Social networks in organizations: from informal to internal
Posted by aynka
Academics all over the world speak about the role of informal social networks in organizations. They argue that such networks can empower generation of new ideas, increase collaboration between different organizational units, simplify processes, as well as improve motivation and retention of employees if supported by management. However, such networks lack accountability. So despite all the benefits of using informal networks to get job done, management is skeptical about their implementation into existing organizational processes.
The technological development brought us social media. It rose to popularity quickly; according to latest Pew Research report 73% of online adults used at least one social networking site in 2013. Social networking sites can be described as special platforms that embrace social interaction and exchange. At the same time, they allow tracking participants’ activity and see their contribution to different topics. Taking into consideration these particular features of online social networks, a question arises: why don’t we use social media platforms to foster collaboration and creativity inside the organization?
Here are some benefits that internal social media platforms can bring. They:
- allow real-time cooperation
- increase the amount of information that is shared within an organization
- keep track of all the communication that happens within the organization
- empower virtual communities and this contributes to an increase in engagement and collaboration
- empower communication between different people that otherwise do not meet
In addition to that, collaborative tools that are at the core of internal social network solutions allow tapping into “cognitive surplus” – an underused human potential in the workplace. This encourages the generation of innovative ideas and approaches.
All in all, internal social networks allow taking advantage of benefits that informal social networks bring, and at the same time provide higher accountability and visibility of ongoing processes. According to 2009 McKinsey research 69% of companies have gained measurable benefits after implementing these IT solutions in the corporate environment.
Of course, there are also risks associated with the implementation of this technology, such as unauthorized access to confidential information or information overload, but they can be mitigated or even avoided by following simple recommendations (e.g. guideline, promotion, demographics’ consideration, etc.).
If you would like to learn more about internal social networks, take a look at the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 19, Issue 1 (October 2013). There are a lot of interesting information about social networks in the workplace there.