5 Social Collaboration Best Practices

Jack Aaronson

Updated · Nov 05, 2015

By Andrew Wilson, CIO at Accenture

In recent years, companies have begun to look beyond existing collaboration models for new ways to engage and interact with employees. And it’s no wonder – According to a 2014 article by the Entrepreneur magazine, the average millennial — also known as the newest entrant to the workforce – spends more than 18 hours a day consuming media online. With so much of the conversation happening on digital channels, businesses must rethink how they engage with employees, leveraging the enormous potential of social tools to facilitate collaboration and advance business goals.

Of course, not all social collaboration strategies are created equal. Here are five crucial steps business leaders must take to ensure they’re using best practices when developing a social collaboration strategy.

Set a Clear Social Collaboration Agenda

What are your company’s unique goals and priorities with respect to social collaboration?

Having a clear sense of objectives before you embark on your social collaboration journey will allow you to more easily identify the right tools, cutting down on time and expense through a carefully targeted approach. Stay authentic in your social collaboration practices by mapping your baseline goals directly to business objectives. This will help you quickly identify when certain solutions aren’t working so you can move on to other options and avoid simply going through the motions.

Setting uniform collaboration goals is especially important for large organizations with multiple divisions or offices. Without a clearly defined, company-wide strategy, different departments may begin to use different tools, resulting in lost opportunities for cooperation and connection. Remember: The goal is to facilitate dialogue on an enterprise level, and being consistent with the tools you use will help you to achieve this objective.

Pilot Social Collaboration Tools

For many business leaders, the phrase “trial and error” is synonymous with inefficiency and risk. Why not make a decision and stick with it? Unfortunately, this rigid mentality is no longer viable in the digital age. With technology advancing at such a rapid pace, companies must be agile and able to change at the drop of a hat. As new social collaboration tools hit the market, those that are prepared to adapt will enjoy a distinct advantage over competitors.

Pilot programs with well-defined goals and boundaries are a great way to assess the viability of social collaboration tools on a small scale, while reducing cost and risk. In addition, they provide a quick and inexpensive snapshot of how a larger rollout might look. It may take time to identify what works for your specific business, so patience and a willingness to experiment are crucial.

Foster Support from Top Down

Leadership is one of the most important aspects of any social collaboration program. Without demonstrable buy-in at the senior level, it may be difficult to foster broad employee engagement. As a consequence, your investment is unlikely to generate the kind of results you had envisioned. The solution is to construct a social collaboration program that fosters participation and support from the top down.

It’s essential that senior leaders are actively involved in the discussion around social collaboration from the beginning. You can underscore the importance of your initiative by holding town-hall meetings where staff can ask questions and make suggestions based on their needs and experience. Encourage leaders to be vocal about social collaboration through internal channels, like corporate newsletters or blogs.

Finally, make sure that company executives have a presence on whatever social platforms you choose. Not only will this demonstrate the company’s commitment to the strategy, but staff may be motivated to participate if doing so allows them to interact and share ideas with higher-ups.

Capitalize on Existing Social Behaviors

For some employees, the presence of peers or leaders on social platforms may not be enough to foster participation. Not everyone is comfortable using collaborative tools in the workplace. So what are some strategies for motivating the more reluctant members of your staff?

One solution is to select social collaboration software that is similar to the tools employees use at home or in their free time. Many of these tools mirror popular social media sites like Facebook or Gchat, making them significantly more approachable for even the most tech-wary employee. Likewise, selecting collaborative tools that resemble familiar programs will lead to faster adoption rates and reduce the need for training.

Another strategy for encouraging participation is gamification, applying typical elements of game-playing to your social collaboration strategy. Start a friendly inter-office competition to see which team or individual can hit pre-determined collaboration goals.  Assign point values and rewards for achieving certain collaboration milestones. The more fun you make it, the greater the likelihood that people will participate.

Embed Collaboration into Business Processes

How does your social strategy fit in with broader business goals?

Integration is not just about staff adoption and engagement, it also relates to how social collaboration tools function on an enterprise level. Many business leaders make the mistake of investing in technology without considering how it will sync with other tools to achieve overarching company objectives. If the entire goal is interconnectivity, what value is there in programs that don’t work together? In order to be worth your time and resources, social collaboration must be woven into everyday business practices.

As chief information officer for Accenture, Andrew Wilson leads the global IT operations of a $30 billion company, including the infrastructure, services and applications that enable Accenture people to work anytime, anywhere to serve clients in more than 120 countries. In this role, he ensures that Accenture is at the forefront of innovation as a digital business — from mission-critical applications to the network, from email and laptops to enterprise social media and collaboration tools.

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