the blog of dan pontefract | Should Employees Schedule Time To Be Social?
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Should Employees Schedule Time To Be Social?

It didn’t start with a tweet. It started while I was on stage moderating an open forum panel in front of 220 people with five executives.

I asked a question, “how do you manage all of your priorities between work, family, friends, fun and health?” The answers on stage were honest, authentic and inspiring. But in mid-stream to their poignant answers, my mind began wandering.

Here were five executives on stage — plus me — all being social through a face-to-face exchange of advice, counsel and guidance to an audience full of eager learners. The questions were flowing, the dialogue was refreshing, yet something was still bugging me.

And then it hit me. I nearly fell off the stool I was perched on. We were all present because it was scheduled. It was in our calendars. Panelists, moderator and the audience … we were there being social because it was scheduled.

20130914-134232.jpgThat “it” I’m referring to above is my latest contemplation. Should employees — whether executives or otherwise — actually be scheduling time in their day to be ‘social’ when using collaboration technologies?

All the way back in 2005, Molly McLure Wasko and Samer Faraj contributed research to MIS Quarterly entitled “Why Should I Share? Examining Social Capital and Knowledge Contribution in Electronic Networks of Practice” (MIS Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Special Issue on Information Technologies and Knowledge Management (Mar., 2005), pp. 35-57) It’s a fascinating piece confirming what still exists eight years later.

The more present and active you are in online communities, the more you and your organization benefits.

In this age of working from home, remote workforces and über mobility, it’s now becoming even more critical to the success and development of both employees and executives to get ‘social’. Reputation in the organization might be a harbinger to consider. Wasko and Faraj state, “the results indicate that a significant predictor of individual knowledge contribution is the perception that participation enhances one’s professional reputation.” They go on to indicate “cognitive social capital plays a vital role underlying knowledge contribution.”

So, back to my thesis. If contributing back and engaging with others is healthy, educating and it builds reputation, should we be advocating employees to schedule time in their calendars to utilize social collaboration tools? I raise the question because the utilization of social tools in the organization isn’t anywhere near 100% yet.

In the 2012 IBM study “Leading Through Connections“, 1,709 CEO’s and leaders were asked a series of questions about internal and external collaboration. Just over half stated they were going to increase the use and promotion of internal social tools. What IBM should have asked, however, was how these CEO’s and leaders were going to actually get their people to use said tools. Consider Gartner, who predict “that through 2015, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology.”

When I asked my Twitter network what they thought, I received a few interesting tidbits.

  • The CIO of the University of Victoria, Paul Stokes said, “Social should be dynamic not forced. That said social should be a daily focus to enable relationships and engagement. Further, scheduling social time for connecting does work in a busy schedule.”
  • Susan Scrupski of Change Agents Worldwide chimed in and observed that, “Social should be the fabric we weave in and through everything we do at work.”
  • Scotty Jackson, a colleague at TELUS said, “I suspect mandates will be met with resistance. People have to care, so [they] need to understand why it matters.”

I’m not wishing for the use of social tools inside an organization to be mandated but I also don’t want an employee’s view of them to remain intransigence; social tools do in fact build networks, knowledge and reputation.

20130914-134335.jpgWe’re all busy. For those that are part of the 1% (not that 1% the 1% that are the power contributors on social platforms ie. the 90-9-1 phenomenon) we have already built the behaviour of being social through the use of collaboration tools into our own work flow and time management plan. But, there are literally millions of employees who can’t figure out how to be social so perhaps the simple solution is to help them begin their transformation and development by a recommendation to allocate 30 minutes per day — booked in their calendar — to participate with the internal collaboration tools and communities that are at their fingertips.

It’s not a mandate rather a recommended new habit or practice. (scheduled like the open forum I was moderating on stage)

Samuel Johnson once said, “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.” The quote is magnificent but in the mobile organization of today and tomorrow, it is my belief we need to help those who aren’t yet contributing back to the knowledge ecosystem by recommending that they schedule 30 minutes a day for being social with an organization’s collaboration tools and technologies.

Otherwise, we may not know where to find “it”.

Thoughts?

7Comments

  • David Zinger / 16 September 2013 2:11

    Hi Dan:
    Great post. Yes the scheduling of social is going to make it happen more than leaving it to happenstance. I don’t schedule by a daily time but schedule 24 minutes or 48 minutes for social time. My number may be a little higher than average because of hosting a large network. Stay flat, be free, have fun…keep the army mobilized Dan.
    David

  • David Zinger / 16 September 2013 2:12

    One more thing, I will feature this blog post on the home page under exceptional employee engagement blog post. Once again, well done.

  • Dan Pontefract / 16 September 2013 4:19

    You are awesome David, many thanks.

  • Ryan Tracey / 23 September 2013 4:05

    Great idea, Dan. I find the best time for social to be immediately after lunch, as I have parked my other tasks and can assign my full attention before moving on to the next thing to do – of which there are plenty!

  • Adi Gaskell / 24 September 2013 4:09

    All about focus isn’t it? I mean research has shown that some tasks require a degree of isolation and concentration, whilst others benefit much more from the rat-a-tat of social interaction.

    So just as you have a best way of making a recipe for dinner, should you also have a best way of doing the things you do each day?

    After all, being social shouldn’t be a goal in and of itself any more than collaboration for collaborations sake.

    That said of course, this line of thinking relies on the individual employee taking more than they give (in knowledge terms), which is where the organisational environment comes in. Things like job descriptions, how we’re paid, the way decisions are made and so on all contribute to how people think about sharing knowledge.

    If the environment is such that sharing is encouraged, then there may very well be something akin to a reciprocity ring in place, be that online or offline, where the sole aim is to help other people for x minutes per day/week/month.

  • Dan Pontefract / 25 September 2013 4:49

    Hey @Ryan – do you schedule a set period of time, or is it just a few random minutes?

    @Adi – I actually refer to it as “Digital Discipline” … the tentative title of Book #3. 🙂 Thanks again for meeting me at the bike shop cafe, was fab.

  • Ryan Tracey / 26 September 2013 2:00

    As long as it takes. I do plenty of hours, so eating into “work time” isn’t an issue. On average I’d spend 10-30 minutes, depending on what pops up.

Want to leave a comment? I'd love to hear from you. Cheers, dp.