State Street, Unisys, GE Capital, KPMG and Leaseplan lead list of companies recognized as E2 Social Business Leaders.
The impetus for Mercer's enterprise social network came from the very top of the company -- although the CEO didn't ask for social collaboration in so many words, CIO Harry Van Drunen said.
The mandate from president and CEO Julio A. Portalatin was "a little broader than that," Van Drunen said. "He was looking for employee engagement and innovation within the organization and better ways to foster innovation."
Mercer is a global management consulting firm that helps other companies design benefits plans and employee programs. While its social collaboration initiative is still young, "among Fortune 500 companies, we've got a story that is as good or better than most," Van Drunen said.
This executive push for engagement and innovation came in early 2012, shortly after Van Drunen had shelved a planned SharePoint upgrade for budgetary reasons. Now, he dusted off those plans and took a closer look at how NewsGator's social platform in combination with SharePoint could accelerate progress toward Portalatin's business goal.
"I bundled together a business case, got approval in April and went live the first week in November," Van Drunen said. That was a "real burn" from an IT perspective, he added. "You only get that stuff done in a hurry if you have executive sponsorship," both because of the technology work required and the "work within the business."
Since then, Portalatin has become probably the most active user of the platform's social capabilities, blogging about strategy and inviting employees to comment back, Van Drunen said. "He's embracing the opportunity."
Getting the rest of the company to mirror that enthusiasm is more challenging, Van Drunen said. "What we've learned through the process is it does not magically happen." For social collaboration to be productive, people have to come back on a regular basis, and they won't do that if things get stale, he said. That requires not only adoption but active participation and productive use, he said.
Part of the process of winning active employee participation has been making sure everyone understands the ground rules. Early on, employees were presented with a series of "quick guide" documents on what was and was not appropriate behavior on the social network.
Marcia Robinson, leader of Mercer's Global Knowledge Management team, said Facebook and Twitter users took to the collaboration network more easily, but they still needed guidance on what was and was not appropriate. Her short version: "You should not be microblogging that you had Corn Flakes for breakfast, but you could post that you had Corn Flakes for breakfast with the CEO and here is what he said."
At the same time, other employees were afraid to post, partly because they were not clear where their posts would show up or who would see them, said Barbara Fiorillo, the enterprise content management leader on Robinson's team. Posting to the main corporate feed "can be scary for people, putting yourself out there like that -- knowing your boss sees it.
In Mercer's social collaboration setup, based on SharePoint and NewsGator Social Sites, all employees are automatically assigned followers including their primary supervisor and departmental coworkers.
"I think we've been really good about creating a culture that says it's okay to post -- and don't worry if there's a typo," she said. Still, employees needed guidance about what to post where -- whether in the company-wide stream or a group for a particular professional interest -- and who would see it. So her team created a "Who Sees My Post" infographic showing how widely visible a post will be, depending on where it is posted and how it is tagged.
In addition to calming fears about broadcasting too widely, this summary helped employees understand how to tag their posts to get them seen by the right people.
That seems to be happening, as employees report making productive connections they would not have made otherwise, Van Drunen said. Although formal measurement of the program's success will be important going forward, for now he asks employees to think of how many people they would have had to contact to get the answer to a question a few years ago, versus today.