Future of Work

Who’s responsible for social collaboration?

Patrick Willer
Writer, SAP Community Network
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The entire workforce is responsible. But who leads them? A workforce might need a spark to enlighten the company. Who is responsible for creating a social and technical foundation? In my opinion that can only be the CHRO or the chief PEOPLE officer. Let me explain why.

What is social collaboration?

It’s people working together, interacting and sharing. Usually towards a goal, but that goal doesn’t have to be pre-defined. That’s the beauty of it. Combining brain power to get (better) ideas and evolve.

Didn’t we used to call this teamwork?

Yes. And spirit of teamwork is still key, but technological innovations have changed the scale. A new idea in your brain is a network of neurons that comes in a certain configuration for the first time. You can achieve this by thinking very long and very deep. This is what a genius like Einstein did on his own. But anno 2015 we can do it together. Technology can help us build global connections; combine ideas of many different individuals; and give those ideas time to incubate. This incubation time is necessary for the idea to develop into a concept that we one day we may call a stroke of genius. More of this can be found here and here. So social collaboration is really teamwork 2.0.

Why is this important?

More social collaboration leads to more ideas. More ideas lead to more innovation. Innovation leads to newer, better products. And those usually lead to more customer satisfaction. And higher customer satisfaction leads to a lot of positive outcomes for any organization: more revenue and profit, more research & development, more growth and a bigger impact on society. That is why social collaboration is the Holy Grail for any organization.

When people are able to collaboratively use a platform without interference from a manager then the entire enterprise is in really good shape. I only see this happening in smaller, younger startups. Larger, older companies have a hard time breaking through their traditional company culture.

What is preventing big enterprises from establishing a strong foundation for social collaboration?

Usually stuff like this:

  • A hierarchical culture. That conflicts with the non-hierarchical world of social collaboration, where everybody can create content and consume content.
  • Silo thinking that limits collaboration. What do you think would happen to your body, if one department, let’s say your liver, no longer collaborated with the rest?
  • Focus on the people who will not participate in social collaboration, rather than focus on the ones who will.
  • IT systems (including social collaboration software) are often ‘owned’ by IT, which may not care about people engagement.
  • Internal communication (a key component of social collaboration) is often ‘owned’ by marketing, which focuses more on clients and prospects than on the internal workforce
  • HR is often caught up in core processes (getting people paid now) rather than adding strategic value (making sure that people can be paid five years from now). Getting stuck at in administrating can prevent you from utilizing the power of social collaboration.

If there ever was a concept that involved all lines of business; breaks down department barriers and hierarchy; brings people together, social collaboration is it! So who needs to lead?



The HR department and thus the CHRO is responsible

Because the core responsibility of HR is to engage the workforce to execute the company’s vision, mission and strategy. Administrating your workforce is the foundation; good talent management is a next step; but allowing the workforce to collaborate and continuously enhance the proposition for the end-customer is what it’s all about. And that means adopting a social collaboration environment within your company.

That means embracing today’s technology to allow the entire workforce to do so. It’s about people. It’s about social. Who else will take responsibility if HR doesn’t?

If you think that Workforce Analytics is the greatest value that HR departments can bring to an organization, think again. Social Collaboration is much bigger. HR never had a bolder opportunity to add value than to enable the workforce to socially collaborate!

What can you do about the social collaborative state of your company?

If you feel that your company can improve its social collaboration, don’t be afraid to step into the office of your CHRO with a plan. Anybody with the right attitude and energy can trigger a first follower and the rest of the company. If stepping into the office is a bridge to far, you can always consider forwarding this blog to your Chief Human Resources Officer.

This article is published in collaboration with The SAP Community Network. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum. 

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Author: Patrick Willer is a writer at The SAP Community Network. 

Image: A worker arrives at his office in the Canary Wharf business district. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh.

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