The Role of Enterprise Social Collaboration in Employee Engagement

Many organizations, even small to mid-sized ones, have employees separated by more than just multiple branch locations – different work experiences, expectations and generational differences create unique cultural issues and challenges in the workforce. When implemented and managed successfully, enterprise social collaboration (ESC) can enhance the “emotional connection” between employees, the organization and the customer. HR professionals can harness the power of ESC as a tool to address a multitude of internal and external institutional challenges including recruitment, on boarding, training, productivity, retention, marketing and customer service.

Communication and Collaboration – High Touch Using High Tech Tools
Irrespective of the size or configuration of an organization, effective internal and external collaboration is an essential business function. Gone are the days when companies consisted of a single location where coworkers and managers shared face-to-face contact on a daily basis and customers conducted their business in person.

Meaningful connections between management, coworkers and customers are arguably the linchpin of every successful organization, but face-to-face interactions have been replaced with increasingly remote interactions. Even coworkers sitting a few feet apart find themselves isolated from each other and the pulse of the organization as they are inundated with an endless barrage of email and tasks that offer limited opportunity to connect and collaborate.

The challenges are exponentially greater when employees are separated by miles or even continents. Generational gaps add another layer to the complexity. The resulting disconnect is lost opportunities for the organization to benefit from the creativity, problem solving capacity, institutional knowledge and employee engagement that meaningful collaboration can contribute to organizational health and ultimately the bottom line.

Enterprise social collaboration can provide the high tech solution to maintaining a high touch organization in an electronic world. Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, LinkedIn and similar applications have tapped into our basic need to be “in touch”.  Adaptations of these tools to the work environment offer the opportunity to maintain many benefits of the “office water cooler” workplace using technology as a collaborative bridge.

The industry has been forced to adapt social media tools to many aspects of the customer experience due to customer expectations and competition, but the integration of social media platforms to enhance employee communication and collaboration has lagged. Concerns about regulatory compliance, risk management, cost, ROI and an industry already forced to adapt to fundamental changes simultaneously on multiple fronts may all contribute to the slow transition to ESC.

Worth the Effort – Tangible and Intangible Benefits
Integrating ESC offers internal and external benefits to help address some of the challenges facing companies large and small. Solutions range from simple off-the-shelf applications to fully scalable solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of large organizations. ESC tools must be viewed as essential business tools not optional extras.

Potential and current employees have embraced technology in their personal lives. If companies want to attract and retain the next generation of industry leaders, creating and maintaining a collaborative work environment is imperative. A generation that spends their personal time plugged in and engaged is unlikely to find career satisfaction in an industry unwilling to offer equally powerful collaborative tools in the workplace.

ESC also offers an unprecedented opportunity to transfer institutional knowledge and provide immediate access to essential in-house training, coaching or answers to employee questions that empower the employee to learn and grow their career on-the-job and in real time. Organizations with employees in multiple locations will find the barriers to communication and collaboration fall as ESC becomes fully integrated into the daily office routine. As a result, the challenges of knowledge silos will dissipate as employees have greater access to information.

Productivity enhancement is another benefit that offers real ROI in addition to greater employee satisfaction. In their report The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies, McKinsey Global Institute estimates between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion in annual business value can be unlocked through the use of social networking tools and technologies in four commercial sectors alone: consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing and professional services.

A study by the Aberdeen Group stated the “year-over-year business impact of social collaboration on business performance was remarkable.” Companies with an ESC in place saw operational efficiencies increase by 131 percent.

Successful Implementation and Integration – Stay the Course
Successful implementation is multifaceted. It includes management buy-in, IT cooperation, regulatory compliance, cultural readiness, best-fit tools and ongoing adaptation as employee, customer and organizational needs evolve.

The need for a top-down commitment cannot be overemphasized. Even if the ROI is not instantly apparent, the benefits will manifest over time and the risks of not incorporating ESC tools into the organization will far outweigh the challenges of implementation.