The Latitude News Op-Ed column is a space where people from all walks of life can share their opinions on the links and parallels between the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Social networking has permeated our lives. With more than 2 billion people using the Internet, social networking helps people connect, communicate, share information at any time, from anywhere. It’s no surprise that by the end of this year Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers, and 96% of them have joined a social network.
The undeniable influence of social networking is sparking new traditions around the world. For example, consumer social networking sites such as Facebook are more heavily used on the weekends when users are catching up on the happenings of friends and family, posting pictures, instant messaging, and liking favorite posts. An avid social networker might tweet on topics of interest, post videos on YouTube or pin on Pinterest. It is all so easy, collaborative and fun . . . it has become the new Sunday night ritual.
Then Monday morning comes, but the social tools disappear. People return to work and are expected to use email and voicemail to get work done, collaborate with colleagues and share project updates. Many organizations limit access to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or even internal social networking tools.
This challenge is known as the Sunday night, Monday morning phenomenon and I understand how you, and employees around the world, are frustrated by it.
With more employees participating in highly social, media-rich environments outside of work, traditional corporate collaboration tools look outdated and limited. Does your organization — and its senior leaders — recognize the power and reach of social media?
Social adoption by the numbers
According to IBM’s 2012 CEO Study, today only 16 percent of CEOs are using social business platforms, and while this number is posed to spike over the next several years, there are still many organizations who are being left in the dust, failing to arm their employees with an effective social platform that has the potential to drastically change how they do business for the better.
What’s stopping them?
Results from a new IBM report focused on social business adoption, reveal that despite intentions to rapidly accelerate social initiatives, many companies are still figuring out whether real returns can be gained on social investments. In fact, two-thirds of respondents were not sure they sufficiently understood the impact that social technologies would have on their organizations over the next three years.
Many organizations are thinking, sure my employees may be socially savvy at home, but can they translate those skills in the workplace to help drive our bottom-line? Undoubtedly! The key to accelerating widespread adoption lies in an organization’s ability to build social business expertise among employees, while encouraging behavioral changes that may influence a wider cultural shift.
With more than one billion monthly Facebook users and 400 million Tweets a day, the growing popularity of social networking has created a workforce who expects to share, post, update and communicate with their colleagues and customers using social networking tools to get real work done. But the tools businesses use go well beyond the consumer apps embraced today.
Leaders in every industry are leveraging social business technology to disrupt their industries and create competitive advantage. They are improving productivity and unleashing innovation by tapping into the collective intelligence inside and outside their organizations. With social, they’re creating a smarter workforce.
Global organizations get social
While there’s a long way to go in social, there are pioneers — social business trailblazers — fighting the Sunday night, Monday morning challenge. By arming employees with social networking tools, employees across the world are able to instantly collaborate with one simple click. They can quickly and easily tap into the corporate brain, find expertise to make smarter, faster business decisions, helping to build a smarter workforce that in turn leads to better customer service and increased business value.
Consider these global trailblazers:
Founded in Mexico in 1906, CEMEX is today the third-largest building materials company in the world, with employees in 50 countries. To meet business challenges, it had to bring its global community closer together, so it created a social network initiative, called Shift, for open collaboration across its entire workforce. Within a year, over 20,000 employees, nearly half of the employee base,were engaged and over 500 communities had formed. In one example of the nine initiatives launched on Shift, product development on the company’s first global brand of Ready Mix concrete was completed in under four months. The company estimates that the use of Shift during that process saved it upward of $1 million by eliminating the cost of phone and travel that would have been incurred with traditional meetings.
Like CEMEX, Fluor Corporation, a global leader in engineering, construction and project management, is taking advantage of social business technology to connect its workforce of 43,000 employees around the world. The ability to share knowledge and expertise across the organization in real-time is crucial when decisions need to be made at a moment’s notice on a job site. By helping its engineers, professional staff and construction workers collaborate, Fluor is encouraging a deeper level of innovation and knowledge among its workforce, unlocking new sources of value every day.
Finally, LeasePlan, the company that started in the Netherlands and is now one of the world’s leading vehicle leasing and fleet management corporations has created a social business platform, called LinkedPeople, across 40+ subsidiaries, 30 countries and 6,000+ employees. Consider the numbers: nearly 800 communities, 400 blogs, and over 800 forums are all helping the organization decrease the amount of email sent and received and enabling the workforce easily find expertise and save valuable time.
These are just a few examples of global organizations that are pioneering social business around the world and challenging the Sunday night, Monday morning phenomenon. Social business is gaining steam at a rapid pace as businesses like CEMEX, Fluor and LeasePlan exemplify the value it can drive for employees and the bottom line.
It’s important to note that no company is successful without great employees, and in today’s exceptionally digital and social world, it takes a set of tools seamlessly integrated into daily workflow to deliver exceptional experiences for those employees to do their job to the best of their ability. We all know that great employee engagement leads to great client engagement. Building a smarter workforce and delighting clients generates shareholder value. The business benefits are tangible and significant. Don’t let your organization get left behind.
Sandy Carter is a recognized leader in social business and a best-selling author. As IBM Vice President, Social Business Evangelism she is responsible for setting the direction for IBM’s Social Business initiative, a $200B market opportunity. Follow her on Twitter at @sandy_carter.