Few social phenomena of the past decade have rivaled social networking and
Web 2.0. Websites such as LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia and in India,
Orkut, have attracted millions of users of all ages and backgrounds. For “social”
networking and public information sharing, these tools have been spectacularly
successful. It only stands to reason then, that the technology might be used for
professional or corporate use; for networking and knowledge sharing – behind the
firewall, so to speak.
Corporate Social Networking (CSN) is the most common term being applied to
the rising use of professional networks inside organisations. Blogs, Wikis, threaded
discussion boards and other “Web 2.0” tools have made their way onto intranets
for corporate use in knowledge sharing. Best practice in CSN and Web 2.0
technology does not yet exist, however, nor is there a generally accepted model
for its implementation or who should own it in the organisation.
In an attempt to uncover emerging practices and early indications of the value
of corporate Web 2.0 and CSN tools, the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and
Cornerstone OnDemand Inc, a talent management suite provider, conducted a
survey of HCI’s senior HR membership on leveraging social networking & Web
2.0 collaboration tools in various enterprises. The main objective of the survey and
subsequent interviews was to understand the role and impact of Web 2.0
collaboration tools in organisational social networking and knowledge-sharing.
At this stage in the development and implementation of corporate Web 2.0
collaborative tools, users can still be labelled early adopters. And just as early
adopters of online job boards reaped benefits and competitive advantage a dozen
years ago or so, organisations that implement and master Web 2.0 tools today,
including CSN, can expect to gain similar, if not even greater, advantages. In most
cases, however, it is safe to say that the Web 2.0 tools being used remain outside
the corporate firewall. Nevertheless, they are being put to business purposes,
Facebook, for example, allows for the creation of private networks and LinkedIn
has proven to be a powerful recruiting tool. In neither case is it necessary to
license and install any application.
From our results, it would appear that corporate Web 2.0 and CSN tools are
still experimental in most of the organisations that report their use. As above,
most of that use falls outside formal practice and certainly outside “the firewall”.
The three greatest barriers to using Web 2.0 tools, according to our respondents
are user adoption; other priorities taking precedence; and the difficulty in building
a compelling business case for their use.
Time will address the first barrier as more young people who have grown up
using the tools enter the workforce and this, in turn, should move Web 2.0 tool
adoption up on the priority list. The third main barrier – making the business case
– was the focus of our research. To do that, proponents of the technologies need to
demonstrate Return on Investment (ROI).
There clearly remains much work to be done in identifying the ways and
methods to determine ROI and tangible value from corporate Web 2.0 and
CSN investments. And while little research has been done to quantify the ROI
in CSN and corporate Web 2.0, that which does exist is compelling, as in the
statements of value in Web 2.0 made by so many of our survey respondents.
Our respondents believe that Web 2.0 tools will finally allow them to access
the rich content and corporate memory that proves so elusive in most
companies. Respondents believe that this information, including tacit
knowledge, can benefit the organisation significantly.
Our survey results show that the decision to use social networking and /or
other Web 2.0 tools now or in future is greatly influenced (84 per cent) by the
demographics of the workforce. As the typical workforce is spread more and
more around the globe, organisations are looking for tools to keep teams together
virtually. Their goal is that performance and learning should not suffer because of
physical distances between the various members of the team.
Despite some skepticism, Web 2.0 tools are likely to be among the high-demand applications of the next generation
of employees. Our research showed a significant
difference in Web 2.0 adoption and perceived
benefit – personal and for business – between
younger workers and older workers.
Clearly, the tools will play a critical future
role in human resources and talent
management. They can provide a common
communications platform for employees,
allowing them to share information, knowledge,
ideas and to collaborate online. Moreover, the
tools are likely to become essential in attracting,
on-boarding, developing and keeping the next
generation of talent.
By Allan Schweyer, president of the Human Capital Institute