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Leading businesses and organisations are increasingly making use of social tools in their working practices, and it appears European companies are leading the way.

In an interesting article reporting on the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT 2015**, Dion Hinchcliffe expands on how top companies such as Bayer are dealing with “The complexity of modern enterprise collaboration”.

Multiple Approaches to Social Collaboration

At the summit, the CIO of Bayer Material Sciences, Laurie Millar, outlined how the company has used multiple approaches to making social collaboration work for the company, including:

  1. Making the social tools accessible
  2. Using pilot projects to demonstrate their effectiveness
  3. A reverse mentor program for executives
  4. A ‘train the trainers’ approach to deploy skills and knowledge more rapidly
  5. Communicating success stories in real time
  6. Aligning all activity with the organisation’s mission and values

As a result of this approach, and a set of KPIs to measure success, over 50% of Bayer employees now regularly use the organisations’; enterprise social network.

Other businesses presenting at the event also reported other benefits including:

  1. Better connections between co-workers
  2. Employee engagement
  3. Faster knowledge flows
  4. Higher efficiency
  5. Lower operating costs

One corporate success stories quoted by Hinchcliffe was Bosch, where 190,000 employees worked together to create “Widespread improvements, such collapsing some processes from 4 weeks to 6 days.”

Engagement and community management

Interestingly enough author Hinchcliffe suggests that good results can be achieved with as little as 20% of a workforce participating, let alone actively collaborating. However, in drawing together common factors between the various company presentations, Hinchcliffe noted that managing the social network community was key; “Community management is more crucial than ever for delivering success with enterprise social networks.”

In recognition of this key factor, Bosch established the role of community management as a senior career path within the company, cementing its importance and position within the company’s activities.

Adoption rates and ROI

In addition, other key correlations emerged:

  • Clear objectives result in higher adoption rates and better success rates. In others words, companies that set the goals gained increased ROI.
  • Efficient and effective mentoring and education needed to take place before outcomes could be realised.
  • Once companies become a network, it liberates people to re-imagine the business further. “Not only does becoming a social business drive a lot of the requisite changes in mindset about how next-generation organizations should work (self-organization, open knowledge sharing, participative processes, creating network effects, etc.) but widespread social business adoption results in the realization of an operational platform for driving change at scale within the organization. “

Another UK/US divide?

As to why Europe is ahead of the USA in social business practices, Hinchcliffe suggests that it may be down to work/goal alignment. The tendency of North American companies to focus on the wider vision contrasts with the ability of European companies who tie in the social network collaboration and activity to the work in hand.

So, the take-away from the article is clear; if businesses want to use social tools, they need to make sure the goals they set are business-centric, specific and measurable. With a firm focus established, the business can move forward AND think forward, due to the possibilities opened up by by their enterprise social network.

For innovation managers, ideation specialists and co-creation community managers, it’s a vindication of their work to date. For the rest of us, it’s a reminder of just how effective co-creation can be, and how quickly it can become part of the way we do business now, and in the future.

** http://www.zdnet.com/article/the-growing-evidence-for-social-business-maturity/