Remote Workers take heed…a Social Business platform could help you avoid “disappearing”

“I wish I could work from home…” 

How many of us have said those exact words from time to time when sitting in our offices or cubes?  Working_from_home-wild

According to a Wall Street Journal article, corporate workers are working more from home than they did before. Vice President at market-research company IDC, Raymond Boggs told the WSJ that “the number of corporate employees who work from home at least one day a month has been growing by an average of 23% a year since 2007. Those working from home only one or two days a month are leading the trend: This pool grew by nearly 70% each year.”

Thinking how great it would be to work from home, saving money on gas, not having to get dressed in business attire every morning, and being there when your kids get home from school. At my current and for a short time my previous company, I was able to work from home, and I readily took advantage of the opportunity.

But…, I have to say I am NOT a fan of working from home.  In fact I will admit that when I worked in the corporate office and heard of someone who works from home or has an “alternative work arrangement”, my first thought was how much value could that person have if they are never in the office building working on building face-to-face relationships. “Out-of-sight, out-of-mind” is how I defined these Remote Workers.

It turns out, I might be right. A recent study by researchers at MIT-Sloan, called “Why Showing Your Face Matters”, authored by Kimberly Elsbach and Daniel Cable, shows that the lack of “Passive Face Time” negatively impacts the performance evaluations of virtual or remote employees. The premise is that managers do not even realize that they are negatively rating remote workers, but these perceptions have real impact on promotions, pay raises, layoffs, etc.

The perception stems from two (2) types of “Passive Face Time”. The first type is called “Expected Face Time”. Employees physically being in the office during normal working hours; interacting with their peers and managers.

The second type is called “Extracurricular Face Time”. This is when employees come in early, stay late, work weekends, and beyond normal business hours. According to the study, it turns out that your peers and managers DO notice that effort, and it impacts the overall perception of your work.

Make sure you attend all Company-Sponsored events, like cookouts and holiday parties so the employees can match your name with your face.  Also I highly recommend putting your profile picture on all of your presentations and documents so those reading them can link your face to your work.  This makes for a powerful connection in the organization.

Can a Social Business Platform can help alter these perceptions?

When I read this story, I had mixed emotions.  Since I work from home full time now, I realized I am susceptible to these perceptions from my manager(s) that I do not work the long hours commensurate with my profession.  Now, since I do Social Collaboration for a living, I already follow some basic tenets to ensure my peers and managers have positive “Passive Face Time” interactions with me.   

Those of you who are Remote Workers, new to Social Collaboration,  and your company has deployed a Social Business Platform, you have the opportunity to increase your “Passive Face Time” with others in the company. If your company does not have a Social Business Platform, you can still utilize some of the tips below, but it might be more difficult as the various tools and technologies won’t be centralized and linked together.

So here are some of my tips to make sure you Remote Workers remain visible and on the mind of your peers, manager(s), and company leadership:

Intranet & Key Personal

  1. Find out who the Corporate Communications personal are that are responsible for internal communications. “FOLLOW” them on the Social Software Platform.
  2. If Corporate Communications are not using the Social Business Platform, ask how you can receive as many email alerts and notifications as possible pertaining to internal communications. This way you stay aware and can comment on corporate news and events.
  3. Ask how your Blog posts can be prominently featured on the corporate Intranet.
  4. Suggest starting a featured Blog, Video Blog or Newsletter on the corporate Intranet so your thought-leadership can be seen by the masses.

Corporate Profiles

  1. Make sure you put a current picture on your corporate profile.
  2. Fill out as much information on your profile; Projects, skills, interests, etc.
  3. Search out and “Follow” as many of the leadership in the company so in the event they post, you will be notified and can comment on their postings

Groups, Communities, Spaces, etc.

  1. Learn how to be a valuable Community Manager & Community Member.
  2. Use non-working time to learn these skills from sources on the Internet, and ask the Enterprise Community Manager and other Community Managers for resources on learning this key organizational skill.
  3. Create Communities and Groups that focus on important topics.  Invite others to join from beyond your immediate peer group.
  4. Make sure your manager is either part of the community or knows of your efforts.
  5. Join other communities, being able to participate and provide value.  Post frequently various stories, videos, and images that are important to the community or group members, soliciting discussions and conversations.
  6. Ask your manager how the role of Community Manager and organizational contributor can be part of your annual performance objectives.
  7. DOCUMENT all your efforts and provide Quarterly status reports to your manager.

