Social in daily work

In the book “Social works”, 7 experts in the field of social technology share their views on the power of change. What role does social play in organizations, now and in the future? In chapter 2, Jean Pierre Martens, Digital Strategy Consultant at Mixit, about social in daily work.

Jean Pierre Martens is a Digital Strategy Consultant at Mixit. They translate the organizational strategy into strategy, design and tools that support employees in their daily work. The success of any organization depends on how the employees work together to achieve that success. People have to live up to what you promise outside.

Great, all those plans for a social intranet. Or even better, there is already a social intranet! I visit many organizations where a social intranet or digital workplace is a topic of discussion. Very often, this (fortunately) is no longer just about the communication objective of the intranet. Or just about the static information that the staff departments have to offer. It's increasingly about how to make this platform relevant to the organization and its goals. And how to make it relevant for employees in their daily work.

But I also see that many organizations are struggling to make this concrete. In addition, two questions often come up:

  • How can the social platform or digital workplace really contribute to daily work?
  • And what does that mean?

You must have answered both questions in advance before you start realising or further developing. The first question is about creating something relevant for end users. Only then is it most likely to be used. And social functionality is very relevant here. But it never stands alone. Social functionality is not an end in itself. Perhaps with Facebook or Snapchat, but in my opinion, that's different with professional organizations. Social functionality provides context and dialogue to processes, knowledge, products, groups, themes, etc. So it takes more than just a timeline on your portal.

In the next section, I will give a number of concrete examples of solutions where the social feature plays an important role. I also provide a guide on how to map this out for your own organization. The second question is increasingly necessary to get approval for the investment. And for good reason! Too often, projects are realized where it is not clear what it will deliver or what it should contribute to. I'll come back to this later.

Relevant and social in daily work

What are examples of relevant functionalities in a social intranet or digital workplace? And what role does social functionality play in that? And nice all those examples, but how do I find out what will work in my organization? We help all types of organizations with these kinds of questions. But we never come up with the answer ourselves; we let the end users say it themselves by involving them from the start. The biggest pitfall is that you're going to come up with this yourself, without involving the end user. Learn how you can also create a vibrant platform within your organization. Read the free ebook: “In 7 steps to a successful social intranet”.

Practical examples

First, I'll start by mentioning a few concrete examples of relevant functionality for end users and what social adds to that.

Spokesperson line

Situation: In an organization in the public domain, many questions are asked by citizens about current issues. Previously, these questions were always forwarded to communication. Indeed, they are responsible for the spokesperson. Communication spends a lot of time answering the same questions. It also often happens that citizens cannot be helped right away, because communication is busy. Calling back also takes a lot of time.

Solution: Every news article that the organization needs to find out about has an icon. If you click on this, you get the so-called spokeswoman line. Each employee can provide immediate answers to questions on this topic. The benefits speak for themselves: citizens are helped immediately and it saves a lot of time. Social is used here to suggest topics that raise a lot of questions and also to provide feedback when the line of spokesperson is unclear.

Employee onboarding

Situation: An organization has a high turnover of employees. So many new colleagues start every month, all of whom need to be trained and learn about the organization's processes and practices. There are already programs and training courses for new employees. But this often lies with the departments themselves.

Solution: All new employees are supported online during their onboarding period. This can be done, for example, by: the first day of routine, important sources, how to's of all applications, where to ask questions and which colleagues to contact. Everyone gets the same introduction. Here, too, social has a great added value. For example, by starting a group for new employees where they can ask questions and share experiences. The frequently asked questions can also be included in this group. This way, new employees are up to speed faster, and it takes less time for the organization to train them. A classic win-win situation. The payback period can be made very concrete.

Mobile to support employees

Situation: An organization has many outpatient employees in execution. All processes are supported by paper and telephone. This takes a lot of time and a lot of things often go wrong. For example, employees are with the wrong customer or the accountability for work is posted to the wrong customer because the report is not easy to read.

Solution: The employees work with a mobile device that supports them digitally. Work orders and planning come back as simple forms and overviews. After work, accountability can easily be done on site. The benefits are obvious: less mistakes and a lot of time savings. With the mobile app, it has also become easier to share knowledge by adding social. Employees can now easily ask a question including a photo of the situation they encounter. A senior or other colleague answers the question. With social, you can find the right solution faster together and you don't have to go back to the customer. Are you curious about what social can mean for your organization?

How do you find out what's relevant?

