The How and Why of Leveraging Internal Social Networks

How do you feel about influence?  Do you actively try to map it in your organization?  Over the last few months, I’ve begun to hear this theme come up more and more in the workplace.  To me, this is like the puzzle piece we’ve been missing.  I became more personally interested in it when I met Josh Letourneau of Knight & Bishop earlier this year.  Today I’m at the Conference Board’s Senior HR Executive Conference and it appears to be a theme they are picking up on as well.

Eric Mosley, Chief Executive Officer of Globoforce presented one of the finest sessions I’ve seen all year.  I’d like to share some of the items he covered regarding the internal social networks in organizations and the impact of tracking the relationships.

The discussion began around how the word “social” means different things to different companies.  It’s one of those words that is everywhere lately, much like innovation.  So, the first step has to be defining what the word social means in your organizational culture.  For purposes of his discussion, social did not just mean social network platforms.  It mainly meant the internal network that we each have in our organization in order to share information.

The How

Analysis by J. Letourneau of knightbishop.com

Globoforce sees the benefit of tracking and identifying the internal social network and are doing so through social graphing.  It allows the leaders to see who the influencers are and which employees are breaking down the silo barriers.  This is where using social network analysis comes into play.  By visually charting the connectedness of employees throughout your organization, you begin to see where there are the greatest synergies and where the opportunities lie.  From a succession planning aspect, you also begin to promote not just based on who is “next in line”, but you see who actually adds the most value from a connectedness standpoint.  It will also indicate where your vulnerability lies because if you lose key influencers, it can fracture department relationships.

The Why

Eric talked about how the size of the organization can impact these relationships.  Imagine you have 3,000 employees or even 30,000.  It is not possible to share information easily among this number of employees in an efficient manner.  According to Dunbar’s number, the amount of relationships humans can absorb is 150.  Think how that impacts your workplace.  If you could identify the influencers, you could use them as the focal points in information sharing.  That would make those 3,000 or even 30,000 much more integrated in the organization’s communication.  It would also bring those employees much closer.

If you believe like I do that influence does not come from holding a specific title and that organizations need to do a better job of identifying their influencers, I encourage you to connect with Globoforce.  They are also doing amazing things with regard to identifying recognition via social graphing.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any sources we should all know about around influence?  Share them in the comments.

*Thank you to The Conference Board for hosting me at the Senior HR Executive Conference.  As always, the opinions are all my own and I look forward to sharing more key learning points from this year’s conference!

9 Replies to “The How and Why of Leveraging Internal Social Networks”

  1. Trish, thank you for the kind words. As you could likely tell, the power of social in an organization is a topic I’m quite passionate about. Leveraging social recognition to identify influencers can be an eye-opening experience.

    The Fortune 500 company VPs that we talk to are always shocked to discover what can be learned from their “social graph”!

    We at Globoforce are fans of your blog and insights as well. Thank you for your consistent thought leadership in HR and desire to help educate others.

    Eric

  2. Hi Trish

    I had a similar post on my blog some time ago

    employee communication is not thought of as a discipline by HR professionals as external communications is thought of by the Marketing professionals. Most HR communications are restricted to garishly colored emails with 20 size font letters. Or managers are expected to do the bulk of the communications to their supervisors – and we know how that goes.
    The question needs to be rethought – and organizations need to look at their employees as an internal community they need to “converse with” and not to “talk/sell to”.

    Here’s more

    http://www.gautamblogs.com/2010/10/employee-advocates-for-employee.html

  3. @Laura- Thanks for sharing that link to Josh. He does brilliant work and I’m amazed every time I read his posts.

    @Gautam- Thanks for sharing your link Gautam. I love that the comments section can become a real resource for others to find more info!! Share anytime. Have a great day.

  4. Hi Trish,

    Great post! Social graphing is a great idea, and I agree that it’s a hard task to easily share information among large groups of employees without using influencers. Why do you think most companies use phone trees during an emergency?

    Perhaps using a talent network specified for employer-to-employee communication would reduce the labor hours spent graphing your influencers. There are private communities were you can cross-organize your staff based on office location (Michigan, New York) and roles (management, customer service). With talent communities (like Cachinko), you also have the ability to rate employees and make informed decisions about promotions – and stick with your reason to “promote not just based on who is ‘next in line’, but you see who actually adds the most value from a connectedness standpoint.”

    In your opinion, how does social graphing compares to talent communities?

  5. I remember from my KM days that Valdis Krebs had a tool for Social Network Analysis to understand nodal points in a community and who are connectors and who are creators and consumers of information.

    Need to go back and read up again as to what Valdis is doing these days

    This is the reason why I feel HR should get into the Enterprise 2.0/Social Intranet space.

  6. Trish, as you might know, this is exactly the work I’m doing with Social Network Analysis. My focus is on organizational performance, which includes a focus on not only individuals (i.e. Hubs, Brokers, etc.), but also clusters/groups and how they interact at the group level, etc. There is value in looking beyond influential people and identifying influential clusters as well. This is why I often make analogies regarding our CIA and Homeland Security.

    Seems like Eric and I should connect!

    Josh Letourneau
    http://www.KnightBishop.com
    jl(at)knightbishop.com

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