This post is in partnership with IBM.
With over 15 years of experience in social media consulting, Luke Brynley-Jones has seen it all. He founded the UK's very first social media consultancy firm in 2000 and since then has worked with everyone from brands and celebrities to startups and enterprises. As founder of Our Social Times, Brynley-Jones specializes in social media monitoring and measurement, two hot button issues professionals everywhere are struggling to master.
He has been on the front lines of social media during a time of great change, which is why we invited him to take part in the influencer event we held in London last month in partnership with the IBM #NewWayToWork initiative. #NewWayToWork explores how the workplace is evolving in the face of collaborative technologies, and this event specifically highlighted influencers in the UK and Ireland. We hosted an exclusive handful of digital thought leaders to discuss innovations, challenges, and next steps.
Brynley-Jones couldn't attend the event in person, but he generously answered a few of our questions about the biggest challenges in social business.
Smart Phones, Smart Business
Brynley-Jones says the biggest change he's seen in his social media consultancy days has been, "without a doubt...the use of mobile devices with enterprise social media."
Because most employees have smartphones, Brynley-Jones has seen companies jump on the opportunity to connect them outside of the office, and to leverage that "collective intelligence" for better business decisions and a more consistent corporate culture. He mentions Barclays Bank in the UK, which developed an app called MyZone designed for enterprises. Originally intended for executives to push information to employees, more than 10,000 employees have begun using it for something else: to gain and send information to each other.
Simply Communicate reports that employees use it to share, for example, the best way to serve a customer, or to ask and answer questions about products. Brynley-Jones says that Barclays Bank has seen "fantastically positive results for staff engagement and customer service," making it an example for businesses looking to make a mobile mark.
What Does The Young Talent Want? Upward Mobility, Please.
As founder of Our Social Times and an employer leading a large staff, Brynley-Jones says he recognizes the coming of the "new employee."
"The young staff I employ see our relationship as a mutually beneficial agreement, not a job," says Brynley-Jones.
This millennial mindset can seem to some as entitled, but Brynley-Jones says if you trust your employees and empower them with the right tools, they will, more often than not, work harder than better-paid staff at companies that are your competition.
"Of course, empowerment can only happen when they feel both informed and listened to," he says. "If you have 20,000 employees, you absolutely need technology to facilitate that process."
Sounds like the perfect place for a mobile app that both provides employees with crucial education and allows them to share ideas that connect them to their jobs. Brynley-Jones stresses that using technology and social media to increase the way employees see themselves being valued is hugely important.
As a consultant, Brynley-Jones work with a global brand with 90,000 employees to curb their plummeting retention rate by implementing a company-wide social network to make young talent feel like they were able to speak across staff ranks. Traditional corporate hierarchy is a thing of the past, and the new employee knows that. Correctly implemented social technology allows for a way to transcend, creating a space where up-and-coming employees can converse with more senior employees. However, these efforts require c-suite buy in, and because a few top-level employees couldn't understand the value, the program was canceled, and the retention rate continued to fall.
Contemporary Workplace Solutions: One Size Does Not Fit All
In the UK, the problem is that there is "a lack of knowledge and understanding of social media, especially within the workplace," says Brynley-Jones. He suggests that we're drawn to case studies, but must recognize that there is no one-size-fits all solution. It's not always a matter of just a mobile app. Consultants brought on to assess problems and solutions must do so according to your particular business, and the process does not stop there. Upper level executives must invest time and energy into a long-term solution. That's the only way businesses will move into the new ear of working.
Brynley-Jones also is wary of being blaming the advent of technology and social media in the business economy. "The Internet has destroyed whole industries, but it has also provided new ones to replace them," he says, stressing that many solutions can be found by leveraging those technologies in very specific ways to better engage employees, to make them feel valued, and to assure your business is on the cutting edge of its field instead of the last gasp.
What won't ever change, he says, is that "humans are creatures of habit," and because technology engages with those habitual tendencies, employers should be wary of the way employees fall into usage traps.
"If we learn to use email badly by sending too many and treating our inbox as our to-do list, studies show it is almost impossible to get us to change our ways," says Brynley-Jones.
Train young employees early, efficiently, and correctly to head off problems that prevent businesses from staying agile, he says. "We're just at the start of understanding how social media can positively impact on employee value, but it's a hugely exciting place to be.
Are you ready to embrace the future of work? Tools like IBM Verse can help. Guided by powerful analytics to help you prioritize the people and projects you need to focus on, this new enterprise email and collaboration solution from IBM will help free your employees up to focus on what they do best. Learn more at www.ibm.com/Verse.
And to read more influencer insights about the future of work, visit IBM.com/FutureofWork or follow #NewWayToWork on Twitter. We'd love to know how you think work is changing in the UK and Ireland as well as the rest of the world.