I finally got to catch Sameer Patel’s talk from the E20 Summit in Milan (only mostly jealous). I thought he did a fantastic job of wrapping up the story of organizational social competency (he usually does). It’s that story I wish I could simply plug into the C-Suites of the world… “I know kung fu” style. Were it only that easy. Listening to Sameer’s talk I had a moment of alignment. I’ve been telling the competency story to a different audience from a different perspective for a while now. I’ve been teaching employees and community managers how to answer very real questions about true operational change on the inside. About how tools should work to support the needs of the users before the needs of those supporting/delivering them, and how leaders and teams can truly work in open spaces. These are evolving organizational social competencies. The how-to story is becoming clearer. As social competencies evolve, transparency shows us that not everyone has command of a set that works for them. We’re all still trying to figure out how much of ourselves we give to the open spaces and in what context, especially considering the shifting nature of our relationships with services and the privacy controls they offer (cough: Facebook). The need to mature the organizational competency is no different. Sameer spoke of honestly looking at processes and operations, each little detail, to discover which elements should be embraced and which should evolve. I completely agree that this investigation is vital to making sense of all things social. It’s how we must evolve as self aware organizations. A pragmatic assessment is vital yet can be so easily overlooked or paid lip service to. A willingness to lift up the rocks and see what’s crawling around beneath is needed if there is any hope of sustained success. I see a focus on competencies as a major step in bringing understanding to the uninitiated and the resistant. A way to peel away the misnomers and assumptions that have bubbled up with each negative Facebook story or joke about blogging hipsters. There are many layers of detail that could, and should be added based on individual organizations and cultures. I’m beginning with a 50k ft view to keep things clear. Internal to an organization I see it broken out by role and focus:
- Organizational Competencies, or the identified proficiencies the organization agrees to demonstrate to employees, customers, community and market
- CXO Competencies, or the identified proficiencies executive leaders agree to demonstrate to employees, customers, community and market
- Employee Competencies, or the identified proficiencies employees agree to demonstrate to colleagues, leaders, customers, community and market
Identified competencies are usually reflective of the business model or mission, and include a basic set of core values; the prescriptive description of a company culture (not to be confused with the actual network of cultures that exist in large orgs). In many environments those values are used as the baseline measure for employee review. They usually include subjective elements such as collaboration, communication, or respect. Employees may be lucky enough to get a few specific examples of what these elements really mean as they plan career path within an organization. The thing is, these measures in their current states almost perfectly support a transition to an open social space. Social basically already exists there. It’s correlation and clarity that seem to be missing in the haze of social buzz. The confusion seems similar to that of the behavioral norms of participation. “How do I get people to contribute?”, “What if someone posts bad/non-compliant information?”, “What should my answer look like if a junior employee challenges me?”, “ What if I/they/we do something wrong?” My first answer to any of these questions is usually: How would you handle it in the hallway? We have the answers we need to sort it out. We simply have to unearth the rocks, draw lines, and make sense of it in a way that honors culture while educating and stewarding forward motion. We have to intervene when the reaction becomes emotional and help our orgs build specific competency sets we can use to identify a way forward in education, in tool evolution, and in our innovative use of the medium. So if we have all of this information in front of us what does it look like? Here’s a starter stab at it.
Social use competencies from the tool perspective
Linking - are links proliferated? are conversations linked to relevant documents and resources? Leveraging the connections the tools afford – are connections (friending/colleaguing(?), linking conversations to documents, participating and contributing to communities, etc. Tagging – are contributions tagged? will the contributor add tags to content that “does not belong to” them? Ranking/feedback – does contributor offer input regarding the content or tools? Generally, understanding how contribution and use impact discovery. Using the best tools for the job – does contributor understand the different strengths of social tools? (we know the difference between a phone call and an email, why would understanding the difference between a discussion forum and a blog be different if the org has provided the education?) Protecting content that actually needs protection – does the contributor understand and abide by the security needs of the organization as their education and orientation offered? Do contributors understand basic copyright, attribution, technology export, worker union, or other applicable compliance laws? Finding information using the tools available – does a data gatherer spam email groups with questions before searching or crowd sourcing an answer through a social mechanism, or by leveraging search for answers?
