In my last post, Why developing personal brands is crucial for professional services firms, I wrote about a book that I had recently read called The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work by Cheryl and Mark Burgess. In the book, the author writes about the importance of employee collaboration and communication.
One of the keys to helping employees become social employees is to help them trust each other and the company they represent. One quote in particular stood out for me. “In order for employees to properly communicate externally, they must first learn to communicate internally.” The problem, however, is that most senior partners don’t have the knowledge to understand the value of social media, yet alone the power of enterprise social networks “ESN’s”. In a previous post, I provided 8 tips get senior partners to understand the value of social media.
In this post, I will provide you with tips on how to get senior partners to understand the value of enterprise social networks:
1.- Identify real business goals: If you want a senior partner to pay attention, one needs to be very clear about how an ESN will assist the firm in accomplishing its business goals and objectives. Telling a senior executive that you want to launch an ESN merely to enhance collaboration or communication is not going to cut it. You have to get specific and make the senior partner understand how an ESN will help the firm achieve their business goals. Some things to consider are: increased innovation, cost reductions, employee happiness and engagement, enhanced recruiting, improved client communication, faster expertise location and less redundancies. The more specific you can get, the better of chance you will have at conveying the real business value of an ESN
2.- Develop use cases: This particular tactic proved very effective when I helped Pernod Ricard launch their ESN. Rather than just launch an ESN to the whole company, pick a few key projects to start with and develop use cases around them. The key here is to pick projects that are important to the firm and projects that can truly be enhanced by leveraging the functionality of an ESN. You could focus your uses cases around a particular client or practice group, but they best examples are those that require cross departmental and cross firm collaboration and have a definite beginning and end. This will enable you to demonstrate to your senior partners how the ESN was able to provide real value for a particular project.
3.- Start Small: Trying to convince a senior partner to agree to a firm wide initiative is a daunting task. Odds are that the senior partner will communicate that there is work to be done and it can’t be disrupted by playing around with new “techno tools”. My suggestion is to start small. Identify one or two projects, as I wrote above that are important and require cross department or cross practice collaboration. Let the senior partner know that you will be using the ESN for these projects and that you will provide feedback when they conclude.
4.- Set up Key Performance Indicators: In order to measure the success of your efforts, you need to first figure out what you are measuring. Work with the senior partner to identify what you will be measuring and to make sure he/she understand what success will look like. Ask the senior partner what would be important for him and develop a measurement and reporting plan together. It’s important to focus on the objective and subjective and to make sure that you tie results into the business. Reporting on adoption numbers and usage is ok, but reporting how the ESN saved you money or provided you with a new client or idea is better.
5.- Share success stories: As mentioned above, not all of your success indicators should be tied to data. It is important to speak with the people who are using the ESN and document their successes or failures in using the system. Develop frequent surveys to ask users what has changed in their work lives as a result of the ESN. Has the ESN enabled them to perform a routine task in half the time or provide a solution to another department? It is important to secure and document success stories at every opportunity.
6.- Leverage mobile devices: Odds are your senior partners have recently started using mobile devices for work. Whether it’s a smart phone or a tablet, doesn’t matter. Senior partners are adopting the use of mobile devices at a rapid pace. Takes this opportunity to explain to them how an ESN will make their use of mobile devices even more effective as business tools. Most major ESN providers have sophisticated mobile apps available to bring them ESN experience to the road. What better way for your senior partners to keep a pulse on work while travelling. A properly deployed ESN will enable any employee or senior partner to work remotely in a seamless fashion.
7.-Education: Another important tactic to communicate the value of an ESN to your senior partners is to educate them on what clients and competitors are doing. It seems that on an everyday basis, there is an article or story about Fortune 2000 companies adopting social technologies and deploying Enterprise Social Networks. You need to educate your senior partners about what corporations are using these tools for and they type of ROI they are receiving from them. It always also helps when you let your senior partners know that some of their competitors are starting to use ESN’s and other collaborative technologies. Law firms, accounting firms and consulting firms are slowly realizing the value of internal collaboration and are deploying these technologies to keep up with their clients and their competitors.
8.- Use for reinforcing vision and recognition: We have all heard the term, “it’s lonely at the top”. In many instances senior partners and their employees feel disconnected and isolated from one another. Enterprise Social Networks provide senior partners with an opportunity to reinforce to everyone in the firm what is important to them and to recognize employees when they do a good job. One of the value propositions of an ESN is that it provides a level of transparency that is second to none. This allows both senior partners and employees to be on the same page and develop a sense of trust and loyalty.
All of these tips will help you in conveying the value of enterprise social networks to senior executives. In addition, some times it help to bring in an outside consultant who has experience in deploying ESN’s to drive the point home. Enterprise social networks play a critical component in developing a social firm or social business. Vala Afshar and Brad Martin, two thought leaders in the social business space and social executives at Enterasys summarized this concept very well:
“A social business operates with the guiding principle that each employee’s responsibility is to serve one another, and that those we serve, even internally, are our customers. To earn internal customer trust and loyalty, each employee must be dependable, available, responsive and committed to the success of the whole.”