Until the beginning part of this decade, enterprise software looked and felt very different from the software that was designed for consumers. Enterprise software helped businesses manage customer relationships, handle knowledge management, communicate internally, and handle company operations focused on addressing the needs of IT managers more than the employees who were the users of the software. Emphasis was put on security, compliance, system control, interoperability, and maintenance and strangely less on what employees wanted or needed. The fact that the software buyers (the IT managers) weren’t the users (the employees) was largely to blame for this state of affairs. And then something changed.
Most companies are organized to reward individual performance and promote the rising stars more quickly than other employees. If you want to foster a collaborative environment where employees learn from each other, share their knowledge generously, and participate in social platforms geared toward harnessing the collective intelligence, think carefully about how you reward performance. You might be well served by putting more emphasis on team versus individual performance
Treating everyone equally
Employees usually thrive on competition. That’s a good thing. But employees who feel left out of the loop or feel that they aren’t seen as critical to the organization are less likely to give their time and brain power for the community. Be sure that you treat every employee equally if you truly want to foster collaboration and the free exchange of information among your employees. They’ll speak only if you give them ample opportunities and encouragement to do so. You need to let them speak on their own terms, too, whether that be through the technologies that they prefer, the locations of their choice (team meetings, suggestion boxes, or one on one meetings), or with the mentors that they seek out.
Trusting your employees
Just as it’s imperative for you to trust consumers and let them share ownership of your brand, so, too, must you trust your employees to converse, communicate, and collaborate with each other respectfully and productively. If you don’t trust your employees, they won’t trust you, and they definitely won’t want to give their time to furthering the objectives of the organization. This matters most when you’re trying to energize them for social influence, as it requires a commitment and not just a job description to accomplish.
Creating the right culture
The right office culture is imperative if you want your employees to engage with one another in conversations, be transparent about what they don’t know, and be willing to listen and learn from their peers, including the younger or more junior ones. Your culture needs to be one of humility and openness, and one that allows initiative without punishing people too harshly for mistakes. The way you need to behave in the social Web to engage with your customers in a meaningful way applies to the way you must engage with your employees, too. And it all starts with culture.
Placing a premium on groups with a purpose
A key ingredient to energizing employees for social influence is to put the right mix of employees in a room (real or virtual) together to brainstorm, innovate, or accomplish a specific task. Bring an eclectic mix of employees together and ask them to collaborate on a specific task at hand. Their diverse skills and personalities result in unique results and can lay the foundation for a more collaborative work environment.