Many people reading this will nod their heads in agreement because it is a sentiment that they practice every day. However, many people read the notion and understand the concept but lament the fact that their company does not promote this kind of environment. Many large, multi-national companies have IT policies in place that limit how employees use the Internet. Their fear and misplaced perception is that ‘web surfing’ is pervasive and is a cancer to employee productivity. Clearly there are situations where this concern is valid. I would argue though that this policy inhibits more than it protects.
One of the hats I wear at Model Metrics is to help run our Collaboration / Social Enterprise / Chatter Enablement practice. Recently we ran a Chatter Quick Start at a customer to help them get the salesforce.com tool up and running. It was a very successful implementation and the customer was very excited to get started with Chatter. One method we use to help frame out the discipline and best practices for using Chatter was to educate the customer on how Model Metrics’ uses the tool internally. It is no exaggeration to say that Model Metrics would sacrifice email as a tool over Chatter! The customer was surprised at how our company used the tool from a ‘social’ / ‘non-work’ perspective even though it was an ‘Enterprise Tool’. Our team explained that it was part of our company culture and that we encouraged our employees to ‘make work fun’. There were a few mumbles in the crowd about how that would never work in the clients culture and then an amazing thing happened: one of the Business VP’s stood up and proclaimed to the crowd of 20 people “Why shouldn’t we let Chatter change our culture?” The VP went on to state that the company was having a difficult time retaining and attracting top young talent. The reason: the working environment. This was not a ‘hip’ five year old social company building fancy websites, this was a company that was decades old and very set in stone with their culture. They needed to evolve! They needed to change that culture!
The VP was right on though, Chatter is the perfect tool to help change the culture of a company. I suspect that this adoption was just the beginning. My hope is that this culture change leads to other policy shifts. Companies should be encouraging their employees to use social media sites to benefit the enterprise. These organizations who have a long history and pedigree need to embrace change, not police against it. The new class of employees expect more and have the knowledge and skill set to deliver more but they have to be enabled! If the organizations are not enabling their employees and embracing change then how do they hope to compete and thrive when those around them are adapting?