Those Who Social Together, Stay Together

Who pays the price for dissatisfaction in the workplace? A Gallup poll suggests 71% of the workforce is disengaged, costing US businesses $300 billion annually. Employers looking for answers in the hiring process are likely to find better solutions by reviewing their social media efforts. The use of social technologies is both the cause and the solution to the disengagement.

Carrie-Bradshaw-computerThe debate over social media use as a right or privilege has disillusioned and harmed the employee/employer relationship. Before social media, a damaged employee/employer relationship may not have had any direct effect on the relationship with the customer, but now with networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp you can be sure there will be damaging effects. It is estimated that one negative comment in a public social network can cost a company up to 30 customers a year. Some businesses may revert to social strategies of control and avoidance while limiting their exposure in public networks; however this will only harm the employee and customer relationship further. Social technologies have brought emphasis and awareness to the value of quality communication skills shifting what used to be considered “soft skills” to a requirement for success.

Craig Newmark recently said, “By the end of this decade, power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from the people with money and nominal power.” Reread Craig’s quote and replace the word “people” with “business.” Without a favorable reputation and trusted network, a business will struggle to be profitable. The opportunity to build reputation and trust starts inside a company.

What is the Link Between Being Social and Success?

Sex and the City lunchExpert sociologists and psychologists constantly debate whether social technologies really make us more or less social, but no one will argue that actual social practices of conversation, collaboration, listening, understanding and acknowledgement do make us more social.  Companies who are perceived as having a favorable social workforce culture did not achieve this status by accident.  Research Zappos, IBM, Google, Pixar or Patagonia and you will find each set out to build favorable social workforce culture via processes of purposeful alignment to goals, social communication and acknowledgement. It is also no surprise companies that foster internal social communication processes are successfully utilizing public social network technologies. Companies that do all of this are setting the gold star standards for successful social workforces and most importantly can show overall decreased costs and increases in sales that are directly related to their social commitments.

Measuring the success of social media use has been difficult, unpredictable and unreliable from the start. As best case studies emerge, they all have one thing in common.

Businesses where internal social practices were established to complement the use of social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter were able to track clear decreases of cost and increases of sales. Without missing a beat, tech companies offering internal social network solutions like Salesforce, Jive and BlueKiwi circulated their white papers and began promoting their tech solutions for building social enterprise, enterprise networks and my personal favorite SWO (Social Workforce Optimization.)

New social jargon emerges everyday, but what remains constant is the steady stream of promoting  new technology as the fast-acting magic wand that will solve all our business issues. Technology is terrific, but it is merely a complement to (and never a substitute for) consistent, long-term development of good people and process. If social technology is the absolute solution, then why are analytics so varied and unpredictable? I have direct experience with the workforce of Salesforce, BlueKiwi, LinkedIn and Twitter. Sadly, these companies do not exhibit the successful social behavior they promote for businesses will achieve when using their products. Now, assuming they are all using their own tools how is this possible? It is possible because they put too much emphasis on the technology without investing in communication processes to grow their workforce favorably and complimentary to increasing success rates using their social technologies.

To have public social success, businesses must have internal social success.  20% of that success is based on using the right social technologies; the remaining 80% will depend on the company’s ability to successfully encourage desired social workforce behavior both internally and in external public social networks. A great social workforce uses social technologies but purposeful communication process is what makes them social, not the technology.  Employees in social workforces are more inclined to stay with their employer. They participate in public social networks on behalf of their employer because they are aligned with their company’s goals and want to help build and maintain relationships that are vital to the success of their company.

sex-and-the-city-533As the social dust clouds of predictions and jargon settles, we will continue to hear about relational impacts of social media use. For as much as social technologies have changed how we do business, technology can’t and won’t surpass the value of a trusted relationship. The opportunity now is to advance our “human systems” to catch up with the technology. In my best “Carrie Bradshaw of Business” voice, I can’t resist saying, “I told you so.”

Technology is like sex in a relationship, you need it but without healthy communication the relationship will end.

There are plenty of social technologies in the marketplace; they will evolve and leaders will emerge but social technologies alone will never be the solution to our business relationship problems. Relational discipline is required in order to create, maintain and measure the success of the relationship. Commit and invest in your people and your work culture. Before spending money with a social media agency or purchasing social tech SaaS licenses, talk to social workforce process expert. Someone who is not affiliated directly with a social technology company can guide you through technology options and the process that is best suited for your unique workforce culture.

Click here for more information on Social Workforce Readiness.