Aligning Social Business and Organizational Culture

One can login to Twitter, YouTube, Mashable or any number of social networking sites and receive advice on how to use social media tools to improve customer outreach, loyalty and employee engagement.  Some of these posts are mediocre, while others are quite good and provide sound guidance and case studies.  But, they all start with an assumption that social media or social business is an imperative and that all organizations should evolve to this state.   Is this premise correct?

My concern is that in our impatience to encourage organizations to develop social media strategies with appropriate goals and metrics, we have failed to give sufficient focus to the obstacles that they might face.   We do not live in a one size fits all world and yet we sometimes dispense advice as if this was the case.

At a cloud computing conference I recently attended, I heard several speakers promote the value of private clouds and talk about how control was shifting back to the end-users.  They postulated that the role of the IT department was evolving into negotiating services rather than supplying them.   Amidst the facts and figures about money to be saved and speed of delivery, the question arose to the obstacles cloud computing faces.  Without hesitation, the speakers all agreed that organizational culture was the biggest hurdle; it is not the technology that is hard to install, it is the people and culture that are difficult to change.  This same argument has also been given for why some social networks and collaborative implementations work and others don’t.

So what is organizational culture and why is it so difficult to change?  Organizational culture encompasses things that are typically taken for granted by those who exist within that culture.  They include underlying assumptions and norms, expectations, and collective stories or memories.   Cultures may be personified by logos and mission statements and are even reflected in the design of buildings or office campuses.  They convey a sense of identity and provide unwritten guidelines about how things get done.  In many cases people are not truly aware of their distinct culture until it is challenged or they experience a culture that is quite different.

Although organizational culture may be difficult to change, it can be classified and measured.   One widely used organizational cultural framework states that there are 4 archetypes of organizational culture.  Each is typified by different leadership styles, values and beliefs about effectiveness.   They are:

  1.  Internally focused hierarchical/control based cultures
  2.  Internally focused collaborative or clan cultures
  3.  Externally focused competitive or market cultures
  4.  Externally focused innovation based cultures.

While there are two internally focused cultures, a hierarchical culture is concerned with control systems and coordination while a collaborative culture places the emphasis on interpersonal relationships.  The externally focused market culture puts a priority on managing customer service and competitiveness, while the innovative culture is more concerned about the future and managing discovery and innovation.  Each will react very differently to the imposition of social business programs.

While there is no question that social is the way business will be done in the future, there is clearly a need to understand the culture into which it will be driven.   It is important to assess one’s starting point.  Culture change is possible, but it has to be thoughtful, tailored and it will not happen overnight.  Furthermore, this change will require a leadership vision that enables the organization to move from where it is, to where it needs to be.  And depending on the current culture, this might be a short distance or a very long road!

Modified from a blog originally posted by the author in www.Biznology.com

Surviving the Future: How to Build a 21st Century Organization

We currently live in a hyper connected world characterized by 24/7 access to global communications, with social networks providing ability to self publish and be heard.  We carry more compute power on smart phones than early computers and possess access to information previous generations could not imagine.  Yet, for many organizations, culture and business processes have not kept up.  While business causal has replaced suits and digital has replaced paper, it is not clear that today’s organizations know how to accommodate the more open, collaborative processes that the Internet has fostered and new cohorts of employees expect.

Many companies came of age with hierarchical structures and command and control leadership.   Boundaries were clear and roles rigid.  Yet, despite vast technological change and shifts in how work gets done, many organizational designs  put in place in the last century are still with us.

What should you do?  The following are some steps HR, Marketing and business leaders should take to change culture and processes and, ultimately, enable their businesses to remain competitive.  Social media and social business are transforming the world of work and the only organizations that will thrive are those that have figured out how to use new technologies to their advantage.

  1.  Devise a plan to intelligently implement virtual work and virtual teams.  Despite the recent controversy, they are not going away!  Co-location is necessary for certain jobs, but many knowledge based workers can work virtually with existing technology.    Virtual workers also have a smaller carbon footprint, organizations save money on infrastructure costs and older workers or those with work/life demands can be accommodated.
  2.  Redesign jobs to be modular and allow workers to utilize skills on projects anywhere in the organization.  This  makes good use of human capital, solves skill shortages and can lead to greater productivity and satisfaction among employees.
  3. Redefine the role of leaders.  Encourage leaders to find ways of engaging and not just be seen as ensconced in their offices behind traditional gatekeepers.
  4. Empower employee collaboration.  Provide employees a seat at the table, get their feedback and listen to their suggestions.  They can provide valuable insights and intelligence about trends, competitors and emerging needs.
  5. Train all employees on new technologies.   Many older adults have embraced social networks.  Don’t assume only the  millennials will get it.
  6. Provide guidelines on social media.  Make sure the rules are clear and consequences for bad behavior spelled out.  Your firm’s reputation and brand may depend on this.
  7. Include clients in networks and make innovations more  collaborative.   Social networks are about relationships and collaboration.   Clients’ voices should be heard. They can help articulate their needs and shape new offerings.

