How Private Social Networks Are Blurring Physical Barriers in the Corporate World

Canadian corporations are seeing the true benefits of integrating social networks into their corporate culture. Allowing employees to casually interact and share has proven to increase morale by building closer relationships and increasing productivity.

With the continued introduction of new video communication platforms such as Facetime, Skype, Google+ Hangouts and BBM Video Screenshare there is an increased capability to work remotely while collaborating across the country and worldwide. 

The increased popularity of social networking and the development of more private social networks (the original Facebook), has enabled people of all generations to become comfortable with the notion of online networking.

This boost in comfort with social networking is directly represented in this case study. The demographics represented in this study consist of a combination of Baby Boomers and Generation Y.  The case study will look specifically at how a Canadian financial institution used a private social network (PSN) to connect their employees across the country. Furthermore, this case study reviews how a PSN provided their employees with the tools to develop meaningful relationships and professional connections. In the interest of confidentiality, we will refer to our subject as CFI.

Working from Home

Figure 1.1

According to the Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2010 there was a 41.9% increase in the number of Americans in management, business and finances who reported working from home. 

Incorporating Social With Security

Vault

There has been much debate over whether social networking should be accessible in the work place. Many reports note that “digital connectivity appears to boost metrics like productivity and retention”. In corporations where security and privacy agreements are a concern the use of public social networks may not seem to be an option.  As a way around this concern CFI decided to use a secure private social networking site which allowed both work and home access without any content being open to the public. 

A private social network is a controlled environment that makes it easy for the institution to monitor the conversations and media sharing in case of any security concerns. Over the three years that CFI has been using a PSN they have not been presented with any security concerns.

The Obstacle

ObstacleCFI hosts an annual team building and networking event for a select 500 employees. This event is usually a week long and includes employees from across the country. Since the 500 employees are located all over the country this creates a geographic barrier for employees to connect and get to know each other.

Connecting all of the attendees before the event and allowing them to build relationships is important to CFI because they want to ensure their event is a stress free and positive experience for everyone involved. So what was CFI to do? 

The Solution

CFI started using a private social network as a means of communication and sharing among the cross-country employees.

Approximately two months prior to the weeklong excursion the attendees were invited to join the private social network via email. The platform was completely branded and customized with the CFI’s brand and functionality was developed to meet the group’s specific needs.

The platform was customized to feature personalized profiles, the option to create and join conversations, upload documents, images and videos, send private message, follow users, and like content. 

CFI User Signups Percentage

Figure 1.2

This graph represents the percentage of employees of who were invited, signed-up and became active users

Nurturing a Thriving Community

CFI was very committed to increasing their employee morale and creating a comfortable experience for even the shyest of employees. Similar to being at a networking event or in a boardroom meeting, there are always people who are more or less extroverted than others. To help those members who were not as outgoing as their counter-parts CFI decided to assign a community manager and content developer to create fun, interactive content to get the “party” started and get everyone involved.

One tactic for starting conversation included creating engaging content that posed questions about the weeklong excursion. Participation was also rewarded through aspects of gamification where points and badges were awarded for specific actions translating into offline prizes and rewards. 

CFI Replies to Posts

Figure 1.3

The most notable increase occurred between 2010 and 2011 where the number of interactions with posts increased by 1,388 actions. Although, the increase from 2011 to 2012 was not as significant, the trend continues upwards. 

The Outcome

"It has been a blast to get to know some of you before we get there. Can't wait to meet you in person! I have never doubtedthat my [co-workers] are the most genuine people on earth, but you have exceeded all expectations. We have a great balance and diverse group. From our media experts, and travel advisors to our comic relief! I have so enjoyed being part of something so exclusive and so much fun."

– PSN Member

CFI used this platform to link their cross-country employees together for their 2010, 2011 and 2012 events. The results have been increasingly impressive each year. These results can be attributed to the rise in social networking across all generations. As of 2012, social networking has become a natural part of people’s day to day lives, making private social networks a natural extension of our social habits.

The value of CFI’s PSN professional relationship building experience can be noted in one of its member’s quotes: “it has been a blast to get to know some of you before we get there. Can’t wait to meet you in person! I have never doubted that my [co-workers] are the most genuine people on earth, but you have exceeded all expectations…I have so enjoyed being a part of something so exclusive and so much fun.”

To date, CFI’s outcomes have far exceeded their expectations. The online community has thrived and created a true sense of cohesion amongst the event attendees. This private social network solution has also worked hand in hand with the team building activities they executed over their weeklong event. 

CFI Most Active Day

Figure 1.4

The number of conversations occurring on the most active day has increased by 30% - 59% year over year. 

Summary

Through this case study and the study referenced herein it is evident that private social networking has clear positive outcomes for employees. These include improved workplace morale, increased productivity, stronger professional relationships, and employee retention.

People of all generations are incorporating social into their personal lives which makes integrating a social aspect into the corporate environment a natural fit. Social networking is creating a casual social environment allowing for barrier free collaboration that breaks down geographical and scheduling constraints.

 

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EVC Consulting

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Toronto, ON, M5V 1L9

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chad@evcconsulting.com

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