Chapter 11: Online Office and Collaboration


Some organizations are so small that they either do not have a need or cannot afford to create an internal intranet to collaborate and network with other individuals within the organization. On the other hand, there are some organizations that are so large that they cannot afford to use social media platforms to engage their employees for privacy and security reasons. Yes, social media platform or technology is the answer for both the needs! The smaller organization prefers to use existing social media platforms, whereas the larger one creates a social networking site of its own for internal references. Some companies that are making use of social media efficiently for internal collaboration in the organization either use the tool in an impromptu manner or as a testing pilot to experiment at a smaller level in a department or among a group of employees.

Junior-level executives who are glued to the trend of social media love channels such as blogs, social networking sites, and video platforms because they are entertaining and adds to the social element to both personal and professional lifestyles. However, senior-level executives in an organization are reasonably cynical about social media’s impact on productivity of employees and profits of business. Social media tools in an organization are increasingly becoming adopted as tools for collaboration, networking, and information sharing and thus bringing changes to the traditional business operations process.

Leveraging Social Media Technologies inside Organization

This chapter takes the context in a little unusual direction; I derive suggestions and ideas based on what exactly Cognizant is doing and how your organization can benchmark the strategies put in place by Cognizant

By the way, Cognizant Ishanaa, a New Jersey-based IT services company with several thousand employees in India, seems to be implementing social media with clear business benefits internally in the organization. The company has leveraged social media platform that has integrated knowledge management, work management, and partner engagement strategies (Figure 11.1). The various stakeholders of Cognizant have their own profiles that highlight their expertise, work experiences, and business expertise serving different purposes based on three different strategies. The point of amalgamation of these three strategies is a content-in-context professional network.

Through the social media technology, the organization and its stakeholders have benefitted in various ways; some of them are as follows.

  1. Connecting Employees: Social media technologies internally have helped employees share knowledge with other like-minded individuals, which remain constructively inside the compound of an organization. Better connected employees produce better ideas together.
  2. Build Community: Social media platform has helped build community around a particular topic, cause, interest, or skills. Many CSR and gogreen activities are carried out using this platform.
  3. Talent Opportunity: Management brought change and talent management through social media, which could easily discover artistic and professional skill-based talents in employees. Cognizant employees enhance their personal brands through thought leadership—sharing their research with others and engaging in dialogue with industry experts and practitioners.
  4. Availability of Thoughts: The knowledge shared on the internal platform is pertaining to project-specific inquiries, needs of the client, current industry trends, or conversations on recent policies in the organization. As the knowledge shared is in conversational or questionand-answer format, this cannot be stored in the content repository— but this can be located and found easily enough through social ties, the personal relationships among colleagues. The knowledge shared and stored helps employees learn, which in turn increases the productivity of employees.
  5. Client Relationships: As employees are part of this platform, the company also invites clients and industry partners to tap into the knowledge platform and share their relevant expertise and experiences thus helping develop or maintain client relationships. They also update about the current trends and changes in the industry, policies.

Social media platform that connects partners, clients, employees, and key decision makers in the organization forms a virtuous cycle.

Employees learn from other employees through blogs, wikis, tagging, bookmarking, and other community-based activities, which also helps brand in effective project management as well as employee engagements.

Cognizanti: Project and industry knowledge are shared with Cognizant’s business partners.

Organization, in turn, learns from clients and industry experts about market place.

The above case study shows enormous potential of having an internal social media platform, serving different purposes and immensely helping organizations in different ways.

Many large or small organizations are skeptical about investing in designing an internal platform. To them the existing social media platforms can be a handy solution to test and decide or the platforms can be a solution by itself if properly governed. As understood from the example above by Cognizant, (Table 11.1), social media is not only a value-added medium for marketing, but there are many benefits of this wonderful medium. Many organizations have banned the use of social media inside the organization, i.e., access to social networking sites via computers at work place is banned. Not so long ago, companies that had banned social networking websites at workplace to restrict their employees from spending too much time on it are now realizing its worth in increasing the bonding between its employees. Let us have a close look at the case of India’s biggest power back-up company, Su-Kam Power Systems Ltd.

Case Study 11.1: How Su-Kam Used Facebook Groups to Connect Its Employees:

Su-Kam is headquartered in Gurgaon but has branches throughout the country, and it has a dealer network of more than 20,000, worldwide. It also has offices in Dubai and Nigeria and has its presence in more than 70 countries. When a company is so spread out and diverse, managing the employees and keeping them motivated becomes challenging. The company noticed that there was a lack of communication among its various offices, and the work done by individuals in different departments often went unnoticed. Frequent e-mail blasts to make announcements or appreciate the great happenings in the country were still useful but it was clearly evident that something was missing. It is then that the company decided to turn to Facebook for improving its internal communication and marketing.

