The social employee : foundations of a social business

thesocialemployeeHow to male employees adopt social and digital technologies ? That’s one of the first questions any business undertaking a digital turn must answer. And that’s the topic of an excellent book : The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work, by Cheryl and Mark Burgess. A very well written book that includes a lot of detailed case studies.

Like it or not, the world has become social, what means open, transparent, interconnected. What means two things : businesses must become social internally to go as fast as the world outside and externally where employees have become their first ambassadors. At least those that external people trust the most, more than the official voice of the enterprise.

Becoming social means working differently. But it’s also about acting, thinking, behaving differently and transform their culture. Social is something people live, something personified so there’s no social business without social employees.

I won’t list all the examples of tactics described in the book, aiming at helping businesses and employees to meet this goal. You’ll learn how businesses like IBM, AT&T, Dell, Cisco and others have managed to make their employees social. These cases are varied the one(s) that will work for you will depend on your goals and cultures but I have no doubt you’ll find what you need in the book.

In this post I’d like to focus on two matters : the sense of employee’s digital mutation and the importance of having managers and executives involved in the journey.

Your employees are your brand

Sense first. We too often break social technologies adoption in two. An internal side for work and an external one for communication with a brand ambassador approach (company’s brand but also employee’s brand). What most of the cases show is that they both come together. No one is fully social internally if is not able to act accordingly externally and no one can social externally without practising internally. It’s a matter of continuity and coherence. Digital transformation is not internal and external but both. Once employee understand the benefits of initiative, it’s impossible for them to adopt two different cultures, two opposite behaviors depending on they’re speaking to a client or a colleague. The external impact drives sense  but ils often built on internal practices. The one without the other makes no sense and, in fact, seldom work.

Then management. There’s no social employee without social managers and, even more important, without social executives. Every case confirms it : vision, sense making, embodiment comes from the top. Too often we realize that the higher we go in the hierarchy the most it’s “important….for others”, as if the meaning of the ongoing transformation was not understood, with leaders sticking to a window-dressing strategy. It looks like modernity but in the end nothing changes in the organization. Leaders must adopt new tools and postures as leaders to understand where they’re going and lead by the example. If they don’t, employees will think it’s one more craze and that leaders won’t put themselves in the situation that will help them to understand what’s at stake, how the new paradigm work.

That’s all. I wont say more about the book since I have some content that’s better than a long post.

The first is Cheryl and Mark Burgess’ presentation at the latest Social Business Forum in Milan.


And the second is a speech by Mark Burgess at a TEDx conference.

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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