Employees who work remotely may end up getting lower performance evaluations, smaller raises and fewer promotions than their colleagues in the office — even if they work just as hard and just as long.
The difference is what we call passive face time. By that we are not referring to active interactions with coworkers or clients, but merely to being seen in the workplace. To be credited with passive face time you need only be observed at work; no information is required about what you are doing or how well you are doing it.
As you may know, I’m not entirely convinced by the techno-centric concept of the digital workplace. In this post by academic researchers, Kimberly Elsbach and Daniel Cable, they highlight the importance of “Passive face time” and the negative impact this has on remote and virtual employees. The comments on this article are well worth reading too.
This isn’t news to me. Over the years I’ve come to realise from looking at both the theory and reflecting on my own experience that the critical factor for remote working isn’t technology, but the attitude of both the remote worker AND the people they work with. Sure, you need some level of remote access to enterprise systems but it doesn’t need to be particularly sophisticated and the tools have been available for more than a decade.
In terms of technology, social media tools do provide a way to replace or at least augment the need for passive face time. Unless your business already works without the need for passive face time, all the transactional technology in the world won’t work unless you address this issue.
A digital workplace is a social workplace. Remove the ‘social’ and you place remote workers at a huge disadvantage and guess what, they know it!
Kurt De Ruwe is CIO of Bayer MaterialScience and he explains in this video how they are using IBM Connections to be more social internally. Earlier in June, he tweeted that:
Today I have 4 of our 9 board members writing 1 to 2 microblogs per week on our internal #IBMConnections platform. Just 5 more to onboard
You can read more about the Bayer story in this Forbes article by Mark Fidelman:
De Ruwe’s has been able to get 66% of Bayer Material Science employees using the whole platform on a regular basis. He’s quite pleased with that. “Sometimes if people ask me to quantify in Euros or dollars what the platform has delivered to us – I tell them to look at the change of mindset, the open information sharing, and how quickly information passes around Bayer. Things that otherwise may have taken two or three weeks to uncover, now take hours.”
I’m sure some users would get plenty of value from just being able to see updates happening in Yammer along with all the other data that [Newsgator] Social Sites can bring together (and we have some very cool features coming that make it extremely powerful to aggregate all the social data in one spot). But when we add in the potential to take an item from any external system (including Yammer), allow for editing, tagging, and workflow, and generate a wiki page in SharePoint from it, I think we get a really compelling reason to add this integration. Whatever microblogs are flowing through Yammer, delivering an easy way to turn the best of them into real knowledge objects in SharePoint really adds a significant amount of value.
There have been questions about the future role of products like Newsgator in the new world of “Microsoft Yammer”, however its worth remembering Newsgator’s origins as an aggregator of information. The reality for many large organisations is that there is typically no single platform in place and that just about every enterprise social software solution supports some kind of activity stream. For the moment its worth thinking about if your social intranet is going to be SharePoint-centric or Yammer-centric, then build out from there.
A great explanation from John Stepper about how we use social business platforms for “working out loud”, “observable work” and “narrating your work” in the workplace. These are simple but powerful ideas that underpin the value of social intranets and enterprise social networks.
He writes in his introduction (emphasis added):
Two of the most common objections I hear are “I don’t have enough time” and “I don’t know what to post.” That’s because people often think of using a collaboration platform as an extra thing to do. An additional way to communicate.
And people at work are already overloaded: email, phone, voice mail, mobile phone, mobile phone voice mail, instant messenger, group chat, desktop video, desktop video messages.
The last thing anyone wants is Yet Another Communications Channel.
So, instead of focusing on communicating in new ways, it’s important that collaboration and contribution is in line with the work people do every day.
And no, its not about describing what you are having for lunch, although certainly even social business tools should also be used to let people socialise. After all, that’s how people build social capital when they work face-to-face. Working out load and observable work can also be created from activity in systems, not just posting a statement about what you are working on.
Probably the only other concepts I’d highlight as part of this is the shift from open by exception to open by default or alternatively, from gather then share to share then gather.
Working with the regional user group, Headshift Asia Pacific is hosting the inaugural user group meeting for Jive Software users in Australia (although anyone from the Australasia region is welcome to attend!) – details here:
BTW If you are in Sydney the night before, why not also come along to the joint KM Australia and NSW KM Forum networking event?
I talked to some corporate Yammer, Chatter and Jive users, all of whom claimed measurable gains from these tools in a variety of areas. Here are seven ways they derive value from social enterprise applications.
Ashley Furness identifies seven usage patterns for enterprise social software tools. However, she also highlights that some firms are reporting they can be ‘more “of a distraction” than a value driver’. Certainly that’s a danger of randomly implementing tools.