Social Organisation: Serendipity in the Workplace

I listened in to the webinar that Yammer recently ran entitled “Finding Value in Serendipity”.

As someone who works with technology vendors, I’m well aware that any new product or service a company adopts is really only as good as its users. Whenever someone somewhere changes their work habits or introduces a new process, there are always consequences – that’s obvious. Some of these consequences can be measured, some can even be foreseen. However, there are usually a number of further outcomes which could never have been predicted. Furthermore, these outcomes may be difficult to measure and could even be difficult to actually observe.

So, imagine how delighted I was that the presenters did a great job of covering this very subject: the unintended consequences of making your organisation more “social”.

My main takeaways were from the observations from Brian Cator who is Senior Director of Communications and Store Operations at 7-Eleven, an international chain of convenience stores

Interestingly, he told us that employees’ behaviour on Yammer actually became something like a barometer of management styles. He started seeing that employees would form groups bringing together their local markets and, interestingly, the groups which were most open in the communications were the usually most profitable! By monitoring the behaviour of these groups, Seven Eleven were able to decipher which of their units needed additional support to become better performers.

The other thing which naturally started to occur was employees interacting more at local, national and global levels. Within a business which is dispersed across thousands of sites, it used to be a time consuming, expensive (and surely quite artificial) task keeping employees informed about what was happening around the organisation. Since going social, employees have started to share their lessons learned with colleagues at other sites and have become more curious about how the company itself is performing. Most importantly, employees have become more forthcoming in helping each other – perhaps this is a consequence of everybody being able to feel their input helps real people rather than improving statistics they cannot relate to closely. That’s a real benefit to a business which is trying to optimise best practices. The old way to profit from knowledge might have been bringing in consultants. The new way is crowd sourcing advice from around the organisation.

Most of all, I appreciate Brian Cator’s observations about how an organisation can measure the success of “going social”. Due to all the unintended consequences that he has encountered since making Seven Eleven adopted Yammer, he believes it’s vital to keep an open mind about the targets a company sets when they adopt social technologies. There may well be efficiency and productivity gains but there can be so many more benefits that a company might miss if targets are set with a closed mind and strict timing.

All in all, the observations brought to the front during this webinar were a good reminder that people power technology, not the other way around – something I think never it hurts to bring up even if it is always in the back of our minds.

Editor’s Note: Yammer is a sponsor of Crexia’s second Social Workplace Conference, taking place on 24th May 2012 in London.

2 thoughts on “Social Organisation: Serendipity in the Workplace

  1. Anonymous

    I find that the more one broadcasts oneself and engages in social collaboration, the more “serendipity” works in your favor and becomes more intentional. 

  2. Rhonda

    Thanks so much for this post. My company has feared crowd sourcing information and this speaks to those fears and does much to promote the benefits of going social inside the organization. i found it particularly interesting that 7Eleven could correlate social participation with business results. And that being transparent in their communication enhanced business results.

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