We live in a global, fast paced, information rich and boundary spanning era.  We need to create organizations that reflect this.  Otherwise, our businesses will go the way of the fax machine and rotary phone.  They still exist, but no longer serve the purpose they once did.

What do you think?  Contact us at AndreaG@dccInsights.com or  call us at 914 234 3917 if you need a road map to the future, training or even implementation assistance.  We can help!  We can also be reached on Twitter @digitalcultured.

Social Business…Why You Should Care

In the past most organizations had clear-cut boundaries and roles were well-defined.  While they had to be responsive to customers, major decisions were left to management and communications with employees and customers were typically one-way.  With the emergence of social media and non-traditional ecosystems,  interactions tend to be two-way and change can be driven by any number of stakeholders, including employees, partners and suppliers.

 In order to thrive in this environment businesses are deploying and using new social tools and taking advantage of the many new business opportunities. Organizations are evolving to be social businesses, which are defined as those that have the strategies and technologies that allow all parts of their ecosystems to be engaged, create value, form relationships and make decisions.   Social business is the latest step in the evolution of business that began with the advent of the Internet and electronic communications.  In these organizations work is accomplished differently and products and services are created and purchased in new ways.   Since social businesses can adapt to their environments, they are well suited to meet the changing needs of their internal and external constituencies. 

 IBM, one of the company’s leading in social business, has identified three distinct characteristics of a social business:

            Engaged—deeply connecting people, including customers, employees, and partners, to be involved in productive, efficient ways.

            Transparent—removing boundaries to information, experts and assets, helping people align every action to drive business results.

            Nimble—speeding up business with information and insight to anticipate and address  evolving opportunities.

 There are many  advantages to becoming a social business.  Internally these organizations often have better business performance, are more efficient, have better insights and  knowledge, are more aware of new opportunities, have better collaboration , more efficient processes and avoid duplication of efforts.  Externally, they can have lower customer care costs, better customer satisfaction and loyalty, lower marketing and sales costs, better brand reputations and lower product development costs.

 It is difficult for any organization to go from being an isolated entity to being social business, although few organizations are really totally isolated any more.  Organizations need to develop the strategies and tools that will enable them to move along this continuum.    They need to go from having an inside out point of view to an outside in point of view and they have must have technologies that enable collaboration and the sharing of insights and knowledge.

 While increasing employee and customer engagement is usually welcome, not every social business initiative will succeed and it is important that an organization experiments with new approaches, learns from mistakes and moves on when something doesn’t work.  Having leaders who are not afraid to take risks is one important step.  Having employees who know how to be digital citizens is another.  Employees must have the training necessary to understand how to behave and to manage their own reputations and that of their employers.

 Although social businesses may be relatively new entities, the number of social business is growing.  A 2011 social business survey by International Data Corporation (IDC) showed that 41% of respondents have some sort of social business initiative underway. What they found, however, is that these projects vary greatly.  They ranged from grassroots bottom-up employee initiatives to sophisticated and strategic social customer engagement programs.

 So while there is no “one size fits all” way to be a social business, the message is clear; if you run a business, you should think about where you are on the continuum from isolation to integration to stakeholder optimization and develop a plan to transform your organization into a social one.   Otherwise your business risks being endangered.

Why Your Business Needs to Be Focused On Social Media: Unlocking Potential and Avoiding Pitfalls

Background

We are in the midst of a social media revolution.  Like the Arab Spring uprisings, where revolutionary leaders used social media to create widespread awareness, support, rapidly communicate with and mobilize supporters, social media is now enabling organizations to do business as never before.  It is increasing collaboration and breaking down barriers between internal organizations and the external world.  It is also fundamentally changing how work is performed and how organizations operate.

Today’s organizations are faced with a business environment that is increasingly global, competitive and fast paced and where disruptive innovation may render existing business models obsolete.  If they do not act quickly and adapt to these changes, they may not survive.  Such was the case of Borders who failed to adjust to the onset of e-books, unlike their main competitor, Barnes and Noble, who came out with the Nook.  Barnes and Noble is still operating while Borders recently shuttered all their stores.  The choice is not whether to adapt to change and implement social media in organizations; rather it is how to best implement it in order to survive in the rapidly evolving business environment.

The influx of digital natives, the increased presence of virtual employees and the prevalence of virtual global teams has made organizations adapt to new labor market realities.    At the same time, social media use is climbing. With around 800 million people around the world using Facebook, more than 25% of all Americans spending time on social media sites, and the majority of the Fortune 500 implementing social media programs, it is clear that the “social media phenomenon” is not just a fad.

