I found an article that asked this question and highlighted middle managements struggle to embrace social tools within their organizations. Traditionally one of managements role was to filter information, but the rise of social tools is leading to two way communication. Everyone has an unfiltered voice to the organization. I believe managers play a vital role in getting an organization to use social tools productively. Let’s explore how managers can embrace and find value using these tools.

First, it’s important to understand investing in social tools is a waste of money unless the company culture is open. Management’s role is to foster an open culture. A willingness to shift from emails, silos and filters to a collaborative environment empowering employees at all levels. An open culture using Enterprise Social Tools (internal tools like SharePoint, Jive, or Connect) can provide result which Guy Alvarez calls “The Seven Value Propositions of Enterprise Social Networks.“

  1. Improving collaboration and breaking down silos
  2. Improving organizational speed and agility
  3. Enabling innovation
  4. Locating “in –house” experts
  5. Flattening the organization and improving transparency
  6. Promoting “bottom-up” communication
  7. Raising engagement

Here is how many reports categorize enterprise roles and their views about social tools within the organization. Sure, not all roles can be neatly bucketed like this, but in general this is what research is showing:

  • Senior Leaders understand the importance of these tools. Like never before they can connect to every employee. They have unfiltered access, can see the pulse of the company and gather employee perspectives. They find value in listening and some participate (NOTE: According to informal polling I have done I am fortunate to be a Community Manager where our senior leaders leverage internal social media more than most organizations. Our CEO is also way more active than any other company I surveyed).
  • Employees see these tools as a valuable way to connect across the organization, raise concerns and propose solutions. They can communicate to managers at all levels within minutes. Once ideas are posted, anyone from across the organization may provide insights. The days of “reply all” email threads are transforming into an engaging conversation open for all employees to see and participate.
  • Middle Managers may struggle with social tools. In the past they filtered information up the chain of command and now employees can share ideas or issues in the open. Some managers may feel this is a way for employees to go around them or add noise to conversations instead of real solutions. In some cases “family secrets” may be shared exposing issues they would rather discuss or solve within their own department.

If these reports are true, maybe we need to focus on ways managers can leverage the social tools. Here are a few ideas:

  • Curators – Managers can look for themes in online conversations and share them in departmental or leadership meetings. This could help identify issues faster, enhance a product or process, or address employee concerns. Managers can jump into the discussion to reframe or foster conversations adding more value.
  • Become more efficient – Managers can use social tools to work smarter. A PTO calendar employees can update, document repository for departmental processes, a meetings workspace for departmental meetings, where employees can add to the agenda. If it is not on the agenda by X date, it is not discussed.
  • Connect – Create a departmental blog or post to discussion boards encouraging employees to share their thoughts or ideas about topics. Reply to their comments and leverage this knowledge offline. Imagine instead of an all dept. email, using a blog to communicate with employees and engaging in conversations that makes a difference.

Is this report accurate for your organization? Are there managers who can share what their barriers are or how they use or would like to use enterprise social tools?

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