Frank Gilbreth Jr. Motion Study
PHOTO: Kheel Center

Studies of how organizations work have been around pretty much since the beginning of the industrial age. Who can forget the dreaded time and motion studies that placed stopwatches on human activity with the aim of driving greater efficiencies?

Now in the digital age, that stopwatch has morphed into a digital dashboard that lets employers and staff drive even greater efficiencies by conducting forensic analyses of how they spend their time at work.

Efficiency Versus Effectiveness

Efficiency however, is only one side of the productivity equation, with effectiveness being the other. To understand the difference, think in terms of effectiveness being ‘doing the right things’ rather than efficiently ‘doing things right.'

In the past, organizational effectiveness studies have largely been limited to the use of surveys. Surveys provide a richness and breadth of responses but organizational researchers are also aware that they can only provide a snapshot of an organization at any single point in time.

Prioritizing Enterprise Social Network Tools

Being able to study organizational interactions over time plugs a huge gap in our ability to understand — and then improve — the effectiveness of organizations.

When we look at the whole landscape of tools which make up the digital workplace, we can quickly see the ones that make us more efficient and help us save time such as email, chat, file shares, etc.

Yet, when it comes to having discussions, debates and negotiations around setting priorities for what should be worked on, the enterprise social networking (ESN) tools come into their own. Often, they are the single channel which truly connects staff across the breadth of an organization.

effectiveness vs efficiency break down

Studying 57 Yammer Installations

We collected collaboration data from 57 Yammer installations over a six-month period. Yammer’s status as an industry-leading ESN tool gave us the opportunity to conduct our study over a broad number of organizations encompassing all Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) sectors.

Measured by active participants, the average size of the organizations was 4,400 with the largest having nearly 26,000 active participants. All told, we analyzed over 250,000 participants and nearly 6 million interactions.

Benchmarking Study Insights

Our key insights from the Swoop Analytics-sponsored 2017 Benchmarking Study were:

  • Two-way communication is a core predictor of organizational trust, and ultimately, job fulfillment. Two-way communication was the largest area of variation across the 57 organizations measured, leading us to conclude that if reciprocity is not being measured, an organization is effectively flying blind.
  • Online networks can effectively maximize both diversity and cohesion, a result we haven’t previously seen in a decade of studying offline social networks. We see the opportunity for staff to be exposed to a diversity of experiences and thought while also being highly connected on a day-to-day basis, as a true breakthrough in digitally facilitated human productivity.
The graph below shows the 57 organizations, measured for their diversity and cohesion. Overlaid on the graph are results drawn from various surveys of offline networks that we conducted over a 10-year period. The offline results showed a clear trade-off relationship between diversity and cohesion that does not exist in the online world.

organizational network performance

  • Online social networks are susceptible to key-player risk, namely overreliance on a selected few. On average, 7 percent of active users were responsible for 50 percent of the connections being made. This is substantially lower than for offline networks, making it therefore critical to manage for redundancy and succession in online groups if they are to be sustained.
  • Passive participation rates — defined as less than one activity every two weeks — is still uncomfortably high at an average of 68 percent, though down from 75 percent in 2016. Networks will always have a core of active participants and a periphery of those less active, so 100 percent active participation will never be a realistic goal. Envision understanding the balance between your active inner circle and your passive outer circle for networks as akin to balancing assets and liabilities on your balance sheet.
  • Participation rates are not a function of organizational size, with many large organizations sustaining high participation rates and vice versa. That means that, independent of your organizational size, your objective should be to create highly cohesive groups and teams that are also interconnected through network leaders.
  • We found that, even poor performing organizations usually have at least one ESN group that is operating at a mature level of collaboration. In essence, this means that organizations have the capability to improve their collaboration performance through development of their own internal benchmarking initiatives. The takeaway here is that independent of your current level of maturity with ESNs, internal and external benchmarking will be critical to your progress on the journey to business success.

ESN Performance Reflects Performance Overall

Summing up with one final prediction, an organization’s enterprise social performance will eventually become a reflection of its overall performance.