Social interaction competencies from the behavioral perspective
Participant or Lurker – are valuable contributions being made (value can be defined in spectrum: as simple as a complete profile to proficient tagger or bookmarker, or prolific documenter) Lurkers do have and get value from social systems, however due to volume differences from www to org, you really should educate and encourage as few lurkers as possible. You cannot force, but you can educate to get the best contribution possible. Communication – are responses made in a way that leaves space for conversation, is the contributor welcoming of other opinions, do they know well enough to not be a troll, or how to ask for information needed, do they know when to shut up and stop talking about themselves? Are they able to respect colleagues online as they would in the hallways? Can they demonstrate respect in their use of the medium? ( btw, any of these items should have been taught with the telephone, meeting room, water cooler, parking lot… I think you get my drift.. in short, if it’s being measured as an interaction skill now, online application should be used as example.. think of how many represent themselves with a very different voice online.) If an organization is willing to define a set of measurable values, social should be a clearly represented and therefore easily measured. The measure can offer insights into the social make up and maturity of the culture. Let’s go a little deeper and revisit competencies from a role perspective.
From the organization layer, it’s time to understand what’s really working and what’s really not. Sameer’s point about the work we’ve done to deflect our customers through automation, and generally supporting the org vs. the customers, and perhaps employees, struck a chord with me. Not because I’m toiling in a quarry somewhere… I know corporate dwellers across many organizations who feel that they don't have a trusted relationship with their employer (I am not one of them). I don’t think I’m unearthing any new concepts there. Shouldn’t trust be something we aspire to, or better yet, expect to participate in? Mutual respect and a general sense that we have each other’s best interests in mind, even if we do reside within a large org? I get that the idea is a big one. I also try to shoot for the right thing regardless if it’s the norm or not. A large organization willing to take an honest look inside is a special one. This work won’t be easy and it won’t be for every organization.
At the CXO layer a specific set of operational social competencies should be clarified. The prevailing notion that social proficiency = leader blogging is damaging at best. Non-participating CXO’s are missing out on volumes of vital business and organizational intelligence, as well as meaningful affinity with a workforce embroiled in their own work/life perspective shift (millennials, remote work, the rise of a worker-as-entrepreneur culture). The basic lack of operational knowledge is an expensive operating cost that too many organizations gladly assume. Some clarity around the notion that growth doesn’t = more demand on an executive’s (or employee’s) time is needed. The reality is that growth demands greater efficiency, proficiency and social competency. It will be required to lead amidst evolution. Isn’t that what leaders have been doing since the dawn of time? In my view, participation at the CXO level should at least include some base level of engagement in the social channels. Involvement in conversation beyond organized appearances creates opportunity for employees and customers to build trust, align to/comprehend where the business is going, and allows leaders the vital feedback they need to avoid simply believing their own press releases. It takes guts to be an enterprise leader. We get that. It takes real bravery to be a leader in the open. We’ve got work to do there.
The Employee layer requires a solid set of social competencies to deliver on the promise of E20. Increased efficiency, emergence, trust, discovery, engagement… Education and reasonable accountability for actions that can place the organization at risk are the ying to the yang of more open spaces and trust. It’s a two way street. Employees also have to understand how to represent themselves in public social spaces as they would in a meeting with a client or a new colleague. Stories such as “nice wand” (my personal fav) have crossed many an executive desk and create an emotional reaction fast. If you want to carry a wand you’d better understand how limited profile works. Employees also carry the added responsibility of self advocacy. This can be demonstrated in their choice to engage with leaders, the organization and colleagues in the open spaces. Think about what we used to call networking as engagement. It's a whole new story. Remember, this is a 50k ft view.
Every organization will have their own cultural norms, policies to abide by and conclusions to arrive at. The idea here is that it will require some honest organizational analysis to get to the right spot, and that right spot will move over time. If you were tasked to create a competency model that included social business tomorrow morning, what would you include? What resistance might you meet? How would you sell it? Eager to hear your ideas.