Make Social Technology Count In Your Workplace

A friend, who was involved in developing early word processing systems (imagine a world without Microsoft MSFT +0.44% Office or Open Office), was talking about the productivity-improvement claims made by fans of word processing. I’m like WHAT decade are we in? Smiles. I’m GASPing for air. By moving offices and workers away from typewriters, Dictaphone machines and stenography, businesses were supposed to see huge productivity gains. Employees would be empowered and secretaries (try finding a few of those today—know what I mean?) would have time to work on projects of higher value to companies. There would be no reliance on White-out, steno pads or other mostly-dead products and everyone would be freed from the drudgery of office work. The payoff for companies and leaders? The holy trinity of time-savings, cost-reduction and ROI!

What really happened? We all – more or less willingly – took on responsibility for our own busy work, and a whole work classification was eliminated.

There are no “secretaries” any more – Phew. There are a few executive assistants, reserved mostly for the V and C-suite. This is something my baby boomer friend regrets; early in his career he had a secretary, Jean, who could type 105 words a minute with no errors and take dictation at 90 words a minute. She kept his schedule, remembered everything, and shielded him from useless meetings and other distractions. Now he’s on his own, working without a net, like most of us, in a world where notions of value have changed. What gives?

We’re seeing a similar shift now in the world of work with social technologies and social media tools.

From Yammer to wikis, talent management software and enterprise instant-messaging platforms like Salesforce Chat and Microsoft Lync, businesses are structuring a workplace where most interchanges are not person-to-person but are instead mediated by technology. This shift has been valued at upwards of $1.3 trillion by no less an authority than McKinsey, which studied the use and impact of social tech in four sectors: professional services, retail financial services, packaged goods and advanced manufacturing.

Not surprisingly, McKinsey sees a large percentage of the value of social tech coming from two sources: improved communications and collaboration. These benefits will be realized internally, as employees collaborate, and externally, as consumers interact with brands.

But value isn’t something you get by buying technology, closing your eyes and making a wish. Value is real only if it can be measured. Further, it’s arguably possible to extract value from technology only when your work culture understands and accepts the reasoning for adopting the technology, which requires employees to trust the company and its managers. Without leadership trust, in other words, value cannot be calculated.

So leaders and employees unite and celebrate! Here are five things to put in place if you hope to extract value from social technology in your workplace:

1) Define what value means to your company as a leader. For example, is there more value in social tech-mediated collaboration than there is in face-to-face meetings? In which circumstances or use cases is the statement true or false? At which employee grade is it true or false? Is your notion of value organizational (e.g., human factors), financial (e.g., measureable ROI) or process (e.g., time savings)? Create different timelines for each vector to see where you’ll experience a value bump first.

2) Create a value measurement methodology. If you’re measuring collaboration, for example, tie hard costs to it: less travel, less time to complete a task, more people on board with an idea or initiative.

3) Determine which tools, processes and policies support your definition of value, and which must be changed. Email may not support your definition of value in the above model, nor may in-person meetings. Processes designed to support building teams will need to be revised so teams can be constructed virtually among people who’ve never met F2F. Policies requiring performance reviews to be conducted by team members may need to be adjusted, and so on. This may requires a close look at many policies, which is time-consuming; factor that into your value equations.

4) Create a link between your notion of leadership value and the value of employee trust. This will be tough, but one place to start is to create a value statement describing the organizational value of employee trust. Then look for the deltas in your model of the value of social tech. You may want to bring in an HR or organizational consultant to help structure the examination if you need help from the outside.

5) Socialize your expectations of the value to be realized from social technology. Poll employees to see if they buy in. If they don’t, you’ll gain not only understanding of why there may be resistance to using social tech tools, as well as a roadmap of policies and procedures which may require change for the organization to realize value from social tech.

We’re just beginning to see the disruptive effects of social technology and social media at large. Very exciting times in the world of work for leaders and employees alike. Will it destroy whole job categories? It remains to be seen. Will it deliver value? I vote yes.

