Barometer of Trust
Posted by Mark Bennett on May 9, 2008
Momentum continues to build around the idea that internal use of social media and social networking in particular has a place in and can benefit the enterprise.
So let’s say you accept the notion that internal social media (blogs, wikis, social networks, etc.) will benefit your company. You believe that it will make your employees more productive and engaged, resulting in higher profits and improved retention of some of your best talent. You’ll have a more agile and innovative company. So, you start providing the technologies, announcing their availability, and wait for the improvements to begin.
Trust is key to participation.
What good is it if people don’t participate? As “Groundswell” by Forrester analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff points out, participation is essential for the effort to pay off in achieving your objectives. What level of participation is required to make it worth the effort varies depending on the industry, the roles of the participants, etc. But whatever that level is, it will more likely be achieved if there is sufficient trust by employees that by their participation, not only will good come of it, but just as important, no harm will come from it.
Management is key to creating trust.
This trust factor is a key prerequisite in your company culture prior to the introduction of internal social media. There are two directions in this trust. The first direction of trust is that management trusts that employees will generally use these new tools constructively. Clear objectives, policies, and guidelines can clear up most potential misunderstandings here. The second direction of trust is that employees trust that management will also use these new tools constructively as well. That means that not only is management prepared and actively supporting the initiative, but also actively participating in it in an authentic way. Not only does this demonstrate to employees that management really values participation, but it also engenders trust by putting management’s virtual skin in the game along with everyone else’s. Otherwise, employees will get the feeling that they’re just being watched, and in the absence of genuine positive feedback from management, you can’t blame folks for feeling that management is just waiting to bring the hammer down for a mistake. Of course, there will always be a part of the employee population (“early adopters”) that will participate regardless, but if you want to see participation climb up the “S curve”, trust must be built up.
Participation as barometer of trust.
Getting trust to a sufficient level may take time. Management participation may take a while to build; there will be the inevitable miscue, and so on. Rather than see this as just an obstacle to getting sufficient participation for the productivity, innovation, etc. benefits to start, look at this as another way to take periodic readings on the corporate culture and see how it changes over time. Recall that internal predictive markets can be used to not only get valuable information directly from the prediction market, but can also be analyzed to see how information/knowledge/bias moves through the organization. Similarly, internal social media can be used not only directly to foster collaboration, innovation, and engagement, but can also be used to measure indirectly how engaged employees are over time.
This entry was posted on May 9, 2008 at 8:45 pm and is filed under engagement, management, social network. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.