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How Managers Benefit from an Enterprise Social Network

Spiral of Management ChallengesA manager's core challenge is to blend the diversity (and imperfections) of their team into a group which wants to work together each day and produce results on behalf of the organisation. Yet for many managers the very concept of social within the enterprise still remains a vexed issue with scant recognition of how it could help. The fact is that an ESN, properly designed and implemented, provides the grease which lubricates the alignment of employees with an organisation's core values and beliefs. This provides a purpose to come to work and a reason to produce results on behalf of the organisation. An ESN also provides the same lubricant to the alignment of employees with the organisation's key objectives and strategy - this helps make a team's output effective.

What motivates employees

A recent Deloitte Core Beliefs and Culture Survey indicated that exceptional organisations create and sustain a culture that engages and motivates their employees. Employees ranked intangible elements such as regular and candid conversations (50%), employee recognition (49%), and access to management/leadership development (47%) highest. An enterprise social network can be designed to specifically support each of these elements and thus to accelerate engagement and enhance motivation.

In order to create better employee engagement, leaders need to have better dialogue with their employees. This includes leaders at all levels including managers with their teams. It does not mean that the conversations need to all channel through the manager, yet in many organisations the manager becomes this conduit and creates an unnecessary filter. An ESN liberates managers and promotes transparent dialogue which transcends hierarchy.

New manager mind-set embrace open communications

We know that in today's economy connections between leaders and employees creates value. This poses a couple of fundamental challenges for managers:

  1. Firstly, if a manger is going to managed on value-creation than how can they ensure that they perform and deliver?
  2. Secondly, how can a manager not become the weakest link and the bottleneck in the connections that their team need to cultivate throughout the organisation in order to perform best?

The answer, in concept, is simple. Managers need to adopt a new mind-set and they need tools. They need a mind-set which embraces the idea that they will become more valuable by helping their team members individually to nurture and cultivate relationships throughout the organisation. That is, moving from the “threat” of employee connectivity to the “opportunity”. They should aspire to see their team’s relationships and personal “profiles” as critical intangibles which will deliver enhanced value to the organisation (and its customers). They need to come to grips with their own beliefs about life, people, motivation and trust.

In fact managers need to enable and nurture and otherwise get out of the way of communications. That's a huge challenge if the organisation currently operates with a command and control mentality. And given that it is often reported that middle management are the greatest blockers of enterprise social network adoption then undoubtedly tears will be shed in many organisations.

The most successful managers will be those who are focused, positive and authentic and who believe that their teams need to be empowered to do the very best job that they can.

Enterprise social networks empower managers

The tool that is needed, which managers need to empower their transformation, is the enterprise social network. There is no other option. An ESN helps managers in a multitude of ways, for example:

  • By connecting teams with the mission of their organisation;
  • By helping people understand how their jobs serve the bigger culture;
  • By making clear what kind of people the C-Suite are (presumably they know what kind of person their manager is);
  • By enabling clarity of purpose, consistency of execution and mutual commitment;
  • By demonstrating to employees that they are trusted;
  • By generating ideas and continuous improvement from their teams;
  • By allowing employees to see how their contributions are respected;
  • By giving them feedback as often as they want and need it.

All-in-all an ESN will empower managers to urge their teams towards a shared objective and to have them perform because they want to do it.

Perhaps you're thinking that it is not necessary to have an enterprise social network in order to achieve these outcomes. You're right, exceptional companies have done it without an ESN. However it's a low probability that you are with one of those exceptional companies - the top 1% - in which case you are going to need all the help that you can get.

How managers can help ESN success

An enterprise social network is not going to make it happen, it's just an enabler. And in fact 80% of ESN implementations fail to meet their goals. But with proper analysis, strategy, plans and implementation you can succeed and help your team engage with their work and your organisation deliver on its value promise. Here are some actions you can take to help an ESN implementation succeed:

  • Embrace the transparency and openness that it will enable;
  • Encourage your peers and superiors to actively engage;
  • Ensure that the selected ESN can be integrated into and support the key workflow and processes of your team;
  • Advocate that your team use the system to reach out to people and knowledge across the organisation;
  • Engage in non-work groups and discussions to encourage communication on all matters;
  • Respond to relevant communications in a timely transparent manner - don't go around the system;
  • Lead by example and encourage group monitoring and self-"discipline" of poor behaviour.

While the root of success in an enterprise social network implementation is the strength of the strategy and detailed planning the tactical steps above will help make the system a part of how work is done. When it becomes a part of how work is done then managers will have a powerful enabler of how their work can be done more efficiently and effectively.

Walter Adamson

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