Discussions, Posts, Walls, Videos, Q&A

  1. Post Questions on important topics, topics that impact the company, and solicit large numbers of peers to answer and comment.
  2. Do NOT settle for 1 or 2 reply answers. Keep pushing for more participation, even if you have to ask for additional verification of answers to questions posted by your peers.
  3. Once the thread has some good content, share the thread and email your manager(s), inserting the link to the discussion. Ask for additional POV, advice and opinions on the topic and thread.
  4. Author and contribute in as many business-centric discussion threads as possible.
  5. Engage with other managers as well as your peers in order to build a reputation as someone who has knowledge on multiple topics.
  6. Post answers and comments often, making sure to share your POV with as many peers as possible.
  7. Be slightly provocative in your engagements. Be highly respectful and make sure your points are well sourced, but CHALLENGE conventional points of view, and admit when you’re wrong.  This will build your thought leadership skills, and the perceptions from leadership is you are always looking to improve on conventional thought.
  8. When posting, answering, and commenting…use [@]Mention as much as possible and link back to previous posts from other managers and Sr. Leadership. Do not just mention them to mention them…make sure the mentions are in context to the conversation, otherwise you will be seen in a negative manner (aka, butt kisser)
  9. Ensure the TIMESTAMPS of your posts indicate your sharing, learning, collaborating is taking place throughout the day.
  10. Email those who are not using the Social Business Platform about the discussions, invoking their participation and feedback.
  11. Create and Post Videos about relevant company topics, making sure to use your face somewhere in the video. If possible have peers contribute their POV to the video too, perhaps even create departmental videos.
  12. Mark all of your valuable and important discussions as “favorites” in the Social Business Platform so you can find them quickly when it comes time to prepare for your Performance Reviews.

In Closing…

Now I know this seems like tons of extra work, and it is, but if you agree with the findings of the MIT-Sloan study, the rewards will be worth the time invested. One key finding from the MIT-Sloan study indicated:

“Managers were 9% more likely to unconsciously attribute the traits “dependable” and “responsible” to people who put in expected face time and 25% more likely to unconsciously attribute the traits “committed” and “dedicated” to people who put in extracurricular face time”

They key point is; if you work remotely and want to improve your value within the company, being digitally visible will make a difference.  I think if you’re able to demonstrate your participation to the overall organizational knowledge pool, then you might find yourself tagged a “High Valued Employee”, even if you are hardly in the office.

So good luck and remember it can pay to…  “WORK OUT LOUD”

*If anyone has other tips and tricks, please put them in the comments section, and I will expand the list accordingly.

Today’s Social Business, we need “SIMPLE” and all about the “Me”

Social Business Programs have not penetrated the enterprise to many factions outside of Global Marketing and perhaps segments of the IT organization. In fact what aspects of Social Business tenets penetrate, does not remain a sustainable and viable usage over time. Early excitement gives way to frustration and a sense that to be more collaborative, open, sharing requires far too many complex processes, and seemingly lacks focus on the “Me”. My needs, my desires to make work simpler, to be able to “Work out Loud”[1]

SocialBiz_roadsign-1In almost every company, Social Business or Social Collaboration was brought into the enterprise through the IT department. Since IT is seen as an operating function or worse a utility, all new technologies must undergo financial scrutiny to ensure there is a Return on Investment for the efforts. For early Social practitioner such as myself, we were forced to tell a story how Social could provide productivity gains or some other cost cutting effort in order to get business case approvals and have a chance to sell the organizational strategy CxO and various leadership teams.

Thankfully, that has now changed to some degree. With all the press coverage and analysts coverage on the anticipated and recognized value of Social Media inside and outside the enterprise, perceptions for financial ROI as the sole benefit for deploying Social Business programs have slowly evolved.  The leadership in many companies are more willing to invest in Social Software and Social Programs without that explicit ROI.  However Social Software and Social programs have still not penetrated enterprises like many thought would happen by this time.

I think part of that is due to the IT organization leading the charge, and thus Social is thought of as another tool in the arsenal of which too many tools already exists. IT is infamous for solving problems with tools, and not solutions. That argument however is for another post. Smile

In my opinion Social Software Vendors have NOT introduced holistic solution to the enterprise which makes it SIMPLE to collaborate across the entire organization or within smaller groups. Nor have they focused the efforts of the “Me”.

The “Me” is to tailor the Social Platform solution to really make it easy and simple to reach out to “You”, to then expand that to the “We”, and maybe to all of “Us” in terms of providing an easy way to collaborate from the one to the many inside and outside the enterprise.

For a Social Business it all starts with the “Me”

As I have built Social Business Programs, the repeatable observation is that the individual begins the process:

of sharing,

of informing,

of teaching,

of learning,

of collaborating,

of trusting,

of innovating

of working out loud..

I look at this as the “ME”-“YOU”-“WE”-“US” effect Social has in the human process of building and cultivating relationships.

As the individual cannot accomplish much on their own, the “Me” expands to include “You”, helping to build those connections, those emotional ties to the co-worker. As I build the relationship with another individual, I start to share ideas, opinions are formed, reformed, and if the relationship flourishes, trust begins to grow. This can be multiplied over and over throughout many areas of the organization as I build out my network.

The next level expands to include “We”, those of us in the team, or department, or business unit or function. Our building of trust is the key in establishing relationships which become the foundation of a Social Business. Expanding my network to include new persons to which I must build relationships to get work done.  I look to form close working ties in order to accomplish tasks, but still want to build trusting bonds to be able to share my ideas, to inform, teach, learn, and hopefully improve myself and my stature in the organization.

