Opinion: What is ‘social capital’ worth to your business?

by 19 Jun 2017
In a competitive marketplace, organisations often seek more from staff, but walk a fine line attracting the best talent for the right price. When digital and social skills are highly sought after, should organisations pay for the privilege? Roger Christie explores the concept of employee ‘social capital’

As the June 30 deadline approaches, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association appear no closer to resolving their ongoing pay dispute. Come 1 July 2017, all currently contracted players will be out of a job. Of course, there is no single factor to blame but, rather, a range of influences continuing the stalemate. 

Within the dispute, however, is a subplot regarding digital revenue rights that should raise interest with employers outside the sporting world as it draws attention to employee value and entitlements in the digital age.

"Under the current MOU's revenue share model…male cricketers have thus far been allocated approximately 0 per cent of the digital media revenue received by Cricket Australia,” the ACA stated recently, referring to deals worth approximately $40 million over five years. 

Why is this important? 

Australian cricketers believe they are entitled to a portion of digital revenues as it is their image, profile and influence that enhances the value of these deals. In the sporting world, that influence translates to ticket and merchandise sales, memberships and corporate sponsorship – factors that contribute business returns.

What does this mean for your organisation? 

While cricketers are essentially paid to play cricket, this particular dispute arises from peripheral expectations, commitments and the resulting compensation for those efforts. Players seek remuneration for their ‘marketability’, or the additional value they bring alongside cricketing abilities. Cricket Australia expects them to comply, but obviously hopes it attracts both talented sportspeople and effective advocates for the game to drive business value and dollars. The more proficient individual players are at the latter, the greater the revenue potential for their employer, Cricket Australia.

So, let me ask you: has your organisation considered the value of your employees’ ‘social capital’? How their social competency – the desire to use digital and social tools and technologies to network, learn new skills, share new ideas, collaborate with others, as we’ve discussed in HRD previously – could contribute additional revenue streams? 

And, regardless, would you value employees with this mindset over others who will simply complete daily tasks under direction? Or would you value employees with broader networks and influence? If you have two identical candidates based on traditional assessment criteria, does a candidate with a large social network who actively produces and promotes valuable content online – drawing attention to your organisation by doing so – get the nod over the other? Would you consider paying them more, knowing they are reducing costs in other areas of the business?

These are exciting questions to ask, as focusing on building social capital among employees provides a solution to the many challenges organisations face around increasing competition, employee turnover, customer churn and cost reduction. In fact, these skills have the potential to transform the way all employees in all business functions improve performance, not just within one team.

And, as Cricket Australia is now realising, it changes the way employees are valued, remunerated and – most importantly – how they can contribute to organisational success. Rather than trying to control and stifle individual empowerment, this could be a point of difference for organisations fighting to keep ahead of competitors. 

We’ve already had initial discussions with a large financial services institution that is considering how to surface and develop these sorts of skills across their workforce – what we call social capabilities. These qualities shouldn’t be supressed, but identified, nurtured, encouraged and developed in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Workforce planning should be about hiring people with digital and social competencies across all levels and functional areas, not funnelling responsibilities and tools to one team and hiding the keys. And it wouldn’t surprise me if ‘social capital’ becomes the next bargaining chip in employee remuneration. How the tables have turned.

About the author
Roger Christie is founder and managing director of Propel – a consultancy that helps organisations get better business outcomes with social by aligning social strategy with organisation goals.



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