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James Fabricant



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Blog: Social networking in the workplace is coming of age

The standard view of social networks in the workplace is that they are time vacuums. Facebook and Twitter are the ultimate procrastination tools; great for staying in touch with friends but the enemy of work productivity.

However, social networking is maturing for the workplace. Enterprise social networks (ESNs) take the concepts and communication tools from consumer social networks and apply them to business, and from our experience they are making employees more productive and happy.

The enterprise social network

Enterprise social networking (ESN) facilitates communication between employees in the workplace in pretty much the same way they are used to in their personal lives.  

Think particularly about the younger people in a workforce; the generation Y’er who has grown up communicating on Facebook. They are now coming into the work place and expecting businesses to have these kinds of sophisticated communication tools. IdeaPlane is an enterprise social network that has been developed with the similar easy-to-use look of social networks that employees are used to, enabling them to communicate and collaborate naturally. While giving businesses peace of mind and control, in order for information, ideas and discussion to be shared securely.

For the HR function the benefits are clear, it’s a great platform to integrate new joiners into the company, communicate quickly and effectively with staff as whole, provides a strong two way link to alumni (who can be a brilliant source of referrals for new hires) and an excellent way to provide support to remote workers who feel isolated.

Don’t lose control

Of course the other worry with social networking is the loss of control that it represents. By giving your employees these tools of communication, aren’t you just opening up new channels for that communication to go wrong or for information to be passed into the wrong hands? With the loss of control comes the potential for regulation breaches.

We built IdeaPlane from the ground up with one of the world’s top investment banks, so these concerns that we know exist for HR professionals are addressed: enterprise-grade security, compliance and privacy controls are at the core of our DNA.

This means that robust, secure, controlled collaboration is possible. You can access all the benefits of enterprise social networking, unlocking corporate potential, in a safe and secure environment that is fully compliant.  

Where does this leave email?

Email is an established business communication tool, but it’s not without its flaws.

Like consumer social networks, email can be a massive time draw. A recent McKinsey study highlights that email can take up to 28% of workers’ time. Even when it’s work related, the management of the email “blizzard” we all find ourselves in is a struggle.

Email can be tracked and archived, so historically it is easy to see the attraction for business, including those in regulated industries – everyone uses it because it is easy to use and is the established communication tool. However, it is not always the most effective way to communicate. For the very purpose of adhering to protocols people across industries are constantly getting copied into communications they don’t need, or want, to see. Email makes it difficult to participate in a conversation, and information retention is low due to the high volume of information, much of it irrelevant.

The filtering mechanisms are not simple or easy, meaning people inevitably spend much more time farming and filing emails than they should, and less time being productive. It’s closed nature also means senior people cannot see the discussions going on in their organisation and vice versa.

ESNs don’t mean that email is banished to the archives of history, but by creating a space for a different kind of communication, they reduce the overload and increase conversation efficiency. On an ESN such as IdeaPlane, only those who want to participate in a discussion, can. This leaves email to do the kind of communication it is good at.

Where do you start?

Introducing a new communication channel to an organisation requires planning and thought. IdeaPlane is easy to use and, as a cloud-based platform that can be fully customised to integrate with your existing HR systems, it is simple and fast to deploy.

At that point you will see that corporate knowledge sharing not only increases, it is retained.  Another benefit of using an ESN such as IdeaPlane is that silos are bridged, visibility is increased across departments and geographies and that leads to better collaboration and new opportunities.  

In addition to employee knowledge, any internal training collateral such as slides and videos the HR department uses for continuing professional development can be shared on the platform for easy access. As it is all online, it also means that all of that knowledge sharing stays there, avoiding future duplication, lost expertise and experience. This also means easier on-boarding of new staff, not only through the training collateral, but giving new starters a platform to ask questions and search through shared knowledge from across the organisation.

As with all technology, if used in the right way the benefits are great, to individuals and companies alike. With IdeaPlane, HR finally has a tool that makes enterprise social networking a business reality that will increase productivity, a win-win scenario that we all wish to achieve.

James Fabricant is CEO and founder of IdeaPlane and former MySpace International executive


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