Culture Change and Leadership Shifts in the New Social Media Environment

Guest Contributorby Lizz Pellet | Posted | Culture

Culture Change and Leadership Shifts in the New Social Media Environment

As evolving and newly emerging social technologies change the way we navigate through our days, those shifts are having a profound effect on organizational culture and leadership.

Leaders are starting to realize that social media and mobile tools are a great way to gather intelligence — on customers, on employees, and on the bottom line.

The data we anxiously waited to see in our spread sheets at month’s end are now monitored and tracked in real time. The advance in data analytics, cloud-based technology and the availability of big data are having a big impact on behaviors, which ultimately shape and drive our company cultures.

Executives need to buy into how these social technologies fit into the overall vision and goals of the organization in order to lead a top down charge that changes how employees and customers connect and collaborate. There must be a purpose coupled with tangible results.

Here's a look at some of the culture changes and results we're seeing.

Increased communication and productivity

A recent McKinsey & Company study shows the potential for improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent.

But, the key here is open communication and collaboration… and these are two very tough cultural nuts to crack, because the foundation of social collaboration is trust.

Increased empowerment, accountability and trust

Think about a project team working on a mission critical problem. They are geographically dispersed, working across multiple time zones and are using a very popular social tool: a Wiki.

When teams use a Wiki platform, anyone and everyone can make changes to the project plan, time lines, deliverables and even PowerPoint presentations. There's an increased level of empowerment here.

Social conversations take place in the cloud and touch points for social interaction can be hard to track. There are not a lot of bread crumbs to follow on this platform, which make it very difficult to assign ownership for brilliance, as well as hard to place blame when something goes wrong and it can go terribly wrong — at warp speed.

So that requires a greater level of accountability — but also trust.

And changing your culture, leadership, and work methods to adapt to this way of approaching collaborative work takes time.

The need to trust and act in a trustworthy way has been elevated, whether we like it or not. And that's not a subtle cultural shift for a lot of organizations. No one said culture change was easy.

With these new social tools, command and control leadership also seems to be out the window — or at least we’d like to think so. So what does the new leadership model look like? Rowe? Holacracy?

It seems we're still working that one out… What is clear is that with the increased empowerment and accountability enabled by social technologies, leadership needs to evolve.

Increasing employee engagement in the business

In a recent article from venturebeat.com it was reported that David Marcus, the President of PayPal, sent an email to employees working at PayPal’s San Jose, California headquarters on February 11, 2014 scolding his employees to become more engaged in the business.

“It’s been brought to my attention that when testing paying with mobile at Cafe 17 last week, some of you refused to install the PayPal app (!!?!?!!), and others didn’t even remember their PayPal password. That’s unacceptable to me, and the rest of my team, everyone at PayPal should use our products where available. That’s the only way we can make them better, and better,” he wrote in the email.

That employees working for a company that builds a social technology were unwilling or unable to install its own social app is alarming. Because organizations that introduce social technologies into the company, into the customer experience, and folding them into daily behaviors (the culture) are really shifting their cultures. They're expecting a new level of engagement and commitment from all their stakeholders.

And if your organization creates one of those social technologies then there is a certain level of expectation that your employees will use it.

As David Marcus wrote:

“In closing, if you are one of the folks who refused to install the PayPal app or if you can’t remember your PayPal password, do yourself a favor, go find something that will connect with your heart and mind elsewhere. A life devoid of purpose, and passion in what you do everyday is a waste of the precious time you have on this earth to make it better. Onward with passion, purpose, and gusto!"

In those key strokes, Marcus called out those employees unwilling to trust in the social technology PayPal was creating. He set the tone for the future of social technology acceptance in his organization — accept the value of what PayPal is creating or move on to other endeavors.

Adapting to a new collaborative way of working — enabled by social technologies can take time. How far those shifts occur — that’s a leadership call and those at the top drive the culture.

Your turn: What cultural shifts do you see happening at your organization as a direct result of social tools? And what needed changes are social tools making obvious?

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