Many leaders adopt enterprise social media (ESM) platforms as the cornerstone of their organization’s internal digital transformation with the hope that employees will reap the highly desirable benefits of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and efficiency. Still, employees often get lost during these strategic shifts because of the technical and cultural disconnect between ESM and the rest of the internal IT systems and digital platforms that they use in their day-to-day job-related activities. Research shows that less than 50% of ESM platforms are actually used by employees on a regular basis.
MIT Sloan Management Review’s 2017 Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Project made it clear that implementing systemic changes in how companies organize could cultivate digitally minded cultures and experiences. Here we explain why companies should not introduce ESM in the workplace as a siloed system but rather as a strategic component of an organization’s digital portfolio and an integrated tool to support employees’ daily work. Our insights are based on a field study of a multinational cosmetic company that implemented an ESM platform to connect more than 4,500 employees, spread across 29 countries on five continents. ESM was added to an already tangled web of technologies meant to support communication and collaboration and, at the outset, less than 30% of this organization’s employees — and 8% of executives — contributed to ESM on a regular basis.
Employees Lost in Digital Transitions
As companies are attracted to the benefits of digitization, they ask their IT departments to equip employees with a rich digital portfolio that integrates platforms including team collaboration software, project management tools, chat-based software, internal knowledge management systems, and intranets.
At the same time, most ESM platforms are cloud-based applications. For the first time, the responsibility for a technology in the workplace falls at least partially outside the scope of the IT department. Thus, non-IT managers are asked to lead the cultural implementation of ESM in the workplace. However, in many situations when ESM is adopted, leaders fail to articulate priorities for navigating the thicket of all the digital tools that employees are expected to use in their day-to-day, job-related tasks.
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When employees are not given guidance on how to navigate the different platforms that form their organization’s digital portfolio, they become lost in the digital transition.