View: ‘Social’ CEOs align the workforce

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A group of diverse people talk in social media speech communicat

A group of diverse people talk in social media speech communicat

“Social CEO” is a buzz term to describe chief executives who embrace social media tools within an organisation. These provide an effective way to bypass top-heavy management structures and provide more open access to “community knowledge” – the sharing of information to achieve a joint purpose within the workplace.

Such community knowledge often includes surprising perspectives and unexpected ways of thinking about problems.

Most chief executives sense that social media represent an important breakthrough for business communications, but are uncertain about how best to use the technology to gain a market advantage. The problem is most chief executives have trouble grasping the difference between information from social media that can be made use of, “usable social media”, and “social noise”.

You have to start by understanding that usable social media are data from social media portals that can improve the business. Social noise is the overflow of random posts and feeds that can drown out the underlying nuggets of meaning.

In business, this outpouring of noise stems from those tools that allow everybody to communicate with everybody else. Such a free-for-all can create a chaotic flood of information, causing a hard core to chatter nonstop, while others disengage.

To cut through all this noise, business leaders need to reconnect with their employees, partners and customers.

The main issue involves finding the advice and ideas you really need from specialists spread out across an organisation. One decentralised way to gather this knowledge involves internal crowdsourcing software.

Crowdsourcing allows input into a project to come from many areas. Crowdsourcing software provides a vehicle to produce fresh insights that will yield competitive benefits. It allows social chief executives to contain, control and curate social media conversations, rather than hosting unwanted social free-for-alls.

Social chief executives use internal crowdsourcing to identify knowledge assets or information resources from a distributed group of contributors. Crowdsourcing tools include open surveys and user-generated knowledge systems that aggregate and share the information.

In order to succeed, social chief executives first need to control which audiences take part in each initiative. For instance, some crowdsourcing projects might involve internal employees, while others only tap external partners or suppliers.

Another way to manage shared knowledge involves focusing crowd-sourced projects on certain specific topics, while blocking out other subjects to be avoided.

Leaders can also curate their initiatives by allowing some comments to be anonymous so as to solicit frank feedback, while requiring other comments to be clearly identified, such as when voting on shared priorities.

Employees can contribute, comment and vote on ideas about how to improve business processes and services. By applying this format for collective intelligence, the best ideas soon rise to the top.

Any employee, regardless of position, background or experience, gets a chance to submit a unique idea. In addition, the group can vote on the best ways to implement their shared plans. This democratic approach increases buy-in from staff, resulting in a more motivated employees and better aligned teams.

In this way, social chief executives can generate better communications, improve the brand image, and raise employee morale. Think of the social chief executive as an expert in socialising leadership across an organisation, while instilling project ownership into the whole team, in order to achieve a set of shared goals.

The writer, Hayes Drumwright, is the founder of PoP, a crowdsourcing website for IT professionals

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014

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