5 unexpected benefits of being a social organisation

Bromford Housing in Wolverhampton. If only every employer was like them. Why? Because they've embraced this digital stuff. And their world didn't end. It actually got better. Here's what they learned.

by GUEST EDITOR Paul Taylor

It’s little over two years since Bromford lifted any restrictions on social media and offered complete freedom to every single colleague. 

And it’s almost impossible to remember what life was like before the wall came down.

Hundreds of Bromford people have online profiles and blogs and membership of our internal Yammer covers almost all colleagues.

Truth be told we didn’t really know what we were unleashing. We didn’t know how it would change us or the organisation.

Perhaps that’s how it should be.

The Social web is organic, messy and uncontrollable. And that’s why it’s so much fun – it’s relentlessly unpredictable.

One of the problems of making a business case about use of social media is that you genuinely can’t anticipate what the results will be.

Things get democratised , decisions get made in public , people form their own communication channels and networks.

Scary. Exciting. And Unexpected.

Here’s my pick – 5 things we could never have predicted:

Your Brand Can Go Global

If you let your people run loose on social media , guess what happens? They become brand ambassadors. It’s natural – most people are proud of what they do for a living and they like to talk about it.

On the social web this has a unique power as you move beyond broadcasting the latest company press release. Your community is now engaging with you through the emotional bond they have with your people.

And your brand moves way beyond its usual stomping ground. I’ve seen Bromford content posted on sites in South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico.  All the way from Wolverhampton.

Second Screening Becomes The New Water Cooler

When you bring the social walls down – you obliterate the way company news is distributed. It no longer exists within 9-5 boundaries and doesn’t face the geographic limitations of an office.

A great deal of our daily communications are done in the evening, or at weekends , as colleagues chat with each other from tablets or mobiles whilst watching TV. The second screen provides a link to each other in ways the physical workplace cannot. This is incredibly inclusive – particularly for colleagues who spend a good deal of their day out and about talking to customers.

Recently I found out about a colleague getting a promotion from one of my Twitter followers who has nothing to do with Bromford. The division between internal and external communications is blurring. How weird and wonderful is that?

Social is the New Internal Interview

In the social workplace you find out peoples passions and skills outside of formal settings.  What music they like , what films they love. Their ambitions for the future. Leaders have the opportunity to get to know people like never before.

And it’s a way of spotting talent.

I’ve currently got a colleague working on a project for me. I didn’t need to interview them. I knew from reading their blog they were the right person.

Work Has No Boring Bits

In the social organisation if a meeting is boring you can just go online.

OK, I exaggerate for effect. But the digital leader knows they must be engaging to an increasingly distracted audience. Death by PowerPoint just doesn’t cut it anymore. 

Meetings have morphed into far more interactive, co-owned forums that make use of presentation styles like PechaKucha , Haiku Deck and Prezi to engage and collaborate with colleagues.

People share what’s happening in their meetings in real time on Yammer.

The agenda just got crowdsourced.

You Start Talking Like Normal People

Social transforms the organisation’s tone of voice. 

Our workplace language has been developed through years of formality – the daily grind of reports and emails. And without us knowing it we passed our jargon on to our customers.

But if you start talking like that in the social space – you look a bit odd. Real people don’t talk about Stakeholders and Efficiencies.

So you start talking you do in real life. Because social is real life. And your customers will love you for it.

These are my unexpected benefits – I’m sure there are loads more and I’d love to hear other people’s experience.

Paul Taylor is ‎Lead on Innovation, Service Design, Research and Development at Bromford Housing.

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