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Rated E for Engagement: My #e20s Review

The success of any company’s enterprise 2.0 is measured in employee engagement. This is one of the major lessons I took from this year’s Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris. However I can’t help but wonder whether the majority of employees already got what it takes to get engaged in social collaboration.

Deriving ROI from employee engagement
“We need to bring back the business into social” was one of the messages by which Björn Negelmann opened the two-day conference. Hearing that the three letters ROI might have flashed through many attendees minds, followed by a long sigh. Because measuring the business value of social business financially is as tricky as it is annoying. For if you update a machine you reduce downtimes and maintenance costs, from which you can easily calculate a precise return in investment. But how to make such calculations for improving the way people cooperate and communicate? Surprisingly there is a simple answer to that: by taking into account employee engagement.

The first one to talk about the subject of engagement was Dan Pontefract, who raised TELUS’ engagement level from a low-point to the highest value worldwide. He did this by among other things promoting a new leadership model that allowed people to find purpose and fulfillment in their work – or in other words: to get engaged. However the engagement score on its own did not yet provide the kind of numbers needed to determine ROI. But the increasing customer satisfaction and the climbing stock value did. Both could clearly be tracked down to the boosted engagement.

Pontefract was followed by many others who highlighted the relevance of engagement, each from a different point of view. Community Roundtable co-leader Rachel Happe for example showed her findings on how the good old 1/9/90 rule of community engagement can be advanced to 17/57/26 by excellent community management. Also Céline Schillinger from Sanofi Pasteur provided a much appreciated case of how engaging people in a community can support business and even ethical objectives.

Use cases only get you this far …
Even though I was genuinely amazed by the speakers mentioned above I started to wonder whether these bright lighthouse cases could be transferred to other businesses that easily. Because from my experience with working for a training company, I witnessed many people who are just so very far away from getting engaged in social business. Even though these are usually smart and dedicated employees they already struggle with creating a decent profile on a social platform. This is not because it is so hard to do but because people often do not see any purpose in it or wonder what they are allowed to write here. Add the still very common mindset of command and control hierarchies and you get the recipe for disengagement.

Many employees are very far away from applying social business use cases.

Many employees are very far away from applying social business use cases (image: Squaredpixels, stockphoto).

The need to take people by the hand was discovered by many speakers as well, but they mostly just argued to communicate use cases to the employees. Even though I believe that these cases provide a relevant contribution to getting people social business ready I seriously doubt that they are enough. Because for many there is such a large gap between understanding these cases and applying them to their own work. Additionally I sense that to quite a lot of people social business is a solution to a problem that just isn’t there. This is somewhat understandable since not working socially may cause you pain tomorrow but not today – and today is what we usually base our decisions on.

Enabling does the trick
So if use cases are not enough what should be done additionally? Surely there is no magic formula here but engaging employees in social business definitely needs a multi-angled enabling. This enabling should not only pay respect to but also make use of the fact that employees are on very different skill levels. Why not organize regular barcamps where experienced employees provide input for the others to discuss and reflect? The beauty of such barcamps would be that they would allow people to really sink their teeth into the topic and work through all their hopes and fears together. Especially in the beginning of the transformation into an enterprise 2.0 people have a large need for such discussions. Also should you not underestimate how important it is for social business newbies to meet face to face. Leaders on the other hand might benefit from reverse mentoring with digital natives as their mentors while community managers could have a great learning experience in a MOOC on their profession. On top of that different learning pathways may provide orientation for which step to take next. These are of course just examples for formal training. Supporting informal learning, providing insightful communication and passionately promoting the change should also be part of the enabling.

Enabling, e. g. with barcamps, facilitates discussions and gets people social business ready.

Enabling, e. g. with barcamps, facilitates discussions and gets people social business ready (image: monkeybusinessimages, istockphoto).

Conclusion: Companies should not expect their employees to get engaged in their social business all by themselves. Yes, there are people who are willing and able to get there on their own and sometimes they even drag hundreds and thousands of others with them – the summit has shown examples. But you cannot be sure that there will always be enough of these people to get the whole workforce engaged. And reaching everyone is absolutely necessary for social collaboration to become company standard.

Title image: Selitbul (istockphoto).


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