It's an interesting world of work we have upon us. Interesting for a range of reasons and because of seemingly increased polarisation of views.
- Telecommuting - aka working from home - is bad -v- why the heck are we still working 9-5 and wasting hours on road/rail to get to work?
- We have to hold meetings to get things done -v- when the meetings are over I can get some real work done.
There are studies, research surveys and thought leadership pieces everywhere we turn on everything from the best way to use social media to recruit; to exit surveys - what are the trends?
One such "trend" that interests the heck out of me is Social Business. Before you reach for your buzzword bingo microblog outbursts, stay with me.
Social Business is - IMHO- something to look out for, think about and act upon. Why you ask? Well, because it could be one way we will stay human in an ever technological, automated world of work. Ironically we have the rise of social business THROUGH technology but it's not just about technology (in particular social media). Far from it.
What is Social Business then? Here's as good a definition as I've seen: -
"Social Business is the creation of an organisation that is optimised to benefit its entire ecosystem (customers, employees, owners, partners) by embedding collaboration, information sharing and active engagement into its operation and culture..."
3 words stand out for me. Optimised. Active. Culture. A reason why social business might be good: what it delivers; how it feels and what it impacts upon.
So here's my story of social business.
Once upon a time there was work that wasn't particularly efficient. There were errors, slower than expected production and delays. Then along came Kaizen, Lean and 6 SIgma. Errors were reduced and efficiencies rose. And we rejoiced. Well, sort of.
Now I am not labelling these efficiency levers/methodologies as bad. We are all feeling the benefit of cars, computers and cookers operating how they should.
What I do believe though is they are part of a range of events which have come together to make work automatic, transactional, heavily regulated, dull and just plain old labour. Underscore that word - labour. Laborious. No love needed - just compliance and completion.
The "what happened at work today..?" conversation up and down households across the world becomes something akin to a Groundhog Day/Matrix like existence. Same as the day before and the day before that ad infinitum.
People become less human. Clients become nothing more than revenue generating "wins" and jobs on a job sheet; customers become part of transactional relationships closed off as quickly as possible as long as there was a sale or a resolution.
We've become the proud participants in what we thought was Vorsprung durch Technik, it just turned out to be 50 Shades of VERY Grey...
How do we bring more technicolour to the workplace? How can we help people discover a feeling of joy at work? How do we improve the proposition that work provides?
Let's face it, many roles have a huge stigma or a negative reputation. Many of them not manual work (with only 8% of work in the UK left in manufacturing) more work that has an alleged low "cognitive load". Scripted call centres, fund-raising campaign call outs and picking packages in a warehouse. Some might say anyone would struggle to find any inner warmth in doing something where there's no discernable or imagined "greater good". BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.
Social Business has the answer.
Having to follow boring scripts on call centre work looking to sell digital TV subscriptions? Here's my suggestions.
- Work together with some of your colleagues; build a script that STILL delivers what is needed but is more lively, light and engaging. Add your own personalities into it and see what works. Innovate through sincerity.
- Whilst you're at it, create your targets and performance indicators. Mentor and guide any new recruits with a programme of induction YOU create.
- Then have feedback sessions between you where you share those things you all ought to continue doing with some new things to begin doing (better or more of). You rejoice on the names and circumstances of the most challenging and rewarding customers. You enjoy helping them - they become real people.
- You work out amongst you who rotates on what roles and covers the worst times/tasks as a "take one for the team" approach.
I guess you get the picture by now...no management "instructions" going on here. Accountability, responsibility and ownership of the work here though.
THAT is for me what social business is about. Active engagement said the description I used earlier and that is a key part of it - but not just active as in doing - active as in OWNING. Social Business is like having cottage industries or social enterprises within big super-companies. Ownership is CRUCIAL. Less managers and barked / scripted instructions. That's monochrome compliance. More shared inputs to achieve stated outcomes - now that's technicolour. Neon technicolour in some cases.
Give people sanitised, mechanical repetitive tasks to do and they will switch off and transact. Allow people to own their work, have the ability to influence what goes on with a keenly stated outcome and you have interested people doing potentially clever, creative and constructive things. That STILL deliver in those ways that are optimised, efficient but MORE effective. Your people becoming your differentiation not your products/processes. THAT'S why Social Business will take over.
Switch off the control; switch on the collaboration and with the right structures and culture in place social business could JUST be the saviour of work.
Bring back social. Bring back our love and pride in work.
 Published in What Is Social Business by SideraWorks.com
Perry Timms is an international and 2x TEDx speaker, advisor and award-winning writer on the future of work, HR & learning.
Perry’s first book "Transformational HR” was an Amazon.com Top 30 HR seller shortly after its release, and his second book - "The Energised Workplace" - exploring Human Energy & Organisation Design is due...