Social networking is still seen as something teenagers do. But it is actually a natural human activity merely taken a technological twist. We are social animals by our very nature, so anything that allows us to socialise online is bound to be successful. And that theory is now being put to the test in some large companies.

Many bug businesses have an “intranet” – but often this is “top down”. It is full of material the “management” want the staff to know about and use. Traditional intranets have little staff engagement. Some companies, though, are now experimenting with internal social networks, so that there is more “bottom up” activity on the internal system.

One company has shown that by using an internal social network a company can have a dramatic impact on its operation. Since introducing its corporate social network for its staff, the retail giant “The Best Buy Corporation“, which employs 140,000 staff, has seen a dramatic shift in employee engagement. Not only do 18,000 people use the system regularly – that’s more than 10% of the workforce each day – the social network appears to have made people like the business more. So much so, that the company’s staff retention rate has rocketed. Unlike other retailers, where staff turnover can approach 60%, Best Buy has seen its staff turnover drop to a mere 8%.

Why should that be? After all, they have only introduced a souped-up intranet. What has happened is simple; by making the intranet a social network, the company has made staff feel as though they belong. The principal reason for staff turnover in any business – but especially retail – is a lack of a feeling of belonging. When staff feel they are just “a number”, their allegiance to the organisation is reduced. By allowing staff to socialise online, companies increase that sense of belonging.

There’s another reason as well. Retail staff are usually young – and they have grown up digitally. They expect the organisation they work for to be digital too. Companies that employ young staff and do not have young methods of communication can look forward to high staff turnover, lack of motivation and increased costs.


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