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Going Social: Enabling a Collaborative Workforce

4/10/2012 12:56:00 PM

Competition in the consumer products and appliances industries is causing all of us to rethink how we do business and ways we can work smarter and faster. This has spurred many companies to work across geographic boundaries and enable employees to work on the go - whether it’s from a client site, on a train or in a home office.As a result, most companies nowadays are grappling with the reality of a workforce that does business on tablets and smartphones just as often as on a traditional computer. That’s a good thing, right?

Well, yes. It fosters collaboration between workers, in the office and on the road. I work at a company which - like many other organizations - is powered by the innovations of its employees. So it follows that the ability for them to access content and collaborate on the fly is critical.

We’ve experienced great results using social software - but for every social business success story, there’s a naysayer who claims these tools aren’t effective. It’s definitely true that getting geographically dispersed employees to collaborate requires a bit of a cultural shift. Technology alone isn’t the answer.

So here are some lessons learned, from someone who’s been on the frontlines:

Make sure employees see the value. Most people are slow to adopt new ways of doing business. That is, unless they realize it actually makes their job easier. We use a social networking platform and instant messaging software; workers can find experts through the company’s intranet portal. What’s in it for me, you ask? In a nutshell, no more back-and-forth email exchanges or extended games of phone tag. Instead, our employees can access information and collaboratively solve problems in real-time. We’ve found that seeing how their work impacts business results makes them feel more informed and accomplished.
Practice what you preach. In other words, make sure you actually adopt the best practices you’re trying to implement. We use IBM Connections for microblogging to quickly spread information: new product ideas, customer care suggestions, company announcements and more. This, in turn helps to create a much more informed workforce.
Grow the numbers. Nobody wants to join a community with only two members, so encourage participation and readership by providing lots of information and training. So let’s talk stats: our intranet contains more than 100 information portals managed by over 450 editors, and contains 15,000 monthly and 9,000 daily readers. That’s over 1,100 collaboration spaces with 8,500 members.
Simplicity is key. The goal is to encourage a sense of community, not waste time figuring out how to start a discussion thread. Dashboards make things easy and reduce email clutter (because pretty much everyone knows how to drag-and-drop).
Embrace BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device). Mobile adoption is spreading like wildfire, and organizations that haven’t already jumped on the bandwagon should do so ASAP - or risk being left in the dust. It’s important to support corporate applications on mobile devices, and to be OS-agnostic. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that in the next few years 80 percent of businesses will support a workforce using tablets alone. In short, learn to love BYOD, because it’s here to stay.

Social business and mobility are two trends picking up steam and officially becoming “must-have” qualities for any consumer organization. This is especially true in today’s sink-or-swim business environment, where gaining competitive advantage can make all the difference in the world.

Are any of you going mobile or social? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences!
About the author: Ralf Larsson, Director Employee Online Engagement and Development for Electrolux

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