Yamming on Social Media
“Social Media is meant to give everyone a voice, something that is not available enough within companies...”
This was one of the more profound statements uttered by a panelist in a Yammer Breakout Session at the YamJam’12 Event. Although the CEO of Earth Hour Global’s statement was only a phrase within an attempt to drive home a larger point, it was the phrase that had writers scribbling and everyone else thinking. The power of social media is indeed profound. Its introduction revolutionized how people connect and engage with one another and made the world a smaller place.
However, social media is such a powerful and uncontrollable entity that it is important for everyone to consider its consequences within a company work environment. Would unmediated contributions, unpredictable recipes to fame, and arbitrary ranking systems really be appropriate for the workplace? Would it produce anything of actual value to the company? Would it breed the culture you want your company to have or foster a destructive attitude of incessant networking and social-climbing?
After carefully considering the opinions of various speakers at YamJam’12, we believe that if a company instilled its culture properly, social media can be a powerful tool that facilitates meaningful and collaborative conversations, produces well thought-out and passionate ideas, and can ingrain a company’s culture deeper into each employee than before possible.
“We don’t want to tell you what to do, but rather ask you what we should do.”
Teamwork and general collaboration is usually at an all-time high in a startup company. And if it’s truly a strong startup, the employees will be a tight-knit team whose level of smooth coordination and chemistry rivals that of championship-winning sports teams. However, this level of teamwork and collaboration is rare in large companies and businesses because there are simply too many people and too many branches, each pursuing their own agenda.
When employees feel closer to their branch than they do with the brand of the company, some level of disconnect is inevitable, especially if the branches are separated by large distances. Lack of daily communication beyond the weekly conference calls among top executives and branch managers can stifle an employee’s connection to other branches.
However, if social media can revolutionize how employees connect with each other as it did with the rest of the world, than it can lessen the feel of those distances. Greg Moran’s quote above illustrated Nationwide’s approach to social media, and how they used it to make their company feel like a smaller one.
By giving each employee a voice with which they can connect with other employees around the world, they can more easily build relationships and maintain them. By increasing transparency company-wide, employees can better relate to and understand what other employees and branches are doing and where their own actions fit within the larger process of the company. In essence, social networks give employees a platform on which they are able to express their ideas.
“People are most productive when they feel like they are making progress in meaningful work”
On the second day of the YamJam’12 Event, Daniel Pink, the author of Drive and A Whole New Mind, shed light on the truth about motivation and in turn, explained why a platform that gives every employee a voice will lead to meaningful conversations and valuable contributions to the company.
By referencing studies done by the Federal Reserve Bank and citing specific examples in companies such as Google, Wikipedia, and Atlassian, Pink debunks the myth that monetary rewards correlates to stronger performance. He then goes on to reveal that the keys to better work and higher levels of productivity lies in allowing your employees to exercise autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Employees work at their best when they are given the independence to pursue something they believe in because people find satisfaction in an ability to better themselves.
Within a social network, employees are able to employ autonomy through unmediated contributions and conversations. After work, a marketing coordinator can engage with an engineer from another branch to get expert advice or simple feedback on an idea that they had come up with on the drive home from work. That engineer now has a channel that funnels their sense of mastery, for they can offer their expertise to answer questions from co-workers, who work across the hall or across the country. In addition, the transparency of those conversations and contributions on a public platform will allow employees and managers to visualize where their work and their contributions fit within the context of a larger group effort.
In the end, social media is still a somewhat unpredictable and dangerous tool. But if a company can instill a culture where employees fully utilize its power and use it as a channel to funnel their great ideas and perspectives, then that company will have the advantage of having the resources of a large company with the functionality and mindset of a promising start-up.