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The social net-worth: engrossed or engaged?

Just look at the followers - there’s no doubt “enterprise social” is trending. And trending. If you work in a large organisation, chances are your company uses a social collaboration platform like Yammer, Facebook Workplace, Slack or something similar. 

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In the past few weeks, you’ve probably either hit the ‘thumbs-up’ button or wondered why Stuart from Finance won’t stop sharing selfies with his cat (you’re not the only one. Enough, Stuart!). 

"The question of whether enterprise social networks, like Yammer, add value to business I think is beyond debate.” – Laurence Lock Lee

The trends are dramatic. Looking at Yammer alone, between 2017 and 2018 there has been a 38 per cent increase in the average number of replies, likes or conversations a person contributes.

And we’re not all just shouting down a hallway, reciprocity is up 66 per cent.

Reciprocity is a relationship measure, it gauges how much people are connecting with each other - I reply to your post, you reply to mine. The higher the score, the more people you’ve got building two-way relationships which are critical for getting stuff done at work.

SWOOP Analytics, best described as the FitBit for social collaboration, run one of the world’s largest enterprise social benchmarking reports. The analysis includes enterprise social activity data from 150 organisations, 2 million people and 27 million interactions across the globe.

Its goal is to help organisations get more out of enterprise social networks using science-based data and analytics that helps separate the cat selfies from the new ideas and the real innovation.

Valuable or distracting?

“The question of whether enterprise social networks, like Yammer, add value to business I think is beyond debate. We’ve seen so many examples and it really is a given now,” says Laurence Lock Lee, Chief Data Scientist, SWOOP Analytics.

Lock Lee and SWOOP Analytics CEO, Cai Kjaer, have been quietly measuring and analysing the social interactions of organisations across the globe for more than six years, seeking to understand the connection between social collaboration and business value.

“The line between employee engagement and performance is one that’s been drawn many times before, as has the line between social collaboration and employee engagement. Usually this is done in a controlled way, through careful academic research,” says Lock Lee.  

“What SWOOP Analytics does is take the findings from this academic research to develop metrics that enable organisations to take what was learnt from the research and scale it.”

In 2017, research from Griffith University found a direct correlation between student activities on its Yammer network and the students’ academic grades.

The study examined the online habits of postgraduate students and how they engaged on Yammer to share ideas and collaborate with other students and academic staff.

To make this research easier to understand and make it scalable across any organisation, SWOOP used five social ‘personas’.

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SWOOP assigned a persona to every individual based on their online behaviours on platforms like Yammer.

The observer, otherwise known as the “lurker”, absorbs the conversation going on around them but does not engage. Whereas the broadcaster, who shares information outwardly, always has something to say – though perhaps not always something overly interesting or relevant to their audience.

On the positive side, a responder actively responds to others by adding their perspective or view while a catalyst is good at starting conversations that get lots of people talking. An engager is someone who has mastered the balance between starting conversations, listening and learning from others. 

The results from Griffith University show a clear correlation between students who received a higher grade level and students who display the more positive social personas (engager, catalyst and responder). 

Crucial for success

Further research conducted by Griffith University found enterprise social networks can help facilitate employee engagement and performance if some key attributes were present within the organisation, including:

  • Leadership engagement and use of the platform; ​
  • a flat hierarchy; ​
  • trust within the organisation; ​
  • an open organisational culture; and ​
  • clear guidelines for use.

The literature review, led by Professor Nick Barter and Dr Elliroma Gardiner, included a review of thousands of papers and a detailed review of more than 200 peer reviewed journal articles. The research found work-related social media enhances employee performance 

  • Increasing communication within the organisation;
  • facilitating information and knowledge sharing; ​
  • increasing the accessibility and availability of resources (to facilitate task performance); ​
  • increasing opportunities for collaboration; ​
  • increasing sense of connection and belonging among employees; and ​
  • increasing self-efficacy. ​

“We found enterprise social networks promote employee engagement and enhance performance, but only if leaders are supportive,” says Dr Gardiner. “If leaders aren’t engaged, then there isn’t a very strong effect.”

While more research into the impact of enterprise social networks on employee engagement is needed, the study found no apparent negative effect from using online social networks at work.

“What this means is there’s not going to be any detrimental impact on the organisation by using ESNs,” she says.

A practical example

Pete Johns, Digital Employee Experience Manager at The NRMA, conducted an experiment with employees within their Group Customer division.

The hypothesis he tested was “could Yammer help employees to solve customer and colleague problems faster and enable them to share information more effectively? Could more intentional use of Yammer drive tangible business benefits as well as improve employee engagement?”

To do this, Johns established three Yammer groups and worked with leaders to define a clear purpose for each of the groups. He established clear guidelines and trained key people to act as community facilitators to ensure employees were getting the most out of the activity.

A survey conducted among staff before and again three-months after the groups were established saw an 8 per cent increase in overall employee engagement and significant increases in four key areas of business value: how well the team felt they were connecting, sharing, solving and innovating.

All of this delivered a 10 per cent improvement to the Digital Employee Experience, so the experiment proved a resounding success.

“We were blown away. The survey showed massive improvements in all areas, far bigger than we ever imagined could be achieved over just three months”, says Johns.

“In follow up conversations, people from all levels reported feeling better about coming to work, the culture had tangibly improved, they had more fun at work and they felt more connected to the organisation, as well as their colleagues.”

Thumbs up for ESNs.

Ryan Crocker is Social Business Development Manager and Richard Cartmell is Community Manager at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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