Building a social collaborative culture, part one

Carrying on my series of guest articles is comms professional Sonsoles Lumbreras who attended the Social Workplace Conference last week. Here she writes for Diary of an internal communicator to share her experience of the event. She’s written two articles and the first is here and will be followed by the final part later this week. Over to you Sonsoles…

The event took place at the Cavendish Conference centre in London on 24 May and during it I came across many interesting talks about how to build a social collaborative culture and what the pitfalls and challenges are when doing it. You can read about the Social Workplace Culture on Twitter @SWConf or via the hashtag #SWFConf.

Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at MWD Advisors, explained how creating a collaborative culture at the workplace can help to achieve a better business – “collaboration is working together to achieve a common goal”. In her view, better collaboration in the workplace means boosting knowledge sharing, innovation, supporting distributed teams and building relationships.

Ashenden also highlighted some blockers to collaboration success:

  • Habits are hard to break, such as using email as one of the main internal communications tool
  • Senior and middle managers opposition as they are key to the success of collaboration tools
  • Employees don’t know what is in for them when using social collaboration tools, so an ongoing process is needed to explain them how they can improve their work by adopting them.

For me, one of the main takeaways from Ashenden’s talk was that you can teach people how to use these new collaboration tools but you also have to nurture their collaborative nature.

It’s not all about technology
Ashenden pointed out that implementing collaboration isn’t about implementing technology, though these new technologies help to do it, giving everyone a voice and making information accessible to the whole organisation. In few words, “the project isn’t the implementation with technology, the project is business change”, emphasised Ashenden.

During her presentation, she also explained some technology pitfalls organisations can face when implementing these collaborative tools, such as avoiding creating new silos of information, not replacing email completely, taking into account that this isn’t necessary a cheap option and that a viral adoption strategy isn’t enough. Some advice to avoid these pitfalls could be to plan the budget over the long term, use senior level communications as ‘evangelists’ to promote the new tools and identify and understand resistance to them.

Using Yammer to boost collaboration
LexisNexis brought to the stage its case study about using Yammer as a way to change the traditional top-down way of information. Laurie Hibbs (pictured), HR Director at LexisNexis, explained how important it was to create an attractive communications campaign to launch this new social communications tool.

They ran drop-in sessions to explain to employees how to use Yammer and said that Executive sponsorship was key to encourage its use among employees. Hibbs advised using Yammer to post unique content that cannot be found in another communications tool, to encourage employees to use it.

I especially liked the fact that they created a false account called The Phantom, to ask questions employees might not be comfortable asking someone else. Since its launch, 1,300 employees are now using Yammer at LexisNexis and email use has been reduced by 10 per cent.

Challenging situations
From the panel talking about the challenges they faced when developing an enterprise social business strategy, these are the key points to consider:

  • You need to ensure organisations understand that the use of social media is a business change and that they don’t underestimate the implementation efforts required
  • Look at what things are stopping communication within the organisation and how social media could improve them
  • Much flatter organisations are needed to use internal social media tools effectively and see their benefits
  • There is nothing wrong with using email, but the problem is how to use it, particularly as it’s not the best collaboration tool.

As Rachel said, I’ve written a second part of this article, which will be posted on here later this week. Did you attend the conference? What did you think of it? You can comment below.


  1. Rajni says:

    Most social collaboration software are disconnected from work. hyperoffice is a solution which uses the latest in social media design, and works it into collaboration tools employees commonly use. this makes sure social collaboration is task oriented (

  2. Thanks for your comment Rajni. Hyperoffice looks like an interesting concept, would be interested to see how it works out, Rachel.

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