As leaders embrace the importance of culture and community in building a brand the focus and value of a brand is now shifted to the place it’s supposed to be, the people!  The word “Social” in social business is the major change that leaders and brands must embrace which means a new focus must be made on improving who, how and why we communicate.

Before we get into designing a culture that embraces this shift in communication and collaboration we must first understand the technology and innovation that are driving this change.  Technology and innovation won’t fix culture or communication problems but in order to architecture a culture that solves these problems we must understand the technology currently powering the digital world of work.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s the latest and great technology, the box cell phone and color printer that my Dad had were only available at his work.  Times have changed thanks to social, mobile, analytics and cloud not only do the employees have the latest and greatest technology but also in many cases they’ll have created a connected ecosystem empowering them to be more productive on their smart phone then any cubicle or office ever would be.  So how does this new connected employee change the way a company culture is built?

Digitally connected and technology driven employees affect on culture:

First off the culture must be built to embrace this new innovation by creating security and technology policies that protect the brand while still allowing the employee to utilize their technology to be more productive.  Companies that tried to fight this created what is known as shadow IT or what I like to call it, “Put too many useless policies in place for no reason so productive departments and leaders did whatever they needed to, to get the job done!”

Secondly many companies thought by adding a video conferencing unit in the conference rooms and providing laptops with web cameras they found the easy button to fixing collaboration problems.  Collaboration isn’t just about improving how people communicate, it’s also how devices and files are shared, how content management systems talk to learning management systems and how chat clients connect with remote employees and external communities.

Thirdly when companies first embraced the idea of social media it was assigned to the marketing department or inherited by the PR team.  Some companies understood the value of social media and social business collaboration tools and integrated these solutions within all “customer facing” departments increasing content collaboration and community engagement.  But in this digitally connected and technology driven workplace we have today, being a social business is far more than just content and community improvements. (tweet this)digitalhand

What is required to implement a dotted-line culture?

Management buy-in and leadership support aren’t enough anymore because to implement this change and remove silos and collaboration barriers change must be adopted throughout every facet of the organization.

Companies must hire and fire for culture fit while also implementing training and rebranding of employees skill sets to make sure employees are given the support and tools required to do their job in a new way.

Managers must also be compensated in such a way that they encourage and lead their employees to do what’s best for the team, which might mean collaborating with other departments, or utilizing shared assets to complete a task.

Lastly leadership must create a culture that shows employees that not only they care about them today but also they care about their future and building and leveraging their personal brand.  This isn’t done by providing free lunch or adding a Ping-Pong table in the lobby.  This is only possible by establishing authentic relationships that together build a community and foundation built on trust and a shared mission that everyone’s role is vital for the company to be successful.

These things are only possible if the company embraces training not as something that is done once a year or part an employees’ onboarding rather a daily element of employee and company growth.  The dotted line culture is not only a dotted line for communication but it is also a dotted line that is agile enough to embrace change and allow leadership to step up and focus on the success of the company rather than the success of their individual departments.

When failures are transformed into

What departments have dotted lines?

When a dotted-line culture is invested in and given the time needed grow, it will operates less like a network of employees and more like a community of passionate people coming together for a shared cause and mission.

For this internal community to succeed it not only requires open and authentic communication with fellow employees but also the external customer community.  This open communication allows for fluid feedback, improved customer service, real-time engagement and humanized connection that builds trust, respect and loyalty both between the customer and the brand but the employees and customer community.

Each company will require a unique management structure and communication flow but here are some examples that leverage this dotted line culture that can help paint the picture for your organization.

For the sales team to accurately understand the customer community problems and current engagement with the brand the social selling team must be actively communicating with marketing to understand business intelligence, customer service team to understand current open issues and marketing to understand the brand story.

For the community managers to fully embrace their roles as the voice and face of the brand they must be an active participate in the leadership discussion on business goals and strategy while also understanding the brand messaging being constructed by the marketing team and the product features and roadmap controlled by the product management team.

These are just a few examples of the roles and situations that require open collaboration and communication to effectively do their jobs.  In many cases once the internal community is trained and embraces these new dotted line roles and responsibilities, implementing tools for social listening, video conferencing, content collaboration, customer service management and others becomes easy with most tasks and new procedures being automated.  This social automation in combination with improved insights; machine learning and the always-connected employee not only will increase productivity but also will provide new analytics and intelligence allowing for the business to make rapid strategic decisions providing more value for the customer and better job security for the employees!