In my experience most organisations have a chronic communication problem. More specifically they have a communication problem with their non-managerial staff.
Let me elaborate with couple of examples:
I somehow lose my intellect when I don’t have the word manager in my job title
The managers do the thinking and deciding even though they have no idea what actually works in practice. You as an employee and subject matter expert might have come up with a really good solution to a problem, but since you don’t have the magic word “manager” in your job title, your solution will never be used. It’s as if you’ve lost your grown-up status. I’ve worked for both flat and hierarchical organisations and this is a problem I only encounter in the latter organisations. Would you feel engaged in an environment where your expertise and intellect are not valued?
Communication hierarchy robs you of your autonomy
The organisation chart dictates who communicates with whom. Internal email reinforces this communication hierarchy and makes sure messages stay in organizational silos. Why is this a problem you might ask – isn’t it just a sign of efficient communication?
The issue is that the problems and opportunities that arise in modern organisations do not follow the organisational chart. So instead of being able to reach out to the internal experts your request for help goes to your line manager, who forwards it to her line manager, who in turn forwards it to his line manager, who in turn forgets all about it as it’s not her area of expertise and she’s really busy anyway. Would you feel engaged in this type of dysfunctional communication circus?
Enterprise social networks empower employees
Contrast this with an enterprise social network that flattens the organisation’s communication structure and enables staff to share ideas and solve problems collaboratively (it’s a lot more effective, too).
And through a social network employees get public recognition and feedback from their peers within hours – not once a year from a line manager who doesn’t even understand what you actually do.
Enterprise social networks are not the silver bullet (the organisational culture doesn’t shift overnight from hierarchical to collaborative), but in my opinion they can play a key role in addressing some of the root causes of disengagement in a surprisingly simple way.
Have you experienced the contrast between hierarchical email -driven and collaborative social network -driven communication culture? And if so, do you think you can go back to email and communication hierarchy? I’m not sure I can.
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