[Successful] "Large-scale engagement of the workforce requires...a determination by management to loosen if not relinquish its traditional top-down approach, and an ability to demonstrate how digital activities complement offline or other real-world events.
Four ways to drive change using the digital hive concepts:
1. Engaging the workforce in better strategy
Early experience suggests that better results follow when a problem is presented in stages to avoid overwhelming the participants, when a company uses volunteers rather than conscripts, when it offers training on how to think about innovation, when energy- and community-building offline events (such as workshops or weekly cafeteria sessions) supplement the online discussions, and when executives strike an authentic tone.
2. Connecting silos with a social chain
One of the biggest organizational challenges is to break siloed behavior and get employees talking to one another and cooperating across intracompany boundaries. …[What’s} promising …the “social chain”: a digital platform that …allows employees to work “out loud” online by sharing how they do things. It also encourages people who were previously isolated in part of the chain to identify areas where they depend on others and to tackle problems or bottlenecks collaboratively.
3. Enlisting key customers to improve the proposition
KLM, the Dutch airline, has successfully used this approach to foster a stronger client-centric mind-set among its employees. The company’s executives opted for a large-scale digital dialogue between KLM and its emerging customers …involving 1,500 participants from small and midsize businesses, who generated more than 1,000 concrete ideas and 4,000 other contributions. Management and customer-facing staff from KLM Netherlands actively participated in these discussions. …It… “opened our eyes to the possibilities of social media to build a far stronger customer focus among our staff.” KLM has since become one of the airline industry’s foremost social-media exponents.
4. Uniting a dispersed sales force to drive higher sales
…[A] new network, implemented at minimal cost, puts collective expertise in the hands of each of the frontline reps, binds them more closely to the organization, and generates faster performance feedback. Within a year of the start, the company has increased cross- and upselling rates to more than 50 percent, from 4 percent, realizing an increase in gross margins of $25 million.
Leading while letting go
Digital hives involve large numbers of previously “disenfranchised” employees in setting strategy, company-wide transformations, and customer-outreach initiatives. Creating these hives requires a delicate balancing act—not least a willingness by top managers to let go. Managers should not be afraid to commit themselves explicitly to acting on the results of these initiatives and should encourage unrestrained participation, however unpredictable the consequences.
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