Embrace or die! That’s what the choice seems to be for businesses today in terms of online networking. It’s become so much an accepted part of ‘normal’ life for a large and increasing portion of the workforce that they need access to it throughout the day (a 2009 study showed out of 1483 respondents almost 75% used social networking sites for personal use within an organisation). And if it isn’t authorised via the employer’s corporate internet service, well then, there is always the mobile phone evolution that is fast making mobile wireless internet browsing an affordable reality. So, for businesses, it makes sense to encourage participation in online networks that can benefit personal and organisational performance.
What seems a long time ago now I joined Thomas Power’s network Ecademy. This was prior to LinkedIn and Facebook even launched and was, I think, the first ‘social-business network’ to gain popularity. I read up a lot on what could be gained from such an investment in time and browsed many guides on how to best ‘network’. However my first effort to network online flopped; I didn’t invest the time necessary, even though I believed in it. My workload was just too high, I thought. Since then the world has moved on and now social networks play a critical part in the development of young people. Wow! Things change fast! I am amazed every time when I hear researchers and psychologists comment on how online-communications are replacing the need for face-to-face meetings in the context of the development of children – or at least teenagers for now…. Whole friend- and support-networks are being developed online instead of by meeting others and socialising together personally. It seems sad but it’s the way the world is going. What’s even more surprising to me is that a huge proportion of online networkers are aged not in their twenties, but anything up to mid-fifties! A recent study defined most Facebook users as college educated, white-collar workers, and more than 40% at over 35 years old. Another study found half of all blog readers were between the ages of 31 and 50, and 18% were between 51 and 60.
Anyway, I do clearly see the huge advantage that organisations can gain from encouraging participation by employees in online networks, and I know that time spent in such networks is well-spent. But the vast majority of organisations are not capitalising on these networks. Just understanding and acknowledging that employees who use networks are likely to benefit through interacting with many, hopefully, peers by way of ‘organic learning’ is not enough to make a difference. All organisations will be benefiting thus before long and hence the ‘benefit’ will be effectively neutralised. What will define a true learning organisation from others will be the proactive decision to provide access to networks designed to promote the type of learning and contact that affects organisational performance. Well, what a coincidence! For the last 18 months here at BPIR.com we have been feverishly designing and developing a network portal that will allow our members to leverage the growing BPIR membership community, and create ways that we, as administrators, can help encourage the learning potential that exists for all in the network to filter back and translate into increases in organisational performance, and hence, into bottom line profit. Our network is being rolled out as you read this blog. For now the network is available only to members of BPIR and its partners.
Here are a handful of interesting survey snippets about social networks in the business environment.
That’s all for now. Hopefully see you in the network!
General dog's body, grafter, and MD of BPIR.com Limited