Some more musings on corporate culture and social media

My prior post here has spurred some interesting conversations. Following Jeremiah Owyang’s post, I got a very practical comment from Beth Kanter asking the following:

I’m curious about your points about how to balance top-down mandates and completely grassroots adoption strategies? What works do you think? And, do you have a case study or step-by-step or some tips?

I was about to respond in the comments thread, but figured this warranted a new (albeit quick) post. Balancing top-down mandates and grassroots adoption can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.  Finding the intersection of corporate mandates and employee value can be summed up in one sentence:

Will it (social media project “X”) help employees do the job you are paying them to do more easily?

Companies employ people so they can help them accomplish certain objectives. Employees are paid to help the company reach those stated objective. So there’s inherent alignment of objectives and incentives. Social media should reflect that. If it can help employees do what their companies are paying them to do more easily, you’ve got a home run. Companies should focus on finding the tools that accomplish that.

But there’s a big catch. The employees have to be the ones to determine what makes them more efficient. A few folks in the CIOs office, HR or corporate communications, really aren’t the best arbiters of which tools employees feel will help them do their jobs.

Likewise, if a company’s motivation to adopt social media tools revolves solely around saving money, it’s likely to be met with a dull thud of non-participation. Employees aren’t interested in saving the company money. They are interested in doing their jobs so they can be paid, go home and enjoy their lives.

So, when a company follows that model – listening to employees on what they think will make them more effective at what they are being paid to do, and then enabling them accordingly – it’s a win-win.

All resulting in more time for employees to waste time on Facebook. (did I just say that?)

2 Comments on “Some more musings on corporate culture and social media”

  1. Beth Kanter says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful answer! My work is with nonprofits and I’m looking at social media adoption with a variety of lens:

    1) Organizational adoption of social media as part of the strategy/tool set for communications plan.

    2) Staff adoption for internal communication and collaboration

    3)How either these uses might beg the need for greater organizational change within the organization. How does it impact management, governance, and leadership structures and processes (if at all)

    What prompted my question was hearing a colleague at the Red Cross – she’s the social media strategist there – talk about resistance to the organization adopting social media as part of its communications strategy – not so much in the Enterprise 2.0 sense. But, that’s probably the next wave. It strikes me that the approach is not that different to other types of technology adoption. For example, a new database or other system is introduced.

    Your case study caught my eye and blogged it here:

  2. dolores says:

    Speaking of which, Adam, I’d like to see your take on the threats of severance/no severance by management to employees over 50 with 30 years who are fired and have to train their underskilled overseas replacements. Even better are the carrots offered to those who aren’t retirement eligible and are fired months short of that eligibility of a job that isn’t really there. Gitmo has nothing on IBM management.

    And your take on the 10K employees fired since January. How DO the big boys sleep at night, knowing that 10K lives have been disrupted if not ruined?

    How do they justify it in their heads?

    Too bad the employees left intact are too afraid and too cowed to unionize. The momentum was lost in 1999, when IBM screwed their longtime employees out of the promised lifetime retiree medical and, for the third time, changed the pension formula so that retirees would get less in their paycheck.

    Oh, and do you have a pipeline to Sammy boy? I’d LOVE to hear how he is going to live on only $20K a day in HIS retirement pension. Did anyone ask that question at this year’s shareholder meeting, or were there armed guards to prevent questions from the little people?

    By the way, the JAM sessions were as comical as opinion surveys. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

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