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Being Friends With Your Client On Facebook Works [Future Of Work]

PSFK talks with the Managing Director of Edelman Digital in Chicago about how social is breaking down the traditional hierarchy of the workplace.

Wesley Robison
Wesley Robison on January 22, 2012. @redixculous
The Future Of Work

As part of our Future of Work Series, PSFK reached out to experts to get their take on the changes we identified that are currently going on in the workplace. PSFK recently chatted with David Armano, Managing Director of Edelman Digital in Chicago about how social is opening up new opportunities to connect and innovate in the workplace.

How is social changing the workforce?

Anyone that works in a professional environment is increasingly becoming used to the social experience, the digital social experience that you get from networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, which barely scratch the surface.

If you were to break down why, those types of experiences are very different. There is tagging, and there are all these social hooks and ways that it grabs your attention, or ways that conversational threads happen that are different from what you experience in the workplace. I think that’s fueling this appetite for professionals to want to have more tools that have social components to them.

The other thing that goes hand‑in‑hand with this is that there is a consumerization of IT. I think you see this a lot with mobile. It’s not just email, but the experiences that we get on some of the more modern mobile devices, with apps that have a lot of great utility and great user experiences. It’s not just mobile. I think mobile is on the front line of it. PCs to some extent, as well. The app economy with mobile, again, gives us that experience, and we go, “Why can’t I do this at work?”

I think another trend is the real‑time environment that exists now. This is linked to social. Think about how you use Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is increasingly becoming real‑time. We’re starting to get used to things updating right in front of us. When you see comments on threads, or even, we’re starting to get used to that idea of collaborating in real‑time, touching a document, or the way that Google Docs work. We can all work on a document at the same time.

That kind of co‑creation that we’re doing maybe with our peers outside of the workplace, I think is beginning to seep into the workplace. That expectation, again, ‘why can’t I do this at work?’ ‘Why can’t I work at documents at the same time’, versus, ‘I work on it, I edit it, I’ve got to save it, I’ve got to upload it, I’ve got to email it.’

If you are going to work for a company and they have Chatter, or Jive, or Yammer, or even, potentially, SharePoint, depending on how it’s customized. Having some type of enterprise network in play where people from different regions across the globe are connecting, then it simulates that experience that I just described. You get to know your peers in other regions, and then you have the opportunity to potentially collaborate or learn from them. You do your job better based on your interactions with them.

Facebook groups actually have potential, too. We actually have several Edelman groups, and it’s more discipline based. Our community managers have done this. Our mobile practice has done this now. At least for us, groups have been something where employees have gotten together and they don’t really share anything proprietary, but they’re basically just trading tips and information, articles, news, and it’s like whiteboard for them.

I think all those things, the network that you use for work really simulates that experience of actually getting to know your network.

Do you think that’s opened the organizational structure up?

It does. It makes it a bit flatter because you can access people that you haven’t. I think it challenges hierarchy a little bit because network dynamics are different from traditional corporate hierarchies. It’s not that one replaces the other, but they have to coexist. Every company will have a hierarchy. That’s how businesses run, but then you also have within companies… there’s oftentimes players…They may not be highly ranking on the organizational level, but they’re highly influential. They are the knowledge gatekeepers. They build up a lot of social equity based on what they know. Their power base can tend to be within the network.

I think that dynamic gets amplified. The social workforce now, compared to maybe five or 10 years ago, is definitely on the rise based on all the different forms of enterprise‑level networking.

What do you see as some of the technology changing workplace interaction?

What I’ve seen on the collaboration front is when we’re working on an initiative, we’ll bring people from different departments. You’ve got the analysts that are part of digital. You’ve got media relations people that we’ll bring in. We’ll bring in clients, a lot of times, because we’re working directly with them. That environment ends up being a highly collaborative environment, where it helps people work together more effectively, and it helps them even understand the real world environment. When you’ve got the client’s perspective, as well as what the different stakeholders are saying in social, and it’s all happening on the screens in front of them. It kind of breaks down some of the silos that form between different groups.

Where I see a little connective tissue within the Command Center idea and workplace, is actually more connected to the idea of doing business in real time, but also real‑time communications. Having a center where it’s not just having the software in place, but you have people actively listening, and have the opportunity to both respond and produce content in response to things as they happen. It’s less of an internal thing. It’s more of an internal to external communication tool.

Companies now have the opportunity, to have a newsroom set up. You have to have people that understand how to create relevant content, how to understand what’s going on.

What do people care about? Produce content that’s relevant to that and do it in a real‑time environment. When you think about it, that’s more of less how a newsroom operates, so I think these Command Centers really give you that opportunity.

Whether there’s a physical space, or not, if you can figure out how to assemble a team that cooperates as a team consisting of an Editor, Community Manager, and Producer, you have the opportunity to be more efficient in real‑time communications.

How do you see intrapreneurs playing a role in the workplace?

I dont think it’s a new concept, but right now it’s resonating because of a couple of other workplace‑related trends. I took the perspective of, hey, there’s a lot of focus put on entrepreneurs and obviously we celebrate that. And there’s reason to. You hear about the company that gets started and gets bought and it’s very lucrative. But the reality of it is that’s a very tiny percentage. I think the people are sort of, especially in the U.S., used to this idea of “I need to work independently and more entrepreneurially, because who knows what could happen to my job.”

Those freedoms can actually create benefits. Innovation can happen, because people are actually motivated to work in a more entrepreneurial fashion within the company. They don’t view themselves as a cog in a machine.

I think you could have happier employees, but the atmosphere has to be right. The business atmosphere for an intrapreneurial culture would need to be one that lets people build their own networks, amass that equity; trusting that they, in return, will give value back to their company. That’s the key.

The true entrepreneur wants to exchange. They want to be in that exchange. They don’t want to go off on their own. They don’t want to build their own company, they want to do things that are like that, at their own company.

I think that’s where the potential is, and I think that you’ve got to work towards that, of increasingly becoming a little bit more entrepreneurial in nature, but may not want to go off and start their own business. That’s who I think that the intrapreneurial candidate is.

I think the way that you operationalize it is through culture. It’s attracting people that are independently‑minded, are motivated by personal reward. Like I said, they want to be in an environment where they’re going to innovate with the company, versus starting their own thing, so you operationalize that based on putting them in positions where they can grow things. They can take an idea, potentially, run it up the ladder within their organization. And for that, you need to be able to have access to people who can make ideas happen.

I think what Google does is interesting, with the time percentage split. A lot of it’s career pathing. If you’re an employee that’s adding value to the company and achieving by coming up with new things constantly, you’re probably intrapreneurial. That’s the key difference.

Thanks David!

Catch more Future of Work sneak peeks as we reveal highlights from the full report throughout the month, including new trends, futuristic concepts, expert interviews and opportunities. Still want more? Watch the summary presentationbuy the entire report and see everything that you’ve missed so far here.  Join the conversation to get involved and share your ideas about the future of work with the #FoW hashtag on Twitter.

PSFK Future of Work report

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