Enterprise Social Networking: Get Employees to Work Out Loud

Your enterprise social network should be a place where employee collaboration happens. “Collaboration” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But it’s easier said than done. It requires employees to “Work Out Loud” by being willing to go a bit out of their comfort zones — and for leaders to model certain behaviors. Working Out Loud, according to Dion Hinchcliffe, is “perhaps the most fundamental digital workplace skill.”

Working Out Loud is a different approach to behaviors and relationships that you can use to grow and nurture your enterprise social network. In this post, we’ll focus on the beneficial behaviors that your employees experience by Working Out Loud.

Practice. Trust. Comfort. Evoke.

These are not always easy for employees, however. Getting people started on the Work Out Loud path requires trust and lots of practice, says James Tyer of SWOOP Analytics. Tyer shares stories of and some of the evocative questions that he used to get WOL started in a Yammer environment. Once trust and participant comfort is established, imagine how powerful it is to have a safe place for people to ask and answer even more open-ended questions that Tyer uses:

  • What is a challenge you can’t solve alone?
  • What work system or process frustrates you and you wish you could change – and how?

Notice the focus of the second question is on systems and processes, not people? That’s a great approach to managing the risk and fear of Working Out Loud. If an employee is hesitant to discuss challenges and relationships openly, give them the opportunity to narrate about something safe. This will build comfort for deeper sharing in the future.

Areas of Opportunity + Challenge for Working Out Loud in the Enterprise

Working Out Loud in your enterprise social network can lead to employee-originated innovation, but getting it established and helping it grow beyond small teams will be a path that quickly encounters trouble from organizational structures and hierarchy. In researching informal networks in the enterprise, Harvard Business Review found potential for innovation existed in employee communication channels that were not formalized. They found that active shaping and cultivation of those networks by companies would produce innovations vs. letting social networks grow without structure. These findings are areas of opportunity for Working Out Loud to be used in combination with human social networks: harness organic innovation by facilitating the practice of Working Out Loud among members of these enterprise social networks.

Managers, on the other hand can present micro-level obstacles to the success of Working Out Loud. A 2015 study by Gallup showed that 50 percent of employees leave their companies sometime in their career because of a bad boss. Conversely, managers can be key enablers for Working Out Loud. In these examples, managers can help model generosity, amplify to make their team members’ efforts visible, best enable purposeful discovery, and model a growth mindset for others around them (hopefully inside an active enterprise social network).

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