Web does not turn employees into content producers. Job description does.

As time goes by, it’s becoming obvious that whae created a gap that prevented web 2.0 logics to be implemented within businesses is a an incredible number of web facts that can’t be transposed in the business world. So, internal practitioners use to fight against many mtyths they have to kill before they can start serious things. It’s a real challenge because, caught between unjustified constraints and excessive expectations, internal leaders have to manage unbaked projects where they’re asked to focus on “non issues”, neglecting strategical ones that are supposed to disappear by miracle.

We often read that employees are machines that generate contents, an assumption that’s used as a core belief to build a new kind of organization, more collaborative, more efficient. Why ? Because as the web turned customers into producers, this is supposed to change the way people behave at work.

As social tools begin to shape workers’ expectations for how they get things done, it raises expectations for how they collaborate and communicate and participate in content development,” said Nielsen Norman Group user-experience specialist Patty Caya. “The social Web has turned consumers into producers and this will impact how they work.” (source ici)

I have no doubt it’s a major trend that will impact the future. But let’s be clear and honnest, companies are operating in today’s context and have to deal with it to carry on. So that’ a belief that has to be taken very cautiously.

First, the social web did not turn customers into producers. In fact, not all consumers. That’s true for something like 5% internauts (but that’s enough for businesses to build a new kind of customer relationship management). What about tomorrow ? Maybe more. Or maybe the 1-9-90 will still apply. We may wonder if a “100% producers word” would be manageable and supportable. I don’t think so, both at a human and economical level.

Knowing this, it mean that only a few percent of internauts will bring new practices inside the companies that employs them. But, once again, things don’t happen as expected.

How many prolific bloggers and facebookers become silent when they pass their company’s doors ? A lot. How many people that are socially active inside the organization do not use social media in their private life ? More than we can think.

Of course, it’s a matter of personality. Some lose their self-confidence when they face the “big organization”, colleagues and superiors. It’s about their career, what is quite different that fooling around on facebook. (Note than Facebook can also impact your career). On the contrary, some who are easy and legitimate at work feel unfortable with social media for personal purposes. Authority ? Expertise ? Hierarchy ?

At work, people are content producer or not depending on their role, their job. Moreover, it’s been like that for ages and the web did not change it : powerpoints, reporting, emails… we all produce contents depending you our assigned tasks / objectives. Maybe we’re talking about other kings of contents ? Idées, suggestions ? Experience showss that’s making people share such things at work and  that, in many cases, everything starts with a job description and ends with a reward. Maybe we’re talking about sharing existing documents ? So, as McKinsey mentioned here, the best way is to put the “sharing action” in the workflow, since it’s what works the best.

The social web won’t turn employees into producers. Their job description actually do, as the way day to day job is (self)organizaed. If the human nature is a key driver on the web, objectives and the nature of one’s work prevail at work.

To be more precise : job description make employees produce information, work organization makes them share it, management makes them share more.


Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
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