What about you? Is your leadership or employee style one the embraces parts or all of this?

This article was first published on Forbes on 9/16/12

Photo Credit: securitynewspaper via Compfight cc

Why More Social And Less Stupid Are Music To My Ears

“You’re a big music fan, aren’t you?”

We stood there talking among other parents who mingled while kids ran around celebrating our Little League T-ball season.

“Yes, indeed,” I answered.

“You heard about B.B. King?”

“Yes, what a loss to the music industry. A living legend whose impact will live on and on. In fact, I saw that he had passed away via my Facebook news feed yesterday.”

The conversation continued, two dads talking music, one a guitar and Hammond organ player who had played in bands and had even cut an “album,” the other (me) an aspiring drummer who couldn’t stop gushing about the last big hurrah Rush tour – R40.

Soon after our conversation, we moved on to our spouses and kids, in between checking our phones for various “newsy” updates and social “pings.”

Ah, the bliss of instant connectivity to anything and everything all in the palms of our hands that some would say without really understanding the advanced intelligence and power we have access to. Some would even say this bliss sides with ignorance. Actually, Carl Sagan once said that we’ve arranged a society on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to blow up in our faces. 

I do understand Carl’s greater geopolitical context, but when it comes to everyday progress, I beg to differ. This is why the arguments in favor of the fact that technology makes us less social and more stupid are, well, stupid.

Okay, maybe it makes the stupid stupider, but I have to give the majority of us more credit than that. Smartphone technology has advanced dramatically and in the next few years smartphones will be smarter and continue to supplant desktop and laptop computers. In fact, the way in which people access the Internet has already been transformed as more people use mobile devices to go online practically anywhere today. There are now 5.2 billion mobile devices in use across the world, compared to only 789 million laptops and 743 million desktop PCs.

According to the Pew Research Center, Smartphones are used for much more than calling, texting, or basic internet browsing. Users are turning to these mobile devices as they navigate a wide range of life events:

  • 62% of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition.
  • 57% have used their phone to do online banking.
  • 44% have used their phone to look up real estate listings or other information about a place to live.
  • 43% to look up information about a job.
  • 40% to look up government services or information.
  • 30% to take a class or get educational content.
  • 18% to submit a job application. 

While it’s the higher percentage of all younger folk that embrace social networking, watching video, and listening to music or podcasts more than older folk, the same Pew Research shows growing utilization across the generations. So don’t let me catch you requiring your jobs for digital natives only. You know, those who’ve grown up wired to the Internet, as opposed to us older folk who adopted it. That kind of age discrimination can get you into hot water sooner than you think. Talk about stupid.

Plus, long gone are the formal protocols of the “offline” networking world. Mobile devices and social media have made connecting and networking so much easier to nearly everyone with an Internet connection. Rob Garcia, Silicon Valley product executive and co-founder and Chief Product Officer at ConnectUp, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that we’re now in a hyper-connected world, those who are able to build, maintain, sustain and leverage their entire network outside of social, be more successful, and impact the world.

Along with that, we are becoming a more responsible global community of multigenerational digital citizens from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds not bound by the blatant ignorance of short-sighted governments and business leaders. That’s why those of us who are much more social and much less stupid can and do incite and sustain positive change.

And that’s music to my ears.

#TChat Preview: Managing Your Personal Brand’s Softer Skills

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). The #TChat radio portion runs the first 30 minutes from 7-7:30 pm ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 pm ET.

Last week we talked about how to maximize the cowbell principle.

This week we’re going to talk about managing the softer skills of your personal brand.

What rings true today in a world gone social that demands transparency and authenticity is the fact that your reputation is your personal brand. And vice-versa.

But with everything so “on” and online virtually all the time, what happened to body language? Nothing actually. In fact, it’s more important than ever, because we spend so much time online. Body language conveys everything from confidence to approachability; it’s more honest than the spoken word.

Literally in the blink of an eye, we can make someone feel quite valued or unceremoniously dismissed. That’s why developing our softer skills is the new differentiator.

Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-creators and hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we learn about how to manage the softer skills of your personal brand with this week’s guest: Deborah Thomas-Nininger, founder of DTN Productions International-Hallmark of Etiquette, a “Reputation Management” training company.

Sneak Peek:

Related Reading:

Alex Freund: Can Body Language Be Learned?

Meghan M. Biro: The Future Of Work Is Boundaryless

Leo Widrich: The Secrets Of Body Language: Why You Should Never Cross Your Arms Again

Diane Gottsman: Office Etiquette: Nine Ways To Strengthen Work Relationships

Carol Kinsey Goman: 10 Powerful Body Language Tips

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: How To Manage The Softer Skills Of Your Personal Brand

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, January 21st — 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT Tune in to the #TChat Radio show with our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, as they talk with our guest: Deborah Thomas-Nininger.

Tune in LIVE online Wednesday, January 21st!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, January 21st — 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Deborah will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: Why is body language such a critical personal branding soft skill? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: How has social technology impacted business etiquette over the past few years? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: What effect has social media and brand awareness had on reputation management? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Until the show, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

photo credit: anamobe via photopin cc


Communities Go Mobile With Real World Exploration Apps

Thanks to a new set of location-based mobile applications that have cropped up over the past year, our social interactions online are beginning to impact our real world lives in very real ways. Here’s how they work now:

  1. Users open a location-based mobile application like Whrrl, Foursquare or SCVNGR and find recommendations from other users for how to experience different places near them.
  2. Within the applications, users bookmark recommendations that they want to do.
  3. Users then use their virtual to-do lists to explore the world around them.

Here’s a use case: I’m waiting in line at the ticket booth of the San Diego Zoo. To kill time, I open my Whrrl application. I view a few recommendations from other users who have been to the zoo. One recommendation from a friend of mine says, “Get to the back of the zoo right when it opens. You’ll get to see the lions eating their breakfast.”

I think to myself, “I don’t want to miss that!” and I dog-ear that recommendation. Forty minutes later, I’m watching the lions chow down with a few other spectators who were wise enough to download Whrrl. The rest of the park is waiting for the sloth exhibit in the front of the zoo to open. I click the “I did this” button on Whrrl and my friend who made the recommendation about the lions receives a reward within Whrrl.

That reality is evolving quickly, and with it, affiliate marketing is about to change forever.

Recently, Foursquare released its “Add to Foursquare” button, which allows anyone to tag places (and eventually recommendations) into the Foursquare network from anywhere on the web. Here’s where the fun begins. Remember that old  pay-per-click model affiliate marketers used to base their income on? It’s about to be taken to the real world. Here’s how these location-based exploration apps are going to work after a couple of more years of innovation:

  1. An affiliate marketer or influencer will be given designated links to specific recommendations and will plant those links using technology like the Foursquare button.
  2. Users will add those recommendations to their virtual to-do lists, and the marketer or influencer who planted the recommendation will be compensated for the real world “click.”
  3. If a user acts on the recommendation on his/her to-do list, the marketer will be paid even more.

When this world becomes a reality, my friend who made that recommendation at the San Diego Zoo will be compensated with a real world reward (monetary or otherwise). That new incentive may be enough motivation for mass adoption of mobile applications that guide real world experiences.

This is how technology will drive real world action. This is how social influence online can translate to the real world. So what does it mean for your social community? It means that with every new innovation in location-based technology, we are closer than ever to breaking down the boundaries between online and offline experiences.

Twitter chats and LinkedIn groups are on the verge of becoming experience-based, not just interest-based. Niche social networks on Ning will provide digital incentives for real world experiences. Facebook groups will be married to verticals of exploration and activity. As community managers, we no longer need to limit our thinking to what our communities can talk about on discussion boards, chats and blogs. We can now start to strategize about enriching our community members’ lives while they aren’t sitting at their desks pounding away on their laptops.

If you haven’t tried out a location-based app like Whrrl or Foursquare, I highly recommend it. Understanding the dynamics those applications use will be key to running a successful community in the very near future.