Social Networks at Work * The Real Power Play

Recognize This! – Traditional hierarchical organization charts no longer show the real path to delivering results in an organization.

Why do social networks at work matter? Because they are viral and powerful. Why are they powerful? Jason Sieden in TLNT put it quite well:

 “But what’s new about social media is how it mixes up our personal and professional networks. Corporate directories may have augmented formal job descriptions with self-published bios, thus making the path to resources more friendly, but social media elevates the relationship in a new way. By making informal networks knowable, predictable, and navigable, the nature of power structures, politics, team dynamics, and information flow within an organization all change.”

Emphasis on that last sentence is mine. This is a critically important distinction in the power of the informal network. Let’s be honest – the informal network is how the work really gets done. The traditional, hierarchical org chart says nothing about the real relationships that facilitate the delivery of results on a daily, even hourly, basis.

We all have our job descriptions, but we’re more likely to alter our priorities or take on extra tasks as the result of a colleague asking “Hey, can you do me a favor?” and then telling us they appreciate the contribution. (Indeed, research shows hearing “thank you” increases the likelihood of that person helping again in the future by 100%.)

So, how do you make these informal networks “knowable, predictable and navigable?” The most straightforward, positive way to do so is through Social Recognition. Empower every employee to express appreciation to those they see doing great work or assisting them to get the job done and you’ll quickly see a social graph of those informal networks in your organization.

Once you see the social graph, you can then start to make some interesting deductions about what the flow of appreciation is telling you. “Why does the office manager in Dusseldorf seem so critical to the success of my team in Miami?” or “John’s team and Mary’s team seem to work well together often. What can we do to enhance those relationships to drive even greater benefit for the customer?”

Do you have visibility into the informal networks that are really getting the work done in your organization?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

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