Socialized Purchasing (Part 3): Professional development and networking

Posted on July 29, 2011


As a precursor to today’s post, in yesterday’s guest article by Randall Craig, I had made reference to the following excerpt from Arthur L. Jue’s book Social Media At Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance:

“Within organizations, social media demonstrates a new reality– the reality that employees are co-creators of organizational success rather than servants of the company who simply salute and take orders.”

In a kind of ironic twist, Jue is part of a trio of organizational development experts from Oracle Corporation, who discuss how organizations can better utilize the power of social media to build more effective and agile organizations, engage employees, and sustain competitiveness.

The irony of course for those in the procurement world is that Oracle has an abysmal track record for delivering to expectation relative to eProcurement initiatives.  You need look no further than the VHA’s $650 million odyssey and the resulting congressional hearings into the Bay Pines incident to understand the irony to which I am referring.

That aside the overall focus of the book, which zeroes in on key areas in terms of attracting and retaining the best employees, boosting innovation and knowledge creation, developing talent and gaining operational efficiencies, engaging employees for greater productivity and sustaining a competitive market advantage, hits a home run from both the inward and outward looking perspectives of the socialized supply chain.

The question of course is how does social media achieve these important objectives within an enterprise and to what extent can and does it influence bottom line considerations?

In a brief overview titled Engage your employees with the power of video Steve Mack, who is a senior producer and media consultant, wrote that “social media specifically refers to the technologies that allow individuals increased social interaction online.”

Perhaps it is the social interaction moniker that has in the past led many organizations in both the private and public sectors to view social media as a distraction from versus an enhancer of employee performance.  However, and as demonstrated by both the energy and resources companies put into connecting with their target consumer market in an effort as Mack puts it to “deepen relationships with key customer audiences,” it is clear that there is at least a basic understanding of the emerging social mediums’ importance.

As a result, by recognizing the outward looking benefits, an increasing number of organizations are now turning their perspective inward by leveraging a variety of social media tools to communicate internally with their employees.

Even though Mack myopically confines his discussion to video (after all video is the primary area through which he provides his services), his case references including the Deloitte Film Festival are useful in that they should at least stimulate either new lines of thinking relative to social media or, cause one to expand their creative horizons within the context of an existing strategy.

There are other means beyond video through which companies can engage their workforce including blogs and private social networks that can be quickly and affordably built on platforms such as the one offered by SocialGo.

Regardless of the venue, it is clear that social media delivers tremendous value across the broad enterprise as highlighted in Jacqueline Kolek’s July 2010 article Use Social Media to Enhance Workforce Performance.

In discussing the pervasiveness of social media tools and how many businesses are grappling with how to employ online strategies to reach employees and drive the strategic agenda, Kolek cites several useful examples of organizations that have at least in certain areas, successfully leveraged the new estate.  This includes Best Buy, who’s employee video contest helped to improve 401(k) contributions among its young and disparate workforce, Ernst & Young, which leveraged Facebook to attract and recruit top talent from across the globe, and Dell who tapped social media to engage its global workforce to solve critical product and service problems through an online community called “Employee Storm.”

Despite the absence of actual financial data in Kolek’s case references, they are nonetheless powerful in that most any finance person can, at least to a certain extent, equate a dollar value with each program.

Let’s look at Dell’s utilization of social media and in particular blogging.

Boosting innovation and knowledge creation, engaging employees for greater productivity and sustaining a competitive market advantage

Modeled after their successful Idea Storm initiative, Dell created Employee Storm as an innovative forum through which their 80,000 plus employees could communicate their suggestions and discuss and vote on major topics via social sites such as Digg.

The success of the program has been nothing short of amazing as reported in the Social Media Online blog, Blog Insights.

Since being launched in June 2007, Employee Storm has generated over 4,100 ideas with 225,000 votes and 18,500 comments through 35 monthly posts on 8 blogs.  These figures speak directly to the popularity of the program and how employees have embraced the opportunity to leverage social media as a means to communicate with one another to both theirs’ and the company’s mutual benefit.

Once again, this is just one example of how social media and social networking is being leveraged to deliver an internalized value that is ultimately reflected in the overall strength of the company from both a competivie and financial standpoint.

Based on today’s post, as well as the previous installments, I hope that this series has caused you to view social media in a new light of unlimited possibilities that when effectively utilized can deliver tremendous value to your organization.

As always, your comments are both encouraged and welcome.