It Is All About Culture Change

Social media adoption in the workplace is harder than your traditional ERP implementation, here is why

Just about everyone is very familiar with social media nowadays. People using it are increasing by the millions. It was the same with books and television decades ago. Today, in a very short time, social media has become an intrinsic part of our daily life.

With that thought, will adopting social tools (that we are familiar with) in the workplace— be easier considering the people’s familiarity with social media?

The answer is no. Enterprise application of social media has been a serious challenge for those who have tried. Many companies have tried and failed. It is nothing like implementing (for example) an ERP system where you define the roles, processes, guidelines and then ask employees to follow. In this ERP system scenario, your focus is actions, compliance and results. If you have strong executive support, you will make it happen.

Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for everyone– nothing less. For example, today if an employee has an idea, he goes to his boss to discuss an idea or goes to the board to present it as a proposal, or send an idea narrative by email. Now, consider the alternative of posting ideas as wiki and letting everyone else read, comment and even change them.

The point is, social media adoption or enterprise 2.0 implementation is not easy because it is about changing how people interact, collaborate and work. It is about changing the organizational culture. It is nothing that can be mandated (otherwise, all you get is shallow compliance). For you to have a meaningful transformation that is sustainable you have to work at the level of people’s experiences to influence their beliefs and behaviors. Only then can you have them change how they act and work. Experiences foster beliefs, and if you have enough of those to change the mindset of your employees you will slowly see adoption happen.

My advice is grassroots adoption through structured learning experiences. The communication and implementation of the grassroots approach must be focused on the benefits to the users first and then promotion of the value creation for the company next. It is easier to convince employees to change the way they work if they understand that this will make their job easier.  This approach is important. It will fuel slow but self-reinforcing transformation.

Photo courtesy of Ponsuwan

11 thoughts on “It Is All About Culture Change

  1. Glenn, congratulations for this article and I think open a door for good discussion about it. As you know, my experience with enterprise social tool in last 10 years has not been good. We started in the technical area in 2001 a social media to share best practices, success cases and failure cases as well. Also we began with a new social tool more sofisticated, similar as facebook in 2009. Both results has been the same. it always start with a very good promotion and Champions to engage the people to participate, but after 6 months and also because the champions are tired and they do not have other incentive to do it the momentum is lost. The people need to “waste” too much time to use it correctly. I believe more in other type of tools as share point or web communities where you can leave information available to take it, and also you can post information. The interactive part using blogs and wikis is only waste time. Best regards.

  2. In my opinion what makes social media more complicated than any other process or system implementation is due to its nature. Other implementations are very objective with set of guidelines, timeline and expected results. Social media involves human behavior, of people who are part of the implementation and even the results being aimed by the project. Thus there is no definite timeline for a specific output, it is a continuous learning process. One example is the use of social media as marketing tool, follow us on twitter and facebook does not stop in creation of the account and having the target number of followers. It evolves everyday because it deals with consumer behavior.

  3. Congratulations for hitting the proverbial nail on it’s cultural head! As you suggest, “grassroots adoption through structured learning experience” is an important aspect.

    But it begs the question, if I’m supposed to be an “adopter”, why should I exert the energy and personal risk in engaging in a structured learning experience? I’m overworked, under-appreciated, so why go above and beyond the call of duty?

    It comes back to the familiar WIFM (What’s In it For Me?) From my experience, unless the intended community(ies) of adopters share a common goal that is meaningful to them both as individuals and as a community, people are unlikely to give of their discretionary effort to actively engage in social tools in a workplace setting.

    It’s unfortunate, but I think it is a common reality today that what distinguishes the workplace from personal space is people’s willingness to go beyond the minimum workplace requirements and give of their discretionary effort in using social tools.

    1. Exactly, the biggest challenge really is to find the right answer to the WIFM (what’s In It For Me?) question– that will only happen if the “what’s in it for the company” question is already answered. What does changing the way we work means to the company? Does it mean it will make us more innovative? It will reduce cost? etc. I think what’s key is training, clarity of purpose, and a lot of perseverance (to let the change run its course).

  4. good post!

    it is far larger than technology issue, it is pure cultural transformation but at the end of the day technological systems change rapidly/speedily than social organizational structures do. Change is never easy, but change will certainly happen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s