What qualities for the social employee ?

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Following my previous post on the social employee and knowing the difficulties businesses face to attract and mobilize digital talents, I put together a list of the qualities that are expected from employees in a digital enterprise, the social and social employee.

If with start with the assumption that digital is rather a way to think and do things, the first consequence is that mastering any technology is not a part of the list. Or, if it is, it’s a secondary one. First, young employees don’t have this problem. Second, as for others, we know that the point is not to know how to use social media but to know why. Those who don’t use Facebook or Twitter (whatever their age) don’t to that because they can’t use it but because they don’t see what they can do with, the potential and the benefits. And even if we consider the young, knowing how to use Facebook does not mean knowing how to use it well. Evidence, if any, that de digital divide is not a matter of age but of understanding what’s at stake, what are the opportunities et new models. I already came to the same conclusion by observing some community managers : it’s better to have someone with the right mindset who starts from scratch than a social media addict who can’t make sense of what it change in the context of their work.

The point is not to know how to use social media but to know why

That said, what should be expect from a social employee ?

• Digital literacy

To follow what precedes, what matters is not to know how to use a tool (they get more simple every day) but to know why and how to use information and communicate in a digital professional context.

• Caring about others

In my opinion, customer orientation is part of the foundations of a digital culture in the workplace. What characterizes networked organizations is their ability to mobilize the right people, when and where it’s needed, even without any process. But it’s also to have employees who mobilize themselves when they see they can help someone. More, the digital world is also a world of service that needs a culture of service. Then, and that is a cultural revolution, employees will have to learn to see their colleagues as customers. If they don’t we’ll end up with the communication and collaboration issues we all know today.

Social employees are service oriented and care about others

Last, if customer experience follows the employee experience, the symmetry of attention is needed to make the system work and businesses will need to have employees and managers that personifies such behaviors.

• Curiosity

The world is changing too fast to wait for enterprises to tell employees what’s changing, what matters and train them to adapt.

Let me tell you something that happened to me a couple of years ago. I had a discussion with something working at the headquarters of a large french company, in the HR department, in charge of the employer brand. We started talking about social networks, linkedIn in particular and I asked how they were dealing with these new trends. The answer was “I don’t know…we’ve not been told to pay attention to these things”. Symptomatic. (The person was 30 ish years old).

In short, digital talents are curious. He’s always watching what’s new in is field, he tries thing, experiments. When the company needs to change and innovate he comes up with a solution because the matter is not new to him.

Sharing : the default mode of information management

• Transparence

When information flows and is accessible by anyone, no one can hoard or hide it. Digital talents do what they say and say what they do. Sharing is their default mode of managing information.

• Appetite for questioning

Digital and social talents question things. Not in a negative way but because things change so fast that they know that relying on what worked yesterday is the best way to fail tomorrow. It’s a constructive questioning : they wonder how to improve and simplify things and, as they’re curious, they don’t only ask questions but bring answers.

Digital talents question the existing

The good side of those who are never satisfied with the existing is that they consider change as the new normal and are more resilient. Another quality businesses need.

• Ability to get enthusiastic and to get back on the ground

In a fast moving world, innovation, test & learn, continuous improvement is necessary. It requires two qualities. First, being able to get enthusiastic because, without that, it’s impossible to get anywhere, most of all when one needs to move mountains to convince and push their ideas. But it’s also important to quickly get one’s feet on the ground to analyze what works and what doesn’t, improve or give up. Enthusiasm is required but it’s important but not persevering in mistakes is necessary.

Digital talents link disciplines together

• Polymathy

Without going that far, digital talents are apprentice polymath. They have knowledge in many fields. Of course they won’t be specialized in all but will be able to understand and connect the dots. They don’t think in silos but bring disciplines together.

Today’s successes – and the iPhone-iTunes one is a good example – don’t come from businesses that master a given field or work on their products in silos but jointly. An IT guy able to understand HR issues and talk with marketers. An HR person curious about technology. A marketer with a geek side…

Of course, that’s not enough. Such profiles are useless if organizations don’t let them be who they are. So if your company thinks that..

• technology is the problem of IT people

• managing information is the job of professionals

• Curiosity is a bad fault

• Skills are practiced in silos

• One should respect what’s already in place and not question it

• One work for himself and his own objectives, others are others…

…there are many chances you will never manage to attract or hire such people. Maybe you’ve already fired them…

 

Image credit: social skills via Shutterstock