Blog archive


Belinda Gannaway

Inviting Leaders to the Enterprise Social Network Party

It’s not just what leaders do and say that sets the tone for an organisation. Organisational culture is dictated as much by what they don’t do – or aren’t seen to do. Nowhere is this more telling than in the roll out of enterprise social networks (ESNs).

How many roll-out plans look a bit like this…

  1. Set tool up
  2. Test it
  3. Get comms to write a blog from someone senior extolling the tool’s virtues
  4. Email employees to tell them the tool is there
  5. Run a few training sessions
  6. Measure take-up
  7. Quietly forget about it while a handful of adopters chat among themselves

Sound familiar?

If so, it’s probably time to think again. And a good place to start is at the top.

At our recent roundtable on internal social networks an interesting debate revolved around the question: “Is it ok for directors to have private groups?”

It’s a toughy. And every bit of the NixonMcInnes consciousness would scream against such old school, control and command thinking.

But there is a case for some project-based, private internal networking. Not least in terms of actually getting top dogs onto the platform. If these lynchpins use it, understand it and enjoy the benefits, it’s going to be a lot easier to make it an everyday part of the way the organisation works.

The thinking behind ESN groups should be ‘open by default’ – but private where they absolutely have to be to get directors to the party.

And once seniors are engaging, internal comms professionals should be leveraging that presence. First by helping leaders take small steps in the direction of openness and secondly by making them advocates for the platform.

Research from MIT Sloan suggests that one of the most powerful ways leaders use ESNs is to simply recognise people’s efforts. So make sure your big wigs respond to comments on their blog (and, yes, make sure it is their blog not something hammed up in the comms dept); ask questions; congratulate people for good work; welcome new joiners, etc, etc. Anything light touch they might do if they were walking the shop-floor looking to meet, listen and learn from the people with the ideas about how things could be done differently.

When it comes to ESNs there will always be reticence about using them for the first, second, third or even fourth time. For some people in some organsiations the idea of posting something in a public forum is akin to asking them to stand on a table in the canteen and give a rendition of My Way. It just doesn’t happen.

But if there if the lights are down, the karaoke machine is on at full blast, the drink is flowing and everyone’s having a go, well, who wouldn’t join in?

It’s a bit like that with ESNs. The atmosphere has to be right, there has to be a precedent and there has to be a sense of purpose too – even if that purpose is to have some fun.

One attendee’s story attested to that. The MD posted a comment asking a question on the new ESN and it was met with a deathly silence. Until one ‘super user’ piped up with some advice in response. The MD responded positively and invited more feedback and the conversation started to flow as others joined in.

So that is the role of organisational leaders when it comes to ESNs. It’s not about being the guest of honour who cuts the ribbon to get the thing started and quietly sidles out the side door. It’s about hanging out and enjoying the party. Who knows what conversations or connections will happen as a result.

See last week’s blog post looking at the business value from enterprise social networks. Next week for the role of community managers and champions in embedding your ESN beyond core early adopters.








This post was filed under Digital transformation, Internal comms, Working culture Comments are currently closed.