Social Media and Organization 2.0

Organizations are learning how to adapt their cultures to employees who can and want to work differently as well as customers who want to buy and be serviced in more inclusive ways.  These changes have impacted all aspects of organizations including recruiting and selection, rewards and incentives, job roles, leadership, and training and development.  It has also become clear that different skills sets will be required to meet the evolving organizational paradigms.  And as employees have more external touch points, employers recognize that new guidelines, polices and training programs must be put in place.

While social medial media has enabled many positive outcomes, such as new approaches for marketing, branding and communications, opportunities for thought leadership, recruitment of hard-to-find skilled candidates, increased employee engagement and better customer  service, it is clear that it has changed expectations of participation and created a loss of employer control.  It requires more transparency and  a reframing of employee personal versus public communications.

The Upside and the Downside

Brands take on new meaning in the age of social media. Employees can be a visible and positive force in this environment and serve as brand ambassadors.  Companies like IBM have been very successful in utilizing their workers to aid their brand.  They demonstrate brand values and deliver upon brand promises and expectations.  But, judgment must be used on social media and there are many cases of employees hurting brands by writing inappropriate things and embarrassing their employers.   Recently, a Philadelphia high school teacher was suspended with pay after she wrote a blog in which in which she spoke harshly about her students saying, “They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners.  Similarly, an Albuquerque police officer was placed on desk duty after listing his occupation on his Facebook profile as “Human waste disposal.”  Other examples include a police woman posting inappropriate Facebook pictures alongside police insignia, waitresses writing negative things about their customers, and employees defaming supervisors.  And, even a member of Congress, Anthony Weiner, had to resign after tweeting lewd pictures of himself to a young woman.

Without proper training or guidance, employees can unintentionally or maliciously damage organizational reputations, resulting in the loss of customers, revenue and intellectual property.  This behavior can have a negative impact on employee morale, create management difficulties and the inability to recruit top candidates, as well as cause legal issues.  That is why smart organizations are being proactive and trying to understand the readiness of their organizations with respect to social media.  They realize it is critical to have metrics that allow one to understand existing usage among employees, guidelines awareness, etc.  This way they can assess how effective any planned social media implementation will be or measure how successful existing ones are.

The Solution

The solution we developed is PSMOTM – a Program for Social Media Optimization – that is designed to measure the organization’s current status as an entity in the social media context, identify and solve for any competitive weaknesses and optimize its functioning to produce employees who act as brand ambassadors in the social media cultural milieu.Image

The PSMOTM process assesses the eight (8) specific factors that comprise organizational optimization regarding employees’ social media behaviors and brand advocacy.  The assessment process involves quantitative survey research and in-depth qualitative interviews among the organization’s leaders (policy-makers) and “customer-facing” employees.  An organization’s PSMOTM profile is used to determine specific strategies and tactical programs that can be implemented to achieve a more effective set of social media policies to drive better employee selection, retention, leadership, and branding.

For more information about the PSMOTM program, feel free to contact Andrea Goldberg, Ph.D., President of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC. (http://www.digitalcultureconsulting.com/)

10 Tips on How to Handle Social Media Policies

Social media is not just for large companies and can be used  by companies of all sizes to create on-line presence, monitor brands, and improve customer service.  Small companies have found success leveraging Twitter and blogs and others have grown exponentially based on well crafted or viral YouTube videos.

Organizations are also using social media to improve employee engagement, locate hard to find candidates, improve communications, promote virtual work and remove geographic barriers.  There are benefits to having employees participate in social media, but to maximize success and avoid embarassing employee actions, business leaders need to:

1.      Recognize and reinforce the positive role  employees  play in shaping a company’s on-line brand.  They can serve as brand ambassadors, promote core values and new products.

2.      Communicate to employees what is expected and how they should engage in social media.
If employees are not aware of what the company brand stands for, they might inadvertently hurt the brand or alienate current and future customers.

3.      Understand how social media can be misused by employees and develop the appropriate social media guidelines and policies.

4.      Train employees and managers on what the  guidelines mean and the specific actions they should take or not take.

5.      Implement and monitor.  Reward those who comply and punish those that don’t.

If you are writing a policy remember:

6.      If a social media user is not an official company spokesperson they should add a disclaimer and state that the opinions and positions expressed are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of their company.

7.      Social media users need to respect their audience and not use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in the workplace.

8.      Guidelines need to address sticky issues such as whether  managers should be allowed to friend their employees and vice versa.

9.      Guidelines should be specific, policies that are too broad can be misinterpreted

10.   Protect your company and brand.  Ensure employees do not disparage employers in public.

What are your  concerns about having employees engage in social media and how have you addressed this?  Please share your comments on Twitter @dccTips or Facebook at dccUpdate.