5 Impacts of Social Business on Culture

September 18, 2012 Comments
5 Impacts of Social Business on Culture

Ok, I’m guessing most of us here are generally pretty comfortable using the kind of digital tools that make up the social business toolkit.  For many of us we’re quite happy talking and collaborating with people online that we’ve never met in person.  Whilst such behaviour is no doubt common for us, for many it is an alien concept.  I wrote recently about how the rise in social business can power the rise of flexible working, giving the workforce the ability to work when and where it wants.  An inevitable side effect of that shift however is that it could result in a dramatic drop in face time between you and your colleagues.

Traditionally when talking about culture and social business the discussions have centred around what kind of culture is required for social business to flourish.  This article will flip things around and ask what impact social business might have on the culture of an organisation.

Here are 5 ways that social business can impact the culture at your organization.

1. Feedback and appraisals – The traditional performance appraisal is a routine that happens once or twice a year.  It usually involves a tool such as 360 degree feedback.  You might even have quarterly appraisals that are tied into your bonuses.  They typically take a regular format however in terms of who is involved and when they are involved.  By applying social business tools however it is likely that both feedback will be offered on a daily basis, but that this feedback will be used to underpin a more meritocratic approach to work.

2. Decision making – I might be going back a bit here, but it wasn’t that long ago that when a decision needed to be made, it would only be made by a manager.  They would have both the knowledge and more importantly the information needed to make the right call.  This clear hiearchy underpinned much of how organisations worked.  In a social business environment however information is free, and therefore those at the sharp end often have both the knowledge, and importantly the context, to make a quick and qualified decision.

3. Transparency – As mentioned in the previous post, information in traditional organisations was distributed on a need to know basis.  Modern organisations, with social media at their heart, however have a democracy of information that empowers individuals and ensures those on the front line are the most informed people in your company.  In this environment managers need to learn to exert influence in other ways than hoarding information.

4. Employee interactions – I will readily disclose that I hate open plan offices.  Whilst they are designed to be inclusive and foster a spirit of collaboration, in reality they merely provide a ready stream of distractions that force employees to suffer through the ‘buzz’ of the office.  With social business you have a more opt-in environment.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t being social and engaging with your peers, merely that you’re choosing when you want to do that, and when you don’t.

5. Results orientated – An unfortunate side effect of Taylorism is that many employees are still judged by how many hours they put in, rather than how much work comes out.  It results in a presenteeism culture where people believe the way to get ahead is to put in ever longer shifts.  With a social business powered flexible working environment however, managers cannot tell how long people are working, so they have to rely instead on judging purely on output instead of input.

I suspect that these five things are a mere sample of some of the positive changes to an organizations culture that can occur as a result of embracing social business.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

  • http://www.sideraworks.com/ Matt Ridings – Techguerilla

    I might nitpick with a few assertions but in general I’d agree with most of these. Many of them roll up under the distinctions of what John Hagel would call ‘knowledge flows’ vs. ‘knowledge stocks’.

    The main issue I’d have with #2 is that without proper hiring & training we can go from one extreme to the other, neither of which is good. Having full knowledge and context of a specific problem is very different than having the full context of business, both are needed for proper decision making and risk mitigation. Yet rarely do those at the edges have the full business context. Pushing knowledge of business implications and critical thinking skills is a big need if we’re to empower our employees properly, and in most cases that’s sorely lacking at the moment. But you’re absolutely right that that’s where we *need* to be. I’m also not convinced that social business necessarily has a direct impact on workshifting, there’s no question that we’ll continue evolving in that direction but I don’t see it as being driven by social business specifically.

    Thanks for giving me something to noodle on, good piece.


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