcoming blog posts, so stay tuned.