Collaboration & Social Strategy: Part 4- Workforce of the Future

Katie Kurz
April 13, 2015

The generational divide within social networking tools is very important to note.  Industry studies[1] and the results from surveys and focus groups show a higher affinity to working within social networks toward Millennials and Generation-X than the Baby Boomers.  As the population of the workforce ages and retires, there will be pressure to utilize the same methods and tools at work that these younger generations use in their private lives.  These same pressures are at work across the broader United States and European zones.

Further, corporate culture was once an aspect of the individuals within a business and brought continuity by their tenure; expect that in the future job tenures will be briefer[2].  Corporate culture will be more dynamic, and much more defined by how new employees find and work with each other electronically, and how they collaborate with their broader network of clients, vendors and other parties outside of the company. 

Establishing a technical platform now with the capabilities for the future enables a company to begin the cultural transformation it needs to succeed in the 21st century.  While implementing additional tools for internal collaboration now may seem quite limited, it is very likely that a company’s partners are already expecting to interact with the company using secure means of online collaboration through extranets.  Assuming trends continue they would see the same pressure to adopt social networking means of collaboration with their broader economy.  It is in a company’s best interest to manage these platforms and control the conversation.

Survey results clearly show a trend in social network use among younger employees.  However, the average response on the use of social networks was higher than management’s readiness.  Over time, this sample company risks its broader employee base generally being more adept in use of social, non-linear means of communication and collaboration than its management.[3]


Public Social Networks

Public social networks, where most companies already have presence for marketing purposes, can be linked from an intranet for easy discovery.  They can even be syndicated to the site itself and federated into an enterprise search engine.  The content of public social networks will likely continue to be consumer-oriented, but may blend into external collaboration with enterprise customers. However, these efforts are strictly communications related in the context of an intranet and not enterprise social networking, or in the scope of this engagement. 

Social Collaboration Progression Model

The table below is a summary of the recently released Enterprise Social Collaboration Progression Model (University of Arizona Eller College of Management MBA Team; Microsoft Corporation, June 2013).  It correlates[4] strongly with the Intranet Maturity Framework™ published by Razorfish in the Corporate Intranets Best Practices Report (2006).  A company should view its progress toward the use of social collaboration as a journey of transformation.  It is not advisable to leap directly into advanced techniques. 



Existing Collaborative Efforts

Most companies have already adopted using electronically supported collaboration in some areas.  Most teams are making heavy use of WebEx, teleconferencing and email.  Sales teams have adopted Salesforce and Chatter.  SharePoint may be a final resting place for documents, not where they are created and reworked.  A barrier is seeing the application as an isolated tool, rather than a component of a specific behavior.  Most people will agree that they can do better, but may not know the way.

Adoption Approach

The best adoption practices will gradually build competency for collaboration within a company over time by introducing technologies in limited measures.  Not only does this allow individuals time to learn and refine new cyber-interpersonnel skills, but it also gives the company culture adequate time to adapt to increased employee feedback through their engagement and empowerment. 

However, most project sponsors desire to quickly advance to from stage one to four, with widespread availability and adoption of social networking.  A company can try hard with these adoption techniques in an accelerated period, but the consequence almost surely will be that some team and individuals are left behind. Those with lesser familiarity or understanding of social networking may be slow to adapt, leaving the organization at different levels of progress and acceptance.  This can be counterproductive to the goals of implementing social networking: specifically employee engagement and eliminating knowledge silos.  In addition, as noted, social networks must reach critical mass before they are fruitful.


[1] Corporate Executive Board, Corporate Leadership Council High Performance Survey, 2012.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tenure of American Workers, 2013

[3] Note that the reports are gauging two different things.  The Enterprise Social Collaboration Progression Model is measuring only collaboration, whereas Razorfish’s Corporate Intranets Best Practices Report examines intranets in their entirety.

[4] Source: Ascendum conducted focus groups.

Leave a Reply