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Internal Social Networks – Are They A Waste of Time?

Many organizations are jumping on the internal social network bandwagon and trying to mirror a lot of what Facebook offers to its users. With opportunities to share, partner, identify and create solutions that benefit the organization the internal social network seems like the best thing ever that happened to internal communications.

Or is it? Having a network is probably isn’t enough for an organization. What matters is the value and engagement employees and the organization add and receive from the network.

Naveen, 30, the internal communications leader of Tell All Inc., a leading telecom company with operations in 20 countries and with over 30000 employees had a problem on hand. While his staff was on the network he wasn’t sure if they were adding value or if employees themselves knew if they were adding value! His leadership also began questioning the value of the network.

He decided to speak with Manoj, the business owner of Tap, the internal social network and understand more about the system and thinking.

The conversation went like this:

Naveen: “Thanks Manoj for taking time to discuss my questions on our network – Tap. As the internal communications leader I am often asked by my stakeholders to ‘prove’ the value of the network and therefore demonstrate why employees must be on the network. They feel it is a waste of time.”

Manoj: (taken aback) “What do you mean by ‘a waste of time’? Tell All Inc. has invested over 5 million dollars to set this network up and how can people say it doesn’t add up to anything? The network is meant for collaboration, reaching employees in any part of the globe and getting answers to questions you may have. There are numerous tools such as blogs, discussions, polls and what have you. All employees need to do is use them appropriately and they will find it relevant”

Naveen: “Manoj – it isn’t about how much investment we made into this network or the tools available. I am asking if there is a way in which we can inform our employees about the value they can add, how they can know it and also ways in which the organization can recognize their contribution.”

Manoj: “Can you explain your point?”

Naveen: “For example, if I am a new comer to the organization I would like to know who are the top influencers and experts and therefore how I can connect and engage with them. I would like to know how they have built their online presences so that I can also do likewise. If I am given points as an incentive to participate in discussions, contribute papers and blogs I will feel energized to share more and be part of the network. Likewise, if leaders know how they fare  from a social networking perspective in a peer-to-peer way  it may motivate them to strive harder”.

Manoj: “Hold on. Are you saying we need to be ‘incentivizing’ our employees to be contributing to what they are expected to be doing anyhow? They joined the organization because they are passionate about the work we do, right? Then, why must we ‘pay’ for participation?”

Naveen: “If that is the case, they why do we ‘pay’ our employees for referring other outstanding prospects to join us? Why do we incentivize our employees to take interviews on weekends? Aren’t they supposed to willingly refer and hire employees who fit our culture and company?”

Manoj: “Hmm. You have a point. But, look – we can’t be throwing points at employees to contribute to our internal social network. It is about ‘intrinsic’ motivation. They must feel like contributing and not be coaxed to participate.”

Naveen: “I am not sure that is helping. While there are a lot of employees on the network they are passive and we don’t even know if they are adding value. They are also visiting external websites such as Facebook and Twitter while at work when we have developed this network in-house.”

Manoj didn’t have an answer – just yet. He needed to rethink this question and come back to Naveen.

How can you help Manoj think deeply about this topic? What solutions can he give Naveen to go back and engage his stakeholders?

Please share your thoughts here. I am interested in your point of view.

8 thoughts on “Internal Social Networks – Are They A Waste of Time?

  1. Why not leverage FaceBook and Twitter? Instead of competing with them for employee attention, embrace the platforms and engage employees through them.

  2. You can keep the group private and employees are accountable for what they share and post by name, keeping confidentiality in check. Thoughts?

  3. i think the question is the need to have a social media…and i couldn’t agree less…having recently been involved in the launch of an internal social network (which took a year to adopt and is still in the process of being used widely) i think we need to put a learning strategy in place for such networks. Employees need to understand how and what business value will the social network bring to their work life. for example we need help the users understand how is the social is more effective vis a vis an email exchange.

  4. Keeping employees engaged, make them aligned with the Corporate Objectives & creating a Team Culture are some of the reasons that prompt organizations employing such internal communication tools & windows. Absolutely fine as long as there are regular ways to keep them interactive & involved. It’s got nothing to compete with a Facebook or LinkedIn. This should be strictly internal communication window & not for public consumption. However, it retains its effectiveness & purpose if monitored regularly with feed backs from the Management. This will ensure responsible communication & serious involvement. This could be used as a spring board for Ideas & Creativity. Regular review of postings would help understand the employee & could also help the management in employing desired policies & business strategy. It’s not replicating another social network but creating a corporate culture & providing a communication platform.

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