Imagine you were the talent development manager in a rather large, well consolidated, traditional and successful manufacturing company. Three years ago, the first of its kind ‘Global Talent Development Programme’ had been launched by the CEO himself. Now you were ready to have the first official graduation, and release your first vintage of high potential performers. Not to forget, the planning had been underway for 6 months, everyone had been invited to corporate headquarters looking forward to shake hands with the CEO and his executive team, and also to celebrate the event at the corporate guest-house together with a handful of the elite group managers. Then imagine what you would feel like if you were ordered to cancel the existing program and come up with something else due to a forthcoming announcement that the executive management team had decided to look into the corporate cost base and burn-rate!
This is what happened to Susanne (our Group Talent Manager) a little more than 3 weeks before showdown, and I still remember her telephone call: ‘Thomas, I’d like to have a talk – please call me back as soon as possible’. Being who she is, Susanne had quickly started working on alternative concepts and settings for the event, and she effectively mobilized a task force of various stakeholders which she lead with a lot of skill and enthusiasm towards the launch of the virtual event. Let me quickly reveal to you already now, that the event ended up becoming a successful and mind blowing experience for not only the talents and the talent development team, but also for the senior executives and potentially the company as a whole.
The core of the concept can be described as follows;
- Create a virtual event and mitigate the demotivation of potential talents which naturally have had high expectations and been looking forward to a rewarding physical re-union.
- Change the event focus from a traditional celebration to an exciting challenge, hence prompting the core intrinsic motivation triggers of any talent and high performing employee: the wish to succeed and make a difference.
- Introduce time-pressure, but intelligently in a way where the global teams could exploit the fact that most any team had members in different time zones. This gave the benefit that some could work while others were sleeping. The pop-quote could have been: ‘You have 3 days of work for every 24 hrs’.
- Design and format a challenge which is real, of considerable strategic importance, and defined by the corporate executive team, which thereby endorse and commit to the core of the activity.
- Ensure continuous involvement of the executive team, before, during, and after the event, by designing a process and virtual setup which prompts and requires the executive team to actively use the same enterprise social networking platforms and collaboration tools, which the talents are asked to use during the event in order to solve the strategic assignment.
And why does this have anything to do with social business?
Well, for one, the ability to build on others work, and trusting your peer to build on your work (as opposed to re-invent the wheel, which is rather common in many silo patterned cultures) is essential in social business success in general.
Secondly, and probably more important, the senior executive team (and some of the talents who had not tried it before) were exposed to the extreme efficiency of ‘internal social business’ when the purpose is clear and people work smart with smart tools. During the 48 hour span of the event, the social business proficiency and internal maturity of the group reached new levels! This will be essential for our progress with a global social business strategy covering internal as well as external initiatives.
The link to external might not seem clear, however, I believe that one of the most important conclusions of our Grundfos-work in the social business domain so far is that the ‘social business competence’ of any organization is somewhat defined by the sum of the ‘internal’ and ‘external’ social business maturity. And more interestingly, the two dimensions are interdependent in various ways.
Many of the managers I meet – within Grundfos or from other companies – have not really accepted or understood this fully yet. But, the more mature we are internally (i.e. leaders and management become ‘internal’ social business proficient) the better our management and employees will understand how social technology and enterprise networking can drive business development. This, in turn, will lead to increased support to our outbound or external social business initiatives (in the form of content development, participation in outbound company networking and communities, etc), which again will nurture an increased number of specific external social business projects, such as social media campaigns, expert community engagement, voice of industry initiatives, and like!
All in all, an increased company engagement and need to respond will be the result, and only a certain percentage of the incoming social communication will hit the right person or official response channels (a guess could be < 40 %).
Conclusion: a broad organizational social empowerment and skill development will be required along with an ongoing social business process architecture and organization development.
- A stage gate process, which forced the teams through a ‘focus-present-focus’ funnel three times before final hand-in. The gate board consisted of our CEO and senior executive staff.
- Planned ‘Red Chair Sessions’ with senior executives and specialists where open Q&A sessions could give guidance and enrich the solution process.
- Parallel use of Yammer and Adobe Connect for stage gate sessions and red chair sessions. Yammer made out the communication hub (asynchronous as well as synchronous use) and Q&A knowledge extraction platform (a closed and secure group was created for the event). Adobe Connect made out the primary web-conferencing meeting room (synchronous use primarily). However, the teams were free to add use of whatever tools they wanted during the 48 hrs. Also, a static event-portal with an event information overview, including direct links to Yammer and Adobe meeting rooms was helpful.
There are many ways to summarize the event itself but the most powerful way is to let the participants speak for themselves – and this quote from a Canadian talent hits the nail right on the head:
Probably can say now that this was one of the best experiences that I have had within the talent programs that I have attended…. This just had a different vibe to it. I had my reservations coming in, but we have exceeded all expectations.
We may just have paved the way for something new – time will tell but at present all signs point to yes.