These are several examples of a social intranet that is relevant to employees and that also significantly saves time or improves quality. It also shows how social can provide extra support or context. The biggest pitfall in many processes is that the project group decides what functionality should be installed without involving the end user. It is certainly smart to look at good examples from other organizations, but it is even more important to involve your own employees. A lot of organizations do that too. But then ask the wrong questions, like:”How can the current intranet be improved?” or”What did you want to have”?”. If you ask them that, you get a new intranet with a different color, but the same irrelevant functionalities. Or you won't get an answer, because many employees don't know what they need. What they do know is:

  • what they run into
  • which is annoying
  • which takes a lot of time.

When it comes to collaborating, sharing knowledge, finding information, finding colleagues and making decisions, it's easier for them to identify the bottlenecks in their daily work. The focus of the project group should be to find out the bottlenecks. Then, possibly together with external expertise, you can think about what the solution to these bottlenecks could be. So the translation into functionalities. Are you going to start building things right away? No, you first go back to your colleagues with what you came up with in the form of a design, mock-up, clickable demo or demo environment of a standard solution. This tests whether the functionality you have come up with really solves the bottleneck. This increases the chances of success a lot.

And what does that mean?

More and more, the organization is asking for a business case. People want to know what it brings and why they should invest money in it. A relevant question that should actually be asked with every project. Many people find it scary or exciting to write a business case. My experience is that it actually helps you make better choices and stay focused. And a business case can help you get more budget available to go one step further.


McKinsey has already done extensive research in 2012 into the potential of social business. They see that there is enormous potential in increasing productivity: a knowledge worker can save up to 25 percent of time. This is a productivity gain of eight to ten hours per week.

Those 600 hours a week can be used for innovation, sales and better customer support. McKinsey has also investigated what specific solutions provide. Examples of KPIs that occur from this include:

There are many more examples to name, for example. The question is which one suits your organization. In the next section, I will describe concrete tools that can help you with this.

Practical tips for creating your social intranet business case

Focus on outcome, not output

One common mistake When setting goals and KPIs for a social intranet, it is necessary to focus on output instead of the result of that output. Output is the immediate result you see. Outcome is the ultimate effect of those results. Let me explain this with an example. Suppose you want to introduce a management blog to get employees more involved in the organization's course:

  • Output: The number of employees who view the blog posts.
  • Outcome: employees' assessment of the statement: I feel involved in the organization's course of”completely disagree” to”totally agree”.

The outcome is what it's ultimately about. However, we often focus on the immediate result. That is so nice and concrete, while the outcome is indirect and often difficult to measure. A major danger of measuring output is that you are steering towards the wrong goals.

Back to the example: You can easily increase the number of employees who view blog posts by automatically opening the blog when you start your web browser. And if the blog posts themselves aren't transparent and authentic, the blog still doesn't contribute to employee engagement. In other words: the impact of more viewers is zero.

So it's important to include both in your business case. Because without blog readers, it's not going to contribute anything anyway

Don't fool yourself

There are plenty of reports with interesting figures, so you can always get a business case with more benefits than expenses. Stop cherry-picking! Be honest with yourself and with the organization. Create a business case that provides direction throughout the project. With measurable goals to measure the result, so you can do (even) better in the next step. Measuring without learning is pointless.

Connect to existing strategy and increase your support base

Also, connect smartly to existing strategic plans to increase support. Of course, the organizational strategy, but also consider the communication, HR, IT and innovation strategy. Before you get started, consider:

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What concerns them the most?
  • What results are they striving for?
  • How can we contribute to that?

Keep it simple: write the business case on a beer coaster

And one last tip. No one reads a business case of ten A4 sheets. Let alone that it is your guide for the project. Write it down on one or a few coasters and force yourself to keep it short.


Social functionality is fun. But most of all, it is very useful. However, you have to help users to apply it properly. To do that, you need to find out what you are going to solve for users and how the social functionality can support this. I have illustrated this with the examples. By making a business case with concrete goals and KPIs, you can convince management to take a good step towards the optimal digital workplace for your colleagues. This business case can also help you choose which functionality to achieve first. Keep it simple and match the organization's goals as much as possible!

Good luck and enjoy the projects you want to realize or improve. Do you have questions or want sounding boards? Feel free to get in touch!

Want more inspiration for making a business case? The following sources were used for this article:

  • The Digital Renaissance of Work, Paul Miller & Elizabeth Marsh
  • Social business by design, Dion Hinchclif & Peter Kim
  • The Social Organization, Anthony J. Bradley & Mark P. McDonald Jive
  • Business Value, Winter 2013, Jive/McKinsey.
  • Intranet metrics are the intranet strategy you can count, Chris Tubb
  • How to measure the success of your internal social network, Dennis Agusi

Continue reading? This article is part of the book “Social works”. Want to know more? Then download the book “Social works”.

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