On one hand it’s probably inevitable that reality will have failed to match up with the tremendous hype around the transformational qualities of social media within the enterprise.
On the other hand however, there are signs that things are slowly changing. A recent study found that there were distinct differences in how employees behaved, with younger employees tending to adopt more social behaviors than their older peers.
An uphill struggle
The study found that email remains the dominant medium of communication in the workplace, but that enterprise social media was slowly creeping up.
I say creeping up in the sincerest sense, because the likes of email remained the main method of communication regardless of age group, but younger employees were more likely to use social tools when they existed.
Despite their greater adoption of social communication tools, the younger age group were split on whether it would eventually usurp email, whilst the majority failed to really notice any changes in their work or communication with others.
Interestingly, it emerged that even employees who had access to the latest social technologies were still heavy users of email, with 85% using email on an hourly basis. What’s more, some 90% of millennials reported that they actually prefer using email.
Despite this, the authors somehow remained optimistic that somehow the social wave would arrive and email would be displaced by wikis and instant messaging.
A solution in need of a problem
Despite this rather lukewarm there are still no shortage of advocates for social business, and most still fervently believe that it will enable organizations to cope with the changing environment we all face.
A recent study from academics at Wharton hints at the kind of things needed to make digital workplaces effective. It’s perhaps not surprising that this analysis suggested a fundamental rethink of how we work, including many of the changes I suggest in my book.
The researchers suggest that the central elements in this transformation are what they refer to as the s factors:
- symbols – to make the concept of change visible
- space – including both physical and virtual
- systems – to ensure that no administrative hurdles bar the way
- social – including the concept of sharing knowledge and building relationships internally and externally
- sustaining leadership – with cross-functional leadership crucial to maintain the pace of change
- systemic learning – to ensure that each of the aforementioned learn from progress
The authors contend that the first four of these levers can be powerful in simplifying the workplace, but the final two are crucial in ensuring any change effort succeeds.
Are these six levers enough to deliver on the promise of social business? I suppose only time will tell.