Enterprise social networks: how can you make sure yours is a success?

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Gemma McGrattan
Director
Synergy Marketing and Design
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This is a guest post from Lucy McKerron - account director and social media lead at Synergy Creative - explaining the benefits of Enterprise Social Networks in the workplace and what you need to embed an ESN into your organisation.  This is the first in a series of articles where we explore how HR can use social media to improve their processes; something Synergy Creative will also be discussing during their sessions at Social Media Week Bristol.

Let's start with the basics: an ESN is an internal social media platform used by businesses to connect employees, which is beneficial for multiple reasons:

  • Increased collaboration across the organisation
  • Responsive and agile knowledge sharing (one survey found that ESNs reduce time spent looking for knowledge from 20 per cent to 13 per cent)
  • Breaking down silos, resulting in increased access up and down the chain
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Empowerment of workforce

Ultimately, an ESN lets an organisation bind, connect and communicate with the right people at the right time; a more connected workforce is a more productive one.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Facebook’s Workplace and Yammer are both popular ESN platform choices, but technology is redundant if buy-in across all levels of the business is absent. Strategy and planning also needs to be front and centre, because without it a new ESN is likely to fall flat.

Some employees may be reluctant to make the change in how they communicate or be put off by having yet another work channel to keep on top of

Why? Because some employees may be reluctant to make the change in how they communicate or be put off by having yet another work channel to keep on top of. If you have an offline workforce, this is another challenge to overcome as they may have to use their own devices.

These issues can be combatted by being clear about the benefits, offering training and mentoring, promoting it well (online and off), having a clear plan for embedding and ensuring that there is a real, tangible reason for people to visit your ESN regularly. 

How can I introduce an ESN into my organisation?

  1. Vision and goals: Set clear objectives for your ESN. Is it to improve team dynamics? To enhance productivity? To cut down on email? Set your objectives upfront and have clear goals so you can assess your progress. Remember to monitor these regularly using analytics and anecdotal feedback   
  2. Engage your leadership: People learn by example and leadership buy-in is absolutely integral to success. Advocacy by leadership and managers at all levels can be the make or break of your ESN’s success, so they need to be active users during launch and beyond
  3. Choose your platform: Facebook’s Workplace is just one option, which we’re monitoring with interest. Yammer is a popular choice, as is Chatter due to its integration with Salesforce. There are also custom-built platforms and apps to consider
  4. Test and learn: Integrating an ESN into your comms mix isn’t a simple task. Identify a pilot team who can use the system for a real-time project. Monitor feedback and make changes ahead of launch. Make sure you choose a good mix of people for your pilot so you have an accurate representation of your workforce
  5. Launch with a bang: Use offline teaser campaigns, give people access to social mentoring, create killer content and get your leadership involved from the get go. Why not recruit community managers as part of your launch to encourage proactive roles in the future of your ESN?
  6. Embed, sustain and remind: Identify super users across key business functions and engage these to increase adoption. Try setting up a reward system for positive use and source success stories of how your ESN has helped people. Introduce regular content and use off-line channels to remind and sustain

Who’s doing it right?

There’s a great case study of engineering company BASF which has been pioneering the use of ESN since 2008. It now has over 35,000 employees connected, with the company doing roadshows in territories where adoption is low. That’s a great example of a business truly valuing the impact an ESN can have, and investing in making it a success.

ABB is another company that saw the benefits of ESN early on and worked hard to get 50 per cent of its 75,000 employees in 100 countries onto one platform in a bid to increase knowledge sharing and break down siloes. Big name brands like IKEA and Siemens are also ahead of the curve.

Key takeaways:

  • Integration: Consider the integration of your chosen platform into your existing employee channels and technology  
  • Flexibility: Keep it simple and ensure that you have the opportunity to grow and adapt the platform and its uses as your business develops
  • Time: It will take time to change behaviour and make your ESN the hub you know it can be. Follow the steps we’ve outlined, and stick with it!  

About gemmcgrattan

About gemmcgrattan

19 years' experience in marketing, internal communications, employee engagement and business planning. Founding director of Synergy Creative - a creative communications agency focusing on brand engagement, from the inside - out.

Synergy Creative is a fast growing, ambitious creative communications, brand engagement agency employing 16 people. Working with global brands, Synergy improves business performance by planning and delivering creative communications that work for customers, for employees and stakeholders.

Synergy is an award winning company that plans, designs and implements creative marketing and employee communication campaigns for global companies. Working across a variety of industry sectors we offer a full agency service.

Specialties: Branding and brand engagement, creative communication campaigns, marketing, internal communications and employer value proposition, employee engagement and corporate communications. Includes strategic planning, branding and brand engagement, integrated marketing campaigns, employee engagement and internal communications.

Change/Transformation programme communications:
Planned and led creative change transformation programmes for global clients and the NHS. This has included manager and employee workgroups, development of creative campaigns to communicate and involve employees in change and implementation of phased communications plans and activities throughout transition.

Regular speaker on employee engagement, internal communications, engaging communications and committee member on the Chartered Institute of Marketing South West branch.

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