This entry won the 2012 Peer Award “Technology for Performance” category
Flexible Working Enabled by Enterprise Social Media
social business: can you really handle it?
‘Martini’ style working can make us more agile, productive and profitable whilst improving people’s work/life balance and deepening the relationship between employees and the company. This initiative provides our people with personal video conferencing, and the ability to make and receive phone calls on computers and personal devices, on a platform that looks, feels and works like a combination of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Skype, enables us to share knowledge across organisational silos at blinding speed as we head into an era where email is no longer useful or desirable for enterprise wide collaboration in the 21st century.
The Flexible Working platform generates detailed data about who uses the technology, when they use it and with what types of devices. This makes it possible to establish a causal link between usage and key financial measures of the investment case. The impact was immediate with use of personal video conferencing doubling every month for the first six months and on average returning two hours per day to employees. At the end of the pilot we recorded a 6% uplift in employment engagement for this group of people – one of the highest increases ever recorded using current methods of measurement.
Without doubt the single biggest innovation was a change in our approach to the deployment of the technologies in that it was never imposed or pushed on people. Simple, clear benefits and value propositions were described about possible outcomes at a personal level rather than shouting about specific features of the technologies. In other words, we allowed people to ‘pull’ the services towards them that best suited their needs. We shifted from a command and control model of thinking to a network centric model of thinking where adoption happens in a viral ‘bottom up’ fashion rather than ‘top down’.
Technology adoption levels have been high but adoption levels of social media knowledge sharing are lower. Getting people to change how they share what they know, from using email to a system that looks like Facebook, is very hard even for so called digital natives and generation Y employees. We’re working with adoption specialists to accelerate take up. It’s important to us because the biggest long term benefits of Flexible Working are derived from enterprise wide conversations that enable knowledge sharing of the most valuable information in the company; the tacit, practical knowledge that resides in people’s heads.
The way we’re working isn’t working anymore. Our customers and markets are organised in networks, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation. If we can’t have conversations with ourselves we can’t hope to have them with our markets. Enterprise communities created using social software are changing our sharing behaviours. They’re changing our culture. They’re letting us get closer to our customers. Apart from the very tangible business benefits around savings in travel, property and telephony costs, the intangible benefits are slowly emerging with the potential to be worth a lot more.
Léon Benjamin is a social media practitioner and has managed a number of successful social software implementations with companies including British Airways, Microsoft & BT. He currently leads the Flexible Working adoption programme at Virgin Media.
Léon has previously spent 20 years designing and delivering business transformation programmes in financial services, telecoms, retail and travel, for blue chip companies, counting Union Bank of Switzerland, Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, Barclays Capital, Andersen Consulting, Airtours, Opodo, BT, Tesco, Argos and Aviva.