Getting social saves time, money

publication date: Sep 12, 2012
It's official! Social media - that time-sucking sink of party photos, cute cat videos and endless celebrity factoids - could be a huge source of productivity gains. That conclusion comes from McKinsey directors and principals James Manyika, Michael Chui and Hugo Sarrazin via the Harvard Business Review.

They're convinced that social media may become "the most powerful tools yet developed to raise the productivity of high-skill knowledge workers." And they make a convincing case. World-wide, over 1.5 billion people have a social networking account. The same background report finds that nearly 20% of the world's online hours are spent on social networks. Those are powerful arguments for devoting some marketing and fundraising attention to them.

Even more potential to reach within

An even bigger potential win remains for organizations to explore. Using social technologies to improve internal communication and collaboration could create twice as much value as all the other roles social media might play, the McKinsey team found!

They're talking about businesses, of course (consumer packaged goods, consumer finance, professional services and advanced manufacturing). But for nonprofits, where collaboration and consensus building among boards, committees, service users, volunteers and staff is an essential part of the core work, couldn't the gains be just as great?

What slows organizations down

The barriers to collective work that hinder progress at nonprofits are the same as those that hinder corporate progress.
  • Vital knowledge is buried in individual hard drives, email files and personal memories (some of that offsite in the case of nonprofits).
  • Endless email discussion threads fail to get everyone on the same page.
  • Decision makers who depend on that elusive information spend an estimated 28% of their time handling current email, 19% of their time trying to track down buried information, and 14% of their time collaborating.
That's a lot of expensive time wasted! Social technologies, the McKinsey experts believe, could help people handle those needs up to 25% more efficiently.

Working smarter with social media

Here's what the McKinsey team says it would take.
  • Discipline: the time spent on social networks is for communicating and collaborating, not sharing cute kitten videos.
  • Universal adoption: everyone must participate.
  • Integration: social technologies must be an essential part of the workflow, not an awkward add-on that is viewed as optional.
  • An environment of openness, sharing and trust: leaders must use the technologies, model them, explain and support them, and share successes.
Manyika, Chui and Sarrazin are convinced that organizations that adopt these technologies successfully will be faster on their feet, more adaptable, and better able to absorb and act on new ideas.

Read their full post.

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