Social Media for Productivity Improvement
Throughout my career, I have worked at several professional services organizations—from a couple of large consulting firms to a boutique private equity firm to now working here at Randstad USA. But regardless of the size of the organization, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is around the value of social media and specifically how employees in a business-to-business organization can utilize these tools better at all levels for productivity improvement and team collaboration.
It is without question that the true value of social media is more than what most marketers with squared-glasses and tight skinny jeans will tell you. The fact is, social media is much more than a marketing-centric evolution. Social technology is fundamentally an expansion of human expression. Humanity is encoded to behaviorally seek identity and affirmation through affiliations and interactions with other individuals and groups that share similar characteristics, interests, or beliefs. This evolution has given these basic behaviors the speed and scale of the Internet at virtually zero marginal cost.
By leveraging these ingrained behaviors in a business setting, it is possible to implement small changes through social media technologies that not only enable employees to more efficiently share ideas, but to accelerate productivity improvement, collaboration, and employee engagement.
Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Media
A recent McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) study entitled The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies found that high-skill knowledge workers spend on average 28 hours-per-week composing emails, collaborating with teammates, and searching for information. However, only 5 percent of this work is currently being done through social media which could save substantial amounts of time. McKinsey estimates that these tasks would be twice as efficient if done through social channels resulting in a 20-25 percent improvement in total productivity. For this reason, the potential impact of social media in professional services is among the highest of all industries.
To unlock the true value of social media technologies, it is not enough for organizations to just add these new tools to their communication channels. They must embrace new social media and lose themselves in what’s available. Disassociate from the inefficient operations of more primitive platforms and avoid causing additional confusion by utilizing incompatible technologies. Don’t force your people to keep track of more channels, ultimately resulting in efficiency loss rather than gain, and envelope your organization in what makes sense for you and your business’s needs.
How to Boost Your Collaboration Efforts
1. Replace Email with Google Hangouts
Email has been the binding force for most organizations for the better part of three decades. But when Alcoa originally pioneered this fledgling technology in order to share best safety practices amongst its global operations teams, it could never have predicted the massive amount of time that this communication platform would consume. According to McKinsey, the average worker now spends nearly 30 percent of their week responding to emails. Corporate email accounts have become bloated channels of communications with each worker subscribed to various newsletters and CC'd into multiple conversations. On emails with long, active exchanges, employees may spend much of their time sorting through past emails and scanning top to bottom to find the relevant strings.
Achieve productivity improvement by using social services rather than email exchanges for non-sensitive topics or projects. As a digital marketer, my team corresponds multiple times a day using Google Hangout. This user-friendly video chat service allows our team to converse quickly and efficiently together before going off on our separate paths for execution. Even better, the new Google Hangout standalone application makes conversing with colleagues and teams on the go more efficient than ever, let alone more efficient than stings of long-ignored email chains. In fact, my team at Randstad USA remains logged into Google all day to allow for quick updates and to ensure that team collaborations are easy.
All you need to do to get your team set-up on Google Hangout is to have webcam-enabled laptops (most already have these built in) and a free Google+ Account. Sign-up for a Gmail Account and you will be prompted to create a Google+ account. After finding your coworkers using their Google+ Account handles, you will be able to see when they are available for a Google Hangout on the left panel of your Google+ screen. Google Hangout not only offers screen share but also onscreen applications and collaboration tools. Text chats can even be automatically saved to your Gmail for later reference. For step-by-step instructions on Google+ and Google Hangout, visit Martin Shervington's Ultimate Guide.
2. Throw Away the Flash Drives
If you are still using flash drives or (worse) 'burning' any sort of CD/DVD to send large files, stop immediately. Not only are these tools prone to being stolen or becoming corrupt, but they also tend to tie-up teams collaborating on a single document adding an entire process of merging the most up-to-date project versions from multiple collaborators. Instead, load these non-sensitive files to the cloud and allow for multiple users to edit the same document at the same time.
A number of cloud-based storage drives are available on the market including Dropbox, Sky Drive, and Waula, but by far the best is again a Google product. Google Drive is an excellent cloud based storage service which integrates seamlessly with Google Docs and the aforementioned Google+/Gmail systems. Google Drive and Docs improve productivity and collaboration by enabling different work streams to access and work on the same information simultaneously. Google Drive comes standard with a free 10gb of storage capacity, which can be upgraded for a fee. Microsoft Office documents can be uploaded to the system and actively edited in your browser by multiple collaborators at the same time — doing away with the latest version musical chairs that companies tend to do with collaborative projects. When you are ready to send the document out, simply download it from your drive and the original file can remain there as a back-up.
Again, Google Drive's power comes from its integration with other Google services. Files can be downloaded to mobile devices and can be locked or shared with any number of different groups within your Google+ community.
3. Pulling the Plug on Office Phones
The majority of households in the United States have cut the chord and gotten rid of their home landline phones. So the question is, why are businesses so absorbed with this 19th century technology? The phone has been a desk staple since the early-1950s but the market for office phone services has declined by nearly one-third in recent years. Due to an increasingly mobile workforce and proliferation of mobile smartphones, companies have been opting to forgo the phone-for-every-desk model and instead reimburse employees for mobile plans. Not only does this make it easier to stay connected with teams as they travel or work remotely, but it also encourages the implementation of mobile productivity applications.
One such social media application making waves is Evernote, a cross-platform application that automatically syncs notes to your team's computers, tablets, or mobile devices allowing members to support each other on the go. Evernote allows users to share text, webpage or webpage excerpts, images, voice recordings, or even handwritten notes with file attachments. These can then be categorized, searched, collaborated on, edited, and exported. Evernote improves the productivity and collaboration of teams by enabling them to quickly share notes and references on the go, easily distribute and get feedback on new ideas, and to help give supporting functional arguments in real-time.
How to Become More Productive and Collaborative
Over fifty years ago, computer theorist J.C.R Licklider foresaw "in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly.... the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today." It is without a doubt that technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives and has enriched the means by which we live and work. Even more, social media technologies have not just improved how we work individually, but how we work amongst our teams and organizations. In order to remain competitive, making productivity improvements and enhancing collaboration through technologies is not just a distant objective but a present day priority.
This guide is far from a complete view of the technologies available to the workforce and more solutions are being released everyday. To implement at your company, take these small, meaningful steps to determine what works for your organization's needs.
1. Find your time suckers: You cannot propose a solution until you determine the problem. Where is your team wasting time? Is it checking email or spending hours on repetitive conference calls? Log your hours during the week and spot your team's lost efficiency.
2. Start with something free: The technologies we discussed such as Google Drive, Google Hangout, and Evernote are all free products but can be upgraded with additional features. Choose a free version to determine if it is a technology that suits your team.
3. Start with something small: Choose a certain weekly meeting to be replaced by Hangout, a small team of close collaborators to use Evernote, or working off one document on Google Drive. Make one person a technology evangelist who will push others to use the tool and answer any questions.
4. Measure your productivity improvement: After taking time to adequately instill product use among your pilot initiative, again, log the hours spent during a week performing specific tasks. Compare the results against the initial hours spent. You can then determine a ROI for using a tool by calculating cost-per-hour saved. This will give you the basis of an argument for a larger roll out.
What technologies do you want to learn more about? Which are you currently using that are working for your team? Leave us a comment below!