According to a survey of large companies in the U.S. and Europe already involved in social initiatives, only 10-20% of their employees are actively involved in social collaboration.

According to a survey of large companies in the U.S. and Europe already involved in social initiatives, only 10-20% of their employees are actively involved in social collaboration.

According to a survey of large companies in the U.S. and Europe already involved in social initiatives, only 10-20% of their employees are actively involved in social collaboration.

Are companies that have made headway in introducing a social collaboration platform into their enterprise having success getting employees to participate?

According to one recent study not really.

Here are the details.

The research, titled Current State of Social Engagement Inside the Large Enterprise, was done this past summer by the DachisGroup, a social marketing optimization software company located in Austin, Texas. The firm’s chief strategy officer, Dion Hinchcliffe, is a well-known author and analyst on enterprise uses of social tools.

A short ten-question survey was sent by the DachisGroup to members of its Social Business Council, a group of over 300 businesspersons from large global companies already engaged in enterprise-wide social business initiatives to share best practices. Seventy surveys were received, and these were filtered to 56 firms whose revenue was 1 billion or more. About two thirds of the responses were from the United States, while the rest were from Europe.

The most startling result was that when asked to assess the overall engagement of employees in the company, more than half responded that only 10-20% of its employees were active.

That was surprisingly low, and we’ll say more on this below.

Another noteworthy result: when asked what function in the company “owns” social, the highest response was IT (cited by 74.5%) and the second was “Corporate Communications (not marketing),” cited by 38.2%. While the fact that IT was listed first is not at all surprising, the fact that Corporate Communications was also so highly ranked indicates that this function may be carving a role as a leader in social, and where it is seen as playing an important role.

The survey also asked respondents to rank which features of their social platform were most popular. The two that ranked highest were: “groups” and “discussions/forums.” These beat out microblogs, activity feeds, status updates, wikis, blogs and ideation.

What is interesting here is that groups and discussion forums represent more “old fashioned” types of collaboration, whose existence precedes blogs, wikis, microblogs, social status updates and other more recent “2.0” features. Since both groups and discussion forums are typically best to find relevant information and get quick answers to questions, we think these could currently represent the most practically useful elements of a social platform for busy employees.

And ensuring that the social platform is “practically useful” could also be the key to increasing that surprisingly low level of employee engagement. It’s already known from past experiments with complex knowledge management systems that it’s not easy to get employees to change or alter their work habits. To get engagement, a system has to be easy to use, enjoyable, relevant, and, perhaps above all practically useful, meaning it provides clear and quick solutions and benefits.

So what is the problem?

It may be that for many employees, even in these early adopter firms working to integrate internal social business applications, using these applications do not offer enough value or reason to shift behavior. Employees may be unaware of the potential of their social platform; or perhaps they have not been properly trained and educated. Or of course, it is also possible that while they are aware and have been trained, the value still isn’t there or isn’t high enough.

Answering this important question — how to provide enough value to get employees to engage and participate — is going to be vital for firms as they try to move their social initiatives from experimental phases to a place where real strategic value is created.

1 Comment On: They Built It, but Employees Aren’t Coming

  • Social business: win or fail? « | December 21, 2012

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