The digital workplace for everyone – The next step or a bad idea?

I am looking forward to the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris this March. I am really excited about the topic and idea of this summit: “Enabling the Social Enterprise (R)Evolution“. Somehow this topic is connected with a problem or better said some thoughts that are revolving in my head. I remember a session of last year’s Enterprise 2.0 Summit with Cordelia Kroos from BASF. She was talking about the progress and the different development stages of Connect.BASF. Someone from the audience asked a very interesting question:

“What about the people working in production or
the assembly line? Should they also be a part of the workplace revolution? And how could it be done?”

This is the problem I cannot solve and what gives me some kind of a headache because it is also a part of an ongoing project.

The ease of a knowledge worker

Every concept and every idea we got about Social Business solutions and Enterprise 2.0 projects have one main target or better said a specific user in our focus – the knowledge worker. It is inherent to the topic that these company members get our whole attention. They have all the right settings to implement or Social Software solutions:

  • Access to the needed hardware
  • Used to work with specialised software and applications
  • A certain kind of affinity for the web and its tools
  • Used to Social Media and content curation
  • Working in context of abstract topics like developing strategies, content production or assembling concepts

All these features and skills mentioned above are only a small number of sets that are part of the daily work of a knowledge worker. But these are also the sets that make it somehow easy to get used to Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business. This might be a comparative matter of experience but overall and in connection with my above mentioned problem it is EASY!

The challenge of a “real” worker

This might be a matter of attitude, opinion or even of experience but for Enabling the Social Enterprise (R)Evolution we should include every member of the company. For me this means we also need to think about the people at the assembly line, the people who are doing really work (no offense intended) in the company.

Now you might think: okay where is the problem? There are some IT solutions and concepts that enable mobility of access to the ESN or any other solution.

At this point I would say: Yes, I know about these concepts. BYOD, enterprise mobility apps, point of login and so on. But you know this means extra work on top to their work load. They have to use their breaks or spare time or even after work hours to get engage within the internal social networks. It is a matter of time and at some point also a matter of labour protection.
What are the points hindering these people participating in an internal network?

  • The point of time to get engage, involve or even informed about the network
  • The point of login and access to the network
  • The motivation of use
  • The overall benefit for these workers
  • Braking the association barrier of being a real worker and the knowledge worker (cultural)

I think these are only a few but the core points of the problem I am seeing within the future and the professionalization of Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business. If we want an overall revolution we got to incorporate every worker of the Social Enterprise.

So what do you think? Do you know a solution, a concept or even a strategy that would include the real worker? This solution or idea doesn’t have to be ground shaking concept. Maybe you got the spark to set fire for a solution. Let me hear it!

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Sebastian Thielke

Sebastian Thielke ist Junior Consultant bei der Eck Consulting Group und entwickelt strategische Konzepte für Social Media sowie Social Business und Enterprise 2.0. Seinen B.A. in Kommunikationswissenschaften und Anglistik schloss er erfolgreich an der Universität Greifswald ab. In Zusammenarbeit mit OZEANEUM Stralsund GmbH schrieb er seine Abschlussarbeit zum Thema Enterprise 2.0 und internes Microblogging. Bei der Engel & Zimmermann AG schloss er seine Ausbildung zum Junior PR Berater ab. Die umfassende strategische Integration von Social Media und Social Software sowie die Schulung von Unternehmensmitarbeitern stehen im Fokus seiner Arbeit. Er ist Wegbereiter und Wandelbegleiter im Transformationsprozess von Unternehmen zu einem Social Business.


  1. Leon Benjamin says:

    Workers with the most knowledge are at the coal face of an organisation, typically at the ‘edges’ where it meets customers. Equally, factory floor workers who touch and feel products every day have immensely intimate knowledge of what’s working and where small improvements can have large impacts on profit and service. This is well documented by John Hagel (Edge Perspectives), Frederich Hayek (The Knowledge problem) and many others.

    Harley Davidson motorcycle company was saved from extinction by asking front line factory workers how to improve the reliability of the products – I think documented by Tom Peters.

    PWC’s huge investment in ‘groupware’ during the 1990’s and early 2000 (Lotus Notes – a forerunner to social software) was wasted because contractually people are financially rewarded for hoarding knowledge rather than sharing it. No amount of technology is going to solve this problem. In this case, a complete rewrite of the employee contract was needed to incentivise group performance over individual triumph.

    It’s a culture and ethos problem. If management really saw the value of capturing operational knowledge and insight from the front line, the IT dept could easily deliver a solution combined with changes in working practices that allow and enable front line workers to contribute their insights to social collaboration platform.

    The challenge therefore is how do you articulate and then demonstrate the value? That’s a long story!


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