Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Social Literacy as a Competitive Advantage

Social literacy
Social literacy refers to knowing how to use social tools and platforms to find and gather information, share thoughts, and generate discussion. For businesses this has already generated massive opportunities to better connect with customers and other stakeholders as well as improve the general perception of their brand. What has largely been ignored is the potential of socially literate employees who use these tools and services to increase their own competence and thus the competence of the business.

The benefits outweigh the concerns
While there are concerns with employees using social platforms and tools, such as data security issues and productivity loss, failing to adapt social tools can be fatal to organizations moving forward. Furthermore, these concerns are usually based on management perceptions and not on actual studies and/or statistics. Hence management should provide their employees with the necessary tools and encourage their use if they are to stay ahead of the competition.

Benefits of socially literate employees
Socially literate employees are able to gather information from multiple sources efficiently and participate in meaningful discussions, which often lead to new ideas and business opportunities. A study by Microsoft found that 46% of employees believe their productivity has improved due to the use of social tools. However, there is a clear lack of management buy-in that is resulting in a loss of productivity and innovation. According to Microsoft’s study 38% of employees feel management underestimates the potential of social tools in the workplace while 37% feel they could perform better in their job if management was supportive of the use of these tools.

Most industrialized countries now have a heavily knowledge based economy where information and the ability to apply that information makes the difference between a thriving business and a failing business. Information gathering has become increasingly important as organizations are strained to stay ahead in innovation. By supporting employees’ use of social tools, management is opening their eyes to new ideas.
Encourage employees to use social tools
Organizations that are encouraging their employees to use social tools have found a new competitive advantage as their employees are able to learn faster and keep up with market trends better than ever before. The increase in sharing and collaboration has led to employees being better informed and thus able to make better decisions and generate new, more efficient ways of working.
Employees clearly want to use these tools as they are already seeing the benefit for both themselves and their employer. According to the study 30% say they would even be willing to use their own money for a new tool if it could make them more efficient at their job.

What needs to be done?
Any organization that wants to stay competitive will soon need to adopt social tools as social media is fast becoming the preferred place to get information. Companies need to provide their employees with training on the use of these platforms and the necessary tools to truly benefit from them. From our experience at Smarp, the following steps are usually needed:
1. Management buy-in
Without management buy-in organizations are stuck in old habits and unable to incorporate new, more effective ways of working. Therefore the first step needs to be getting management buy-in to the change.

2. Encouragement
Companies should not only allow the use of social tools but encourage it. This requires some type of internal promotion so that the benefits are clear to the employees and they are sufficiently motivated.

3. Training
To ensure no-one is left behind, the company should provide its employees with training on the use of these platforms and tools. This will increase the competence of employees and create a “smarter” company.

4. Tools
By providing employees with tools to share and interact effectively, companies are able to leverage their employees’ knowledge and networks for business benefit. This will also make the use of social tools and platforms more effective.

5. Application of new ideas
Employers should encourage employees to use the new found knowledge in their work to drive innovation in the organization. This requires that the business is open to testing new ideas and ways of working and moving away from old, less effective procedures.

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