Companies are investing millions of dollars at present on their workplace technologies. Whether it’s a new applicant tracking system, career site or learning management system, companies are investing in technology to help bring their people processes finally into the 21st century.
One technology that companies are doubling down on is the internal social network. Intranet portals, employee focus group meetings, breakroom signs and office memos are finally getting an upgrade.
Corporate Social Networks aren’t popular. Not because of slow social media adoption but because businesses just suck at creating engaging cultures focused on relationships. Our lack of success in these internal social media platforms isn’t because of the technology. It’s because we don’t have the executive support, an engagement-focused culture, proper training or an implementation plan that sells the employee population on how a social network might benefit the employee. I think the reason that Jive, IBM and SharePoint are the most popular internal social networks is because they are the least innovative. They are familiar and safe just like Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer and PowerPoint. We suck at change in the workplace. And we especially suck at change when it comes to workplace technology.
The chart displayed above says it all. In 2015, corporate social networks just aren’t that popular. Our most successful internal social networks have a adoption rate of 59% of the workforce. Internal social networks aren’t popular, but the real question is why exactly?
I realize the chart doesn’t mention Slack which is used in large number by smaller organizations. Personally, my favorite internal social network is Podio by Citrix. These six failures listed below impact all corporate social networks regardless of company size.
#1 – Internal Social Networks Aren’t Fun
Imagine if SharePoint added features like Snapchat where we could draw pictures and add emojis on the faces of the presenters on our video stream. Or a world where we didn’t have to download the latest java update to jump on a quick meeting or demo. Or a world where all emails were limited to just 140 characters. A workplace message system that had a 97% read rate within 5 minutes, like we do when it comes to text messaging.
Corporate social media platforms aren’t fun. There’s no random banter with strangers or the risk of your favorite Twitter hashtag getting filled with porn spam. Workplace social media platforms are for work and until enterprise softwares offer pirate filters like Google Hangout’s or Snapchat’s face swapping filter, people aren’t going to use them.
#2 – Senior Leaders Aren’t Using Their Own Workplace Software
Senior leaders have to eat their own dog food and drink their own champagne. If a business is going to invest in an internal social media platform, everyone including the CEO needs to not only set the example but integrate the software into their everyday work lives.
#3 – Integration Issues
The challenge when purchasing multiple workplace softwares — HR technology included — is integration. Different systems don’t talk or work with one another. Your internal social network is different than the enterprise instant messaging platform you use. Maybe your employees have to log into multiple systems to access reports, analytics or even shared files and folders because many technologies won’t share APIs.
#4 – Multi-Screen Access
Employees access workplace technologies on a growing number of devices including smartphones, tablets, desktop and laptop computers. Internal social networks need to be able to be used on all different types of technologies. The technologies apps need to be on par with external social network technologies. We want and expect the same type of features regardless if the technology is internal or external facing.
#5 – Data Security
Those hackers and phishers are getting smarter every day. The technologies we use for the workplace need to keep up. I believe employees shy away from using internal social networks because they are scared about infecting their workplace or personal technology with malware or viruses. The upside is that employers can use phishing and hacking simulations to help keep workplace data and information secure. The downside is that most don’t invest in the training until it’s too late.
#6 – Employment Concerns & Working Off the Clock
While consulting with an Indian Nation, I worked on a project where we built an internal social network. Their workforce was largely non-exempt and didn’t have access to work computers. They were already relying on text messaging and personal email for workplace communication. Much of what delayed the project for two years was talking about how to move forward: the problem was that we would be encouraging employees would be accessing information outside of work. So much time was spent talking about working off the clock, compensation and overtime pay.
The decision to select and implement a social network for your organization is a personal one. It must align with your organization’s culture. And most importantly, executives must lead use implementation, adoption and change. While a 59% adoption rate might not be acceptable to you, keep in mind this 59% might be the same percentage that, prior to launch, was previously disengaged. Your ISM platform might not be a failure at all. Successfully leveraging your internal social network can and will positively impact your business beyond workplace productivity but improve collaboration, teamwork and help drive future business change.