Businesses have a growing appetite for social collaboration tools that integrate into employees' daily workflow. These tools facilitate people coming together to share information in the pursuit of common goals in the workplace. The internet, via social media, offers a key environment for such interactions, but web tools don't represent all processes that help employees work optimally as a team.
Social collaboration — also known as enterprise social networking — tools are private to the companies using them and are subject to each firm's security controls. The tools often include features such as chat rooms, instant messaging, teleconferencing and one-on-one video chat, file sharing, and other collaborative functions. The technology provides a robust environment for colleagues to work, create and develop together, and the tools grow even more powerful when they integrate with companies' human capital management (HCM) systems.
That’s why HR teams are ideally positioned to make the case for social collaboration tools in an organization. HR staffs often face heavy administrative burdens in terms of employee questions and data management from employees. They welcome ways to alleviate this stress to focus on more strategic initiatives.
Social collaboration tools promote process-level, organizational changes
Research has found that social tools — primarily message-based platforms — can enhance employees' ability to communicate freely and organize efforts with team members. Because of widespread familiarity with social media, many workers will readily adapt to the tools' functions, such as obtaining information, exchanging files, making revisions, and routing projects for approval.
Respondents to a 2017 study on social tools by McKinsey & Co., a U.S. worldwide management consulting firm, found that their fellow employees rely more often on social methods of communication than on traditional methods in their work.
Today's dynamic workplaces often blend off-site employees, cross-functional teams, and independent contractors. Regardless of geographic distance, staff members need to communicate and collaborate in real time. Message-based platforms such as Facebook Workplace can help connect workers across locations, promote the generation of new ideas, and hold everyone to project deadlines.
The tools promote wider process-level and organizational changes. The McKinsey & Co. research found that employees using message platforms communicate more often with one another. Respondents specified that the technology has shifted the focus of their work to projects, rather than teams or specific functions. However, most executives said that they use social technologies as supplements to preferred older methods of communication at work: email, telephone, etc.
Business benefits of social collaboration tools
Collaborative networks in the workplace offer myriad benefits to businesses. They can:
- Help orient new employees, allowing them to review and study important company materials at their own pace and in locations outside the workplace. New hires gain easy access to information about organizational reporting and co-workers' job descriptions, and learn where to find answers quickly.
- Facilitate the review and return of employee documents to HR, and allow them to share and update their information.
- Greatly reduce the need for employees to ask HR staff for certain information. For example, time-off balances, paycheck amounts, and retirement savings records are immediately available when the social collaboration software works with the firm's HCM system.
- Be used by senior executives to announce new initiatives, invite employee participation in workplace discussions, and share content for the company's social media platforms.
- Improve communication among departments, defying internal "silos."
- Hold team and one-on-one meetings via telephone and shared screens.
- Provide individualized news feeds and company updates.
- Give companies a fact-based view of their workforces and the ability to identify employee trends.
When social collaboration tools integrate with HCM systems that give staff instant access to documents and information, they become integral to an organization.
Company goals shape the uses of social collaboration tools
The McKinsey & Co. survey noted that social collaboration can "enable organizational change, [but] not fundamentally change the way organizations work on their own." Company leaders must set the goals they want to achieve with the technology and choose the best tools to meet their objectives.
Social collaboration tools can have impacts beyond workplace efficiency. A 2017 Paychex survey found that 75 percent of HR leaders believe that advances in technology can help open the door for them and secure them a place in executive leadership. Businesses can raise their chances for success with HR teams who are willing to accommodate changes in their responsibilities: keeping up with technology, and partnering with leadership to execute corporate strategy.