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Integrating Social Collaboration into Workflow

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Jeff Ross, Humana, and Timothy Young, SocialCast, at Net:Work 2010Companies are looking to implement more social tools within their internal structure and to engage employees in collaboration and knowledge-sharing. But how does company management do this effectively, beyond just picking the right technology? Analyst and futurist Stowe Boyd led a rousing discussion at GigaOm’s Net:Work conference Thursday, exploring how large companies can make changes internally and motivate team members to be involved in the process of moving toward more enterprise-wide collaborative processes.

When implementing a new system that inherently requires employee participation like an internal “social networking system” such as Socialcast (see disclosure), you have to let your employees choose to be there, “not be forced to be there.” So said Jeff Ross, Technology Business Consultant at health insurance giant Humana. Employees have to see an environment that calls to them and companies should make sure employees’ needs are met.

One of those needs is true, seamless integration of the technical tools they’re asked to use. Social collaboration tools should be at “every step of the workflow, not a separate place,” said Timothy Young, founder and CEO of Socialcast, who adds that companies need to take both a bottom up adoption approach as well as demonstrate top down support to pave the way for widespread adoption new technology such as collaboration systems.

Ross said that company management needs to understand what motivates their employees as well as know what behaviors they want to encourage. Motivations for adopting internal enterprise collaboration tools can be social interaction opportunities or getting answers to business problems or simply to help others.

Humana uses a “social reputation proxy” as Boyd put it as added incentive for employees to participate in their Socialcast collaboration community, nicknamed “Buzz,” including virtual badges, coins and trophies to demonstrate their participation level to fellow team members. Out of 28,000 Humana employees, about 7500 have joined “Buzz” since May without any formal company-wide efforts with about 1000 employees signing up each month.

With employee adoption and engagement of social collaboration tools, companies see improvement in key performance indicators, said Young.

Disclosure: SocialCast is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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