Recently I had a conversation with the CEO of a company (anonymous since I discuss that I will be blogging this) that provides customer community solutions (so clearly he is already biased). This person is a friend so we usually get in little debates about things pertaining to customer and employee collaboration. For some reason the conversations usually turn to, “why do organizations need employee collaboration platforms?” Why can’t they just stick with email, intranets, and phone systems? The conversations sometimes also steers down, “the best way to inspire and engage your employees is to show them how you delight your customers.” Basically what this CEO likes to argue (I’m sure he does this just to irk me!) is that customer communities can change companies and provide for far more inspiring and engaging fodder for employees, aka customer engagement and communities are more valuable than employee engagement and communities.
Now, if you’re like me you will clearly see that it’s not a question of what is better or what is more valuable. Both are valuable because both solve different problems. Customer communities and engagement are great for things such as:
- providing great customer experiences
- learning from your customers and changing your products and services based on customer feedback
- connecting customers to each other to help them provide peer support
- evolution to customer-centric organizations
- allowing your customers to feel connected to and a part of your organization
Now while these things may be true, the problems or challenges that emergent collaboration among employees seeks to solve are quite different, such as:
- allowing employees to find subject matter experts within organizations
- giving employees the opportunity to share their ideas which oftentimes lead to new opportunities
- helping employees feel engaged and fulfilled at work
- making the lives of employees easier by allowing them to access everything they need to get their jobs done from one central area
- improving employee productivity
- forming communities of interest in the workplace
- and many other things
The CEO of this company told me that customers really help change the world with inspiring stories that help fuel employees at work. True, but in large organizations not every employee is going to be aware of these customer stories and so collaboration tools can help share this information with those employees that might not be on the front line engaging with customers. Not only that but think about how passionate your customers can be and now imagine if your employees felt the same way when they came to work. Where your employees new why they came to work and what their purpose was, where they felt connected to the organization in more than just a “paycheck” way. I truly feel that emergent collaboration strategies and technologies can really change the world of business not just from a productivity and profit standpoint but from a much more valuable personal and human standpoint.
We always talk about humanizing the brand and how important that is to our customers, well hey guess what, humanizing the brand and helping our employees feel like they are a part of the organization is just as important! I find the employee collaboration stories that I have been putting together very inspiring. Everything from improving communication at an educational institution, to helping a small business to grow, to improving innovation at a mid-size organization, to speeding up on-boarding time of new employees at a printing company.
One of the other truly fascinating things about emergent collaboration in the enterprise is that the ideas employees share don’t need to be revolutionary in order to have an impact on the organization. It’s oftentimes the simple, the mundane, and the (what most would consider) non-interesting ideas that can truly shape the future of an organization.
If you make the life of an employee at work more fulfilling, engaging, and easier then that employee will become happier at work and I believe happier in their personal lives, yes I think this can change the world.
I don’t know maybe it’s just me but I find that improving the lives of employees at work and empowering them is pretty damn cool!
(Cross-posted @ Social Business Advisor: Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0)