106 Communications

6th Sense

Enterprise Social Networks and changing behaviour.

December 2016 | Change Comms, Collaboration, Digital Employee

Enterprise Social Networks have been around for longer than we may think.  JIVE was established in 2001; Yammer in 2008; and when you consider Facebook was only established in 2004, you have to wonder why ESNs haven’t become the indispensable tool that many thought they would be.  Perhaps with the launch of Workplace by Facebook, that may change – as a whole generation of Facebook users can now take the same intuitive experience into work.  But therein lies another problem in itself – and that’s fundamentally the perception of social networks, especially by older workers (who often happen to be leaders).  Too often, ESNs are seen as a ‘Facebook’ at work – and that undermines the tool from the outset.

We’ve been reading a lot about behavioural economics of late, and we’ve applied the EAST model (as adopted by the government’s Behavioural Insights Team) to the implementation and success of Enterprise Social Networks.  Because we’ve heard many instances of organisations and how the launch of a new ESN has flopped.  Simply because organisations assume that if people use a social network externally, then they’ll have no problem using one internally.

Easy – I know where my email is.  It is easily accessed on my phone and on my PC.  Too often, we have to go to a browser to launch an internal social network.  Okay, it’s only one click but if it’s not as easy as possible, people just don’t.  Also think carefully how the network sits alongside other channels, and whether actually you should shut down other channels to drive greater adoption and use of the network.

Attract – Why should people use it?  If you don’t crack this, then it will be a flop.  Yes, create an overall Narrative to tell the organisation what this platform is for; but also create Use Cases  to show the potential of a social network, and to give people the confidence that it is relevant to their work and teams.  For some organisations, the focus of the platform is purely engagement; this often means that it is only ever a comms and engagement platform.  However, a social network should generate benefits far beyond just noise, helping to grow collaboration, generate innovations, build capability and ultimately influence client outcomes.

Social – The power of the crowd is a great way to influence behaviour.  Behavioural economics focuses on social norms to influence people, and there’s no doubt that if you can make the network a ‘norm’ for leaders and other key advocates and stakeholders, then the crowd will follow.  But this isn’t simply about getting a leader to blog.  Brief and train leaders and advocates on how to be engaging, involved and maximise the use of the network.

Timely – When you first launch a social network, it’s easy to talk about the future and how work will be different.  But really what matters to people is what happens today.  The future feels distant; today people have real pressures and demands.  So how can you make the network work for them now?  Focus on the things that can help people today, in the work they are doing right now, even it’s as simple as managing a project on the social network as a way to do this more efficiently than on email.


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