Following is a guest blog post from Okappy. A leading market network technology for job management. They share their insight on current trends in social and market network technologies for industry.
When Facebook (or “Thefacebook” as it was then known) originally launched in 2004, it was intended as a small private network for use exclusively by students of Harvard College. Fast forward 13 years, Facebook has two billion users worldwide and has changed the ways in which many of us organise and even carry out our social lives.
Now, building on the fundamentals of social networking sites such as Facebook, enterprise social networks (ESNs) are set to change our working lives in much the same way.
What is Enterprise Social Networking?
Enterprise social networking can be understood as to serve the same purposes as other more recognised forms of social networking, but specifically in application to the working world rather than in a primarily social context.
Joining existing ESNs such as Connections by IBM and Yammer owned by Microsoft, Facebook launched its very own ESN known as Facebook Workplace in October 2016. As reported by Techcrunch, Facebook Workplace has already been adopted by 30,000 organisations in just one year.
Regardless of whether one ESN will eventually reign supreme or whether competing ESNs will continue their coexistence, what is clear is that ESNs are here to stay.
How is Middle Management Affected?
The working department that is arguably set to undergo the greatest transformation by result of enterprise social networking is that of middle management.
As ESNs open up direct channels of communication between senior managers and junior workers, the necessity for middle managers as mediators in hierarchical organisations will be put to question.
However, far more than merely relaying any messages coming from the top of an organisation, middle managers are the people expected to take charge of their working environments—whether online or offline. In directing and moderating an organisation’s use of an ESN, the role of middle management gains new significance as it is brought up to date within the modern working world.
The Changing Role of Middle Management
Middle managers are expected to lead, so the first new task imposed upon them by enterprise social networking is simply to involve themselves in this new form of networking before anyone else.
This may seem a daunting prospect to some of the less technologically minded middle managers out there, but ESNs are designed to be as user friendly as possible. With a little time and energy, anybody can get to grips with how they work. Most of the skills required for an ESN’s operation are also transferrable from more traditional forms of social networking, so middle managers who already use social networks have no excuses.
Once middle managers have set an example for the correct use of an organisation’s ESN, they will ultimately be the people responsible for the ESN’s upkeep. While it’s true that senior managers will have access to an organisation’s ESN, the chances are that they will not have much time to really engage workers on the platform and encourage progress. Naturally, this responsibility will fall to middle management.
Middle managers must actively participate on ESNs, clearly posting targets and inciting discussion. If any workers are unfamiliar with social networking or are struggling to learn the nuances of ESNs on their own accord, then it is down to middle managers to give appropriate support and guidance.
Middle managers can also use the internal analytics provided by ESNs in conjunction with their own professional judgement in assessing adoption rates and the effectiveness of any features that ESNs offer. Where there are failings, middle managers must ask why.
When an ESN has been successfully implemented within an organisation, middle managers will then be able to communicate at any time and in any location with however many workers they wish. Not only does this mean they will be able to give workers real-time updates round the clock, it also means that they will be able to lead remote workforces and not just workers with whom they share office space.
By expanding working environments beyond the physical walls of an office, middle managers will be able to manage larger workforces than ever before.
What to Remember
Despite all the new opportunities made possible by enterprise social networking, perhaps the most important thing for middle managers to do is to not underestimate the value of the face-to-face interaction that they themselves provide.
It can be difficult for workers to trust and put their faith in an organisation that operates entirely online, and workers lose motivation when they can no longer perceive the human element within the organisation they work for. In an increasingly technological era, middle managers are still required to influence and inspire workers in the real world.
Enterprise social networking does not diminish the role of middle management, it simply changes it.
—Freddie Kentish, Okappy
About the Author: Okappy is a B2B innovative communications and collaborations platform for job management. Okappy combines social and market network technology to communicate and collaborate with employees, subcontractors, across different sites and with different clients. For more insights from them, check out their blog.