In the “We” stage, leadership is absolutely critical to set the tone for how employees can work together, and how a positive culture is cultivated that rewards sharing, learning, teaching, mentoring and overall acceptance of new ideas.

The co-creation for the “Us” can occur across the enterprise when individual stakeholders feel a level of comfort in espousing their opinions, facts, and points-of-view to internal and external stakeholders. The “Us” looks to build a culture that exhibits rapid and accurate decision-making processes, while leveraging the collective energy and efforts of the organization. Be creating these feedback channels can then be inserted into the co-creation process, this reinforces the “Me” to continually look to improve my value to the company knowing my efforts to improve myself, my peers, and my organization are not going to result in negative reactions and pressures from peers and leadership.

Social is not SIMPLE

In the early days we had several niche vendors selling the concepts of Social Software. Emergent software and technologies that paved the way to building the more well-known vendors we have today; Yammer, Salesforce, Jive, SocialCast, IBM, etc. These vendors have taken the software model to an introductory level and have all done a good job of promoting the ideas that Social Software could provide. We now see the consolidation of social platform vendors being gobbled up by bigger fish to empower their own offerings as the Social Software space matures. These vendors as I said did a good job, but something is still missing. Vendors have been building software, but what they need to build are “Solutions” that provide a simple method to co-create !

Recall how we heard all this talk on how email was going away. How a few companies banned email, how social was better than email (it is!), or how email really depressed the collaboration energies inside companies (it can)…  But no one addressed the obvious…email is easy. Email is a tool that you know exactly what you can do and expect from its use. The fact is Email just works!

So why have the masses not moved on from using email?

Because being Social is NOT SIMPLE!

The sheer amount of social software from vendors is pretty extensive, but the overall ease of which a single employee can simply extract value from socially collaborating with others is still challenging. This can attributed to the lack of standards in how Social Software works, and NOT enough focus on the Social Program’s Solutionin terms of impacting the set of processes necessary to produce collaborative relationships.

Where is the concept of integrating the elements of social into the day-in-the-life processes for the sole worker to solve a problem, aka Social Program Solution? Really focusing on how workers completed tasks, collaborated, shared information in a very simple descriptive way will be the way to bring wide scale adoption and profound use of these Social Programs.

SIMPLE - graphic

I think there is a lack of focus on solving the physical and mental efforts required by individuals to change the way they work. Social Software vendors have missed out on this, but hopefully, vendors are going to be quick to catch-up. They need to make things SIMPLE. 

“Social platforms need to be fully integrated into the employees processes to provide less effort in being collaborative.”

How Social is not SIMPLE today

Why Social is Not Simple

So this has employees asking

What is the deal?” …..”I thought Social technology/platforms was to solve all this finding stuff, being able to reach out to people stuff and make my life easier…?”

“This Is So FrustratingBetter to just send the email in the first cryingasianbabyplace, or maybe just call them on the phone, assuming they answer…Why does IT keep sticking tools out there that don’t work like I need them to?”

So again I have to ask in looking at the above real world scenarios, where is having and using Social Software making anything really that much easier?

From my point of view, email is still the best, fastest, and most secure method to collaborate, even if it has many limitations.

Now don’t just think putting some email plugin is the answer.  I think the ability to be “Social”, sharing information, content, whatever you want to share, comment, post needs to be available from any application, any browser session, anyplace, on any device. For Social to become part of the DNA of the corporate worker, Social needs to be easy, needs to be simple, have almost no boundaries.  Long term changes in behaviors are often accelerated from the path of least resistence…although reward and recognition are just as important.

Making it SIMPLE for “Me”

The time has come for Social Software Vendors to rethink their strategy to make the Social platforms SIMPLE and easy to use, and focusing that simplification for “Me”. Speaking to employees, they continually are frustrated as the communication on how this new way to collaborate would improve their work lives, increase their ability to participate with new ideas, and help the company. After a short time however, the shine is replaced with tarnish as the reality sinks in that this new way to work increases their efforts, can be confusing, and in the end really changes little across the organization.


[1] Bryce Williams, Eli Lilly

What “Social…From the Trenches” will be about

Social Trenches touches everything

This blog will be providing viewpoints on how Social Networking, Social Collaboration, Social what-ever-you-want-to-call-it is being received in enterprises, and how the progress is going,

Potential Topics:

1. Social glass ceiling? or necessary insulation? (coming soon)

2. If you become a Social Business, how does that affect your IT Department?

3. Selling in a social world… it is not your daddy’s sales cycle anymore!

4. Social CRM (sCRM)..it is all about the Relationships, or is it?

5. Social ERP, more than just approvals and shipping.

6. “Culture eats Strategy for lunch”  and Culture is very hungry

7. We’re not herding cats: we’re herding tigers..and they bite! (my own saying)