Case Study 11.2: Su-Kam’s Social Media Scene

Though the company has had a blog, pages on Facebook, and a Twitter account, the employees were not allowed to access Facebook from the office. When the company set a group on Facebook, which was exclusively meant from all its employees, this restriction was lifted. As the point of having a group was to ensure frequent communication between the various departments and branches of the company, the employees were encouraged to join the group and make posts related to their work or how they felt about the company; of course, a social media policy was put in place to regulate obscene content, enormous negativity, and only topics related to work were allowed to discuss; if any employee found failing this condition, he or she is warned and later banned from the group. This change was welcomed by the employees, and the activity started increasing in the group.

Case Study 11.3: Meeting the Purpose

Employees of Su-Kam use this group for different aspects: connecting with other individuals, sharing information on fruitful completion of project or status of a project, news spotted in media with regards to the company, seeking help or solution for a particular problem in the company, support for a good cause (from CSR perspective), personal invitations to weddings, and sharing of fun-filled moments at work across various departments. To keep the employees’ engagement rolling, the admin organizes various contests on the platform to encourage participation and to crowd-source opinions. All of these conversations are personally governed by a team of social media specialists inside the organization and is regularly visited by the senior management and the conversations pertaining to the organization are responded by the management officials.

Facebook platform for employees at Su-Kam has helped in increasing transparency in the company. Employees are allowed to post their suggestions about how to make the company better, and make complaints if they are not happy. The most useful part is that everyone knows what is happening at the company by just visiting the group. The group administrator does not allow anyone else to be part of the group other than the employees of Su-Kam.

The company has also included a presentation on its social media presence in their inductions for new employees. The new employees are told about the Facebook group and are invited to join in. They often find it interesting that the company is asking them to spend time on Facebook and learn from experiences.

Case Study 11.4: Some Sample Examples of Communication Inside the Group

Example 1: Employees frequently post updates on their latest projects happening around the world.

Announcements similar to these are now made through the Facebook group. It is very motivating for employees to get a positive feedback about their work and ideas from their co-workers.

Employees are also welcome to share their ideas on how to help the society at large.

Distance is no more a barrier in communication. The Facebook group allows members to post from anywhere.

By seeing their co-workers win prizes, the employees are motivated to participate in contests that happen on Facebook.

Employees love sharing their happy moments at work with the group, online.

It is an excellent platform to pilot test new ideas.

This is a perfect example to show how everyone becomes ‘one’ when it comes to help their co-workers. After learning about the demise of an employee, many volunteered to donate their salaries to the family of their late co-worker.

The group has about 500 members out of the total staff of more than 2000; the increasing activity points out toward the success of the group in getting all the employees connected with one another. The company now plans to start another group exclusively for its dealers who are located in different parts of the world.

Tips for Using Social Media for Engaging Employees

If you are planning to use social media technology to engage your employees and collaborate with them, you need to consider the following:

Start Small:

Understand how exactly a community on social network works for employee collaboration in a group of individuals before inviting the whole lot. Running a pilot test must involve both seniorand junior-level employees in an organization and run it from different communication aspects that can benefit the organization; however, at the same time, it entertains and encourages employees to contribute more to the ecosystem.

  • The pilot test must be run among 30–50 most active social network users in the organization.
  • Fix a community manager to initiate and regulate conversations and allow employees to freely express their thoughts (of course with some restrictions on aspects that do not hurt the values and sentiments of the organization and people).
  • Connect the HR team or HR manager to understand this process and record necessary and relevant conversations for future references.
  • Observe the user behavior and kind of communication pattern followed to address the queries raised by administration on behalf of the organization.
  • Understand and make analysis of what worked well and what did not in terms of engaging audiences and how the behavior is with regards to policies, processes, and employees of the organization.
  • Ask for feedback from the active participants.

Social Media Policy:

Many organizations across the world have started leveraging social media, if not they have started involving policies on social media regulating communications via employees about the organization. Incidents are coming to limelight when employee fails to follow the policy, thus losing their job. The social media policy usually conveys what and how the employees communicate about its organization or express their feelings toward any particular instance at work on any of the web or social network platforms.

While running a pilot, your focus point is to understand on those communication points published by the employees that do not fit with the values of the organization. Include all those do’s and don’ts of this network and make this policy a must-read and must-sign agreement. You must make this document also available on the network for the employees to access and set regular reminders of their behavioral controls. Once this is set and signed, use the same pilot model at the larger level—communicate and run campaign internally encouraging people to join your network for internal collaboration and communication.

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