Why social tools are indispensable in your organization

In May, renowned management consultancy McKinsey published its social tools survey. The results are unanimous: social improves your work environment and thus helps your organization move forward. Respond to customers faster, communicate more transparently, collaborate more easily, work agile and gain a competitive advantage; social tools make it all possible. An earlier McKinsey study even showed that social technologies make you 13 percent more productive. In this article, three Embrace experts provide their views on the results of the McKinsey survey.

Introducing: the social experts

Koen, Esmée and Remco will shed light on the results of the social tools survey. Koen in the role of lead consultant in implementing the social intranet at the municipality of Rotterdam, Esmée as social business advisor and Remco as product manager.

First things first: what are social tools?

Let me start with an explanation of the term “social tools”, because what are they really? McKinsey uses social tools as a catch-all of the digital technologies that make collaboration easier. These are technologies that are used to interact socially and co-create, improve, and share content. This includes tools such as internal social media, the digital workplace, collaboration tools and the social intranet.

Functionalities of social technologies

According to McKinsey, the latest collaboration technologies include the following features:

  • cloud-based;
  • set up for real-time interaction;
  • users can search for conversations;
  • offer a distinctive user experience;
  • integrated with other business applications, such as file sharing and social media.

The functionalities that, according to the respondents, bring the greatest benefits are:

  • Time to communicate unfettered.
  • The ability to work together within specific groups.
  • Device independent availability.

The participants believe that the three functionalities above will have the most influence on the way of working within organizations.

Social improves internal communication

One of the key findings of the survey is the ability of social to improve internal communication. So how does this work in practice? Koen gives an example:

“At the moment, email is the standard form of communication within organizations. When you send an email containing ten colleagues in the CC, two people return a personal email and the other eight click “reply all”, resulting in unclear email conversations that go around the organization unsystematically. The social intranet brings information together correctly so that everyone can see what is going on at a glance. For example, you'll see a timeline with all the new posts from the groups you're a member of. So it's very efficient and organized.”

McKinsey expects that social tools can even replace email as a standard channel of written communication, creating searchable content as a result of collaboration:

Social hand in hand with digitization

The study shows that companies that use collaboration technologies have become more integrated into daily work and that more business processes have been digitized.

Koen explains: “The implementation of a social tool has a better chance of success if you link it to (digital) processes within your organization. It is then immediately 'part of the work'. As a result, you can immediately see the added value. For example, citizens' questions can be answered by the customer contact department for 80% using FAQs, manuals and available knowledge. The other 20% is answered by additional knowledge from the organization. In practice, it appears that answering that 20% correctly takes an hour and a half. This is because of the many calls it takes to find the right answer. The use of social technologies has the effect that the questions are answered within ten minutes. That's the power of social.”

Social changes the way we work

Management guru Tom Peters said it already:

In other words, not storing information, but sharing information easily and quickly, ensures innovation. And innovation in the way they work is exactly what respondents expect from social tools in the next three years:

  1. Employees are able to communicate more frequently with people in other teams, functions, and departments (66%)
  2. Daily work is increasingly project-based instead of in teams or by function (48%)
  3. More teams that work independently (40%)

Trend Keeper Marcel Bullinga even predicts that ten years from now, there will only be flex workers who sometimes sit in the office. There will be a different workplace for each task, from a self-driving car to a co-working place, from working from home to occasionally working in the office. Work is no longer viewed from the building, but from the community you're part of. In addition, trend watcher expects Yuri van Geest major changes in business cultures: top-down (communication) structures are disappearing and risk reduction is from the last century. Successful companies have an open and transparent company culture, where employees are encouraged to fail so that initiatives get off the ground. A culture where feedback loops are short, where “just do it” and strategic plans don't go beyond a year.

Social may lead to fundamental organizational changes

The survey shows that social tools influence the flow of information within an organization, which changes the way of working and ultimately this can result in a new form of organization. While organizations are increasingly being asked to work agile these days, social tools help organizations experiment with new forms of organization that take place more on a project basis or self-organization and are increasingly less hierarchical.

Implementing a social tool ensures better communication and cooperation between employees, partners and/or customers. Applying social to various processes, for example customer contact, can lead to cost reduction and productivity. In the example given earlier by Koen, you can see that cost reduction is achieved by shortening the lead time of a process. Productivity is increased, among other things, by involving people with the right knowledge at the right time. And when data is collected from conversations between employees and customers, the benefits only increase. How to make the implementation process successful read our free ebook.

13 percent more productive with social technologies

In an earlier study by McKinsey shows that the productivity of knowledge workers (someone who mainly works with knowledge and information) is increased by up to 20-25 percent by social technologies. We are nuancing this somewhat optimistic assessment to a productivity increase of 13 percent. We see that organizations need time to master the new way of working when a social intranet is implemented. As the graph below shows, productivity is mainly increased by spending less time on:

  • reading and responding to emails;
  • retrieving and collecting information;
  • communicate and collaborate internally;
  • role-specific tasks.

In Koen's examples, we have seen how that time savings are achieved in practice.

Social; not a goal but a means

In addition to the survey, Remco wants to say that social only really works if your organization is also open to it and there is a change in the company culture:

“A social tool is not a magic tool. An organization must be ready for this and hard work must be done. Social can only succeed if there is a cultural change. This means that the organization must focus on behavioral change and set up processes on social. Another important element is the role model from management, they must lead the way and stand up as ambassadors. Implementing a social tool should not become an end in itself. The organization must have a plan where and why social can contribute.”

How do I get started?

Before you can implement social, you must first complete a number of steps. Esmée tells us more about this:

“You start by inventorying all the digital processes within the organization. Make an overview of this and see what can be combined or what might be redundant. Ask colleagues which digital processes are difficult or allowed to be 'faster'. Choose two or three of these processes and set them up using social intranet/tooling. Set a zero point and measure after six months whether social tooling has contributed = business case! Based on that, you will continue. Create a digital workspace where you can find both internal and external digital and social tooling. So everything integrated in one place. It is precisely the coherence that gives you advantages in use, but also in a competitive position.”

Vision for the future

Esmée thinks that in the future, social tools in the work environment will be translated into the digital workplace: “The place where you, as an employee, are in contact with your colleagues, relations and customers, with your business processes and all the information you need. The more connection between all the different social tools, the more synergy and therefore the more profit you can get out of it. Decisions are made faster because the information and expertise of colleagues and other stakeholders are quickly within reach. As a result, faster 'time-to-market' and a better competitive position.”

According to Remco, social tools and the work environment are therefore inextricably linked in the future.

Conclusion: social is an indispensable tool for setting up a future-proof organization.

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