I've seen may articles, as I gather many of you have as well, extolling the virtues of becoming a 'Social Business”.
Not a social business in the sense of being a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective, but as one that bases its processes on recognising the social nature of people, and facilitating teamwork and collaboration in its operations.
In this aspect a Social Business is one that attempts to maximise its shareholders value through leveraging the inherent nature of people as social beings. A Social Business recognises that people do not want to live and operate in an organisational sense as independent entities, but instead as a valued supporter of their colleagues and peers who in turn, reach out a assist them in discharging their organisational duties.
In being an organisation model of operations the objectives of these initiatives are clear; to enhance the bottom line. Sure we can all talk about holistic factors of providing a better working environment and the like, but even that boils down to a purely financial objective of reducing costs via retaining the best, getting the most out of them and reducing their turnover. So let's be honest. Social Business is all about enhancing the bottom line to the organisation.
Hence, as something that requires a business investment, whether it is time, resources, technologies, Social Business initiatives need to be evaluated and judged the same as any other investment in business. Social Business initaitives need to be compared with alternative uses of funds to decide on the most appropriate allocation of resources.
But unlike other financial investments, Social Business initiatives have one variable that fluctuates widely over time; that of the people. It is no good running proof of concepts, and undergoing a myriad of cost benefit models and results measurements if this incredibly, often irrational behaving variable is not properly catered for.
With people, adoption and acceptance of the changes proposes is key. It doesn't matter how good the benefits may seem on paper, if the workforce doesn't accept them and see personal value in them, they will fail. Trust me. The business world is littered with a multitude of well thought out, perfectly designed, rational operation enhancements that have failed because of this one fact.
Look at the 'Knowledge Management' initiatives kicked off in the 1990's. How many of these actually yielded fruit. How many of them actually enabled the capture and reuse of corporate knowledge? And for those that did meet with success even partially, what was the life span of this knowledge that was harvested and collated? Were these initiatives worth the effort?
A well run and managed Social Business initiative will therefore have a number of common factors including;
What are the quantifiable objectives and how will these be measured?
What are the adoption strategies and milestones that will measure acceptance? What are the motovators for people to become and stay engaged? How real are these? How will you build the trust needed for people to engage in a new way of working?
How far away are these practices from those supported by the existing culture? What are the factors of the desired organisational culture? How is the organisation's workforce to get there?
How do these relate to the achievement of the quantifiable business objectives?
What are the affects of missing these milestones and adoption objectives? What happens if a lessor proportion of people accept the new operational practices engaged in the organisations qualification of being social?
Obviously many more items can be added here, but I hope I am getting my point across.
Despite all the case studies and research being undertaken in this area one things remains true.
In dealing with an often irrational variable such as people, Social Business initiatives must spend a considerable amount of time in discussing and planning on adoption strategies and activities if they are to have any chance of succeeding.