Blog | Social collaboration: Bringing innovation to the workforce

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By Aaron Green

Aaron Green, Vice President of Applications, Oracle 1

The proliferation of collaboration is changing the way we define a modern enterprise. Business leaders should consider carefully how to harness the power of these tools within their organizations.

The merger of traditional business tools and social media presents a significant opportunity to drive positive change in corporate culture, resulting in a more engaged and high-performing workforce and delivering true innovation to customers.

Immediate access to information and ever-growing use of mobile technology has led today?s workers to expect consumer-like accessibility. Companies that foster this enthusiasm and provide employees with collaborative tools are potentially encouraging a culture of teamwork and taking the steps toward high performance. How? By taking online the type of collaborative work that has been happening offline.

One example of this is social networking. When you have a socially connected workforce, information that may once have been informally delivered in person, via email or on paper can be accessed and discussed online in a central location. This enables group discussion and the ability to learn from others ? key elements of a team culture.

Many modern organizations have moved to a flexible work environment and open floor plans in order to encourage face-to-face collaboration. This is a great opportunity for team bonding and learning, but provides a limited structured process for knowledge capture. Forrester?s Workplaces of the Future report says that in order to increase productivity and innovation, employers must provide workers with an environment that is conducive to bonding, collaborating and even gossiping.

Knowledge capture is one of the core business benefits of social collaboration. It is also currently a concern for Australian businesses thanks to generational diversity in the workplace and an ageing population. With high numbers of Baby Boomers retiring, Generation X entering leadership roles and Millennials still in school, we are at risk of developing a big knowledge gap.

It?s important to provide the tools now to share, capture and collaborate on existing knowledge to make the transition between generations as smooth as possible and reduce the pressure HR professionals will face down the track. This also speeds up onboarding and ensures that information is shared across an organization.

With HR responsible for fostering change in the workforce and implementing new strategies to improve the business, investigation into social collaboration tools and strategies needs to start now, if it hasn?t already.

A good place to begin is to focus on the collaborative nature of the social tools used by the current generation of workers in their personal lives and their potential impact in the workplace.

Based on the consumer uptake of social media around the world, being social and sharing some of ourselves with others is an inherent part of human nature. From the organizational perspective, social sharing and real-time collaboration drive productivity, helping individuals and teams to be more effective and processes to be improved.

Social sharing is inclusive and provides the chance for each individual to contribute their true value to the team. Transparent, open conversations encourage higher engagement levels. All of these elements are important for the business to work towards ? and maintain ? a high-performance culture.

A critical role for HR in this process is to work closely with IT to ensure the right information is shared within the organization. It is crucial that all employees understand the power of a social network and apply business logic to it in order to gain the highest benefit.

At the same time, it?s important to remember these are social tools. So while there is a need for clear policies and planning, it also should be fun. Encouraging use for multiple reasons, finding ways for people to connect and engage that aren?t specific to work activity, and making the platform and process significant for the business and company as a whole are key to making social collaboration work. This may be in the form of social groups, company sporting teams, and other modes of sharing. It can also be in the range of ways people can communicate, such as via infographics, photo sharing, blogging and instant messaging.

There are also significant HR insights to be gained by effective implementation of social collaboration. First, it can be used as a workforce development tool. HR can see who is connected to whom, who is networking with each other, and who is using the tools most effectively. This intelligence can then be used for corporate reorganization, promotions, or modelling the ripple effect of moving a person to a different role.

More broadly, this information can help select physical and virtual teams and identify high performers. A social collaboration platform that integrates with the HR system simplifies monitoring, reviewing and allows for deeper analysis when making decisions.

While a socially connected workforce can add a level of complexity to the HR function and perhaps the IT team, the question is whether organizations can afford to not implement social collaboration tools.

As with any aspect of business change, there is an element of risk, but that doesn?t warrant avoiding an opportunity to implement new tools which will drive your business forward with such great impact.

Business tools and processes are evolving, so some risk should be taken to reach a greater benefit. Risk aversion is the enemy of innovation. Innovation is the key to business growth and longevity, and it?s created by people who feel part of a collaborative, engaged workforce ? something that is at your fingertips through social collaboration.

The author is the vice president of applications at Oracle

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