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by Jennifer Lumba | November 19, 2012
For all the talk of "social enterprises" filling the headlines, you would think there would be more corporate-wide efforts to boost collaboration in organizations large and small.

Yet the numbers are depressingly small. A recent McKinsey & Company study found that while 72 percent of companies use "social technologies" in some way, few are getting the full benefits of adoption. Improved communication and collaboration through social media and related tools could boost the productivity of some workers by as much as 25 percent, the study finds.

On a larger scale, a recent analysis of 20 years of studies on the value of human resources found that investing in workers tends to produce big performance gains in key areas such as customer satisfaction and innovation. 

The message? Train high performers and then let them loose to collaborate and create.

Here are 10 tips for using popular and homegrown social networks to boost collaboration throughout your company:

1. Get the Entire Company Online
While it may sound basic, there's no point in designing a strategy for collaboration unless your entire company is using social media in some form. Pick a preferred network — homegrown or otherwise — and encourage employees to sign up and begin posting.

2. Don't Force It
"Encourage" is the key word here. Demand that employees pick an approved network and hand them a set of guidelines, and like a rebellious teen, they'll do the opposite — if they don't ignore the request altogether. On the other hand, workers who feel free to experiment will do so.

3. Highlight Public Profiles
Once the entire company is online in some form, take the time to compile a directory that everyone can access easily. Then, highlight a new worker each week. Repost what they're writing so that peers, prospects, and customers can get to know them better.

4. Organize Around Shared Interests
Encourage employees to get creative in their profiles. Sure, skills, professional interests, and current assignments matter, but so do hobbies and interests. Anything that allows workers to find each other and collaborate is a potential productivity win.

5. Allow Ad-Hoc Groups to Emerge
Think bigger than just having one or two workers chatting about projects. Allow shared interests found via social media to rise up and become formal workgroups and then test the output. Are these ad-hoc teams performing better than assigned groups? If so, why? If not, why not?

6. Use Video
Social media has shattered borders. Mixing in video makes it even more so, allowing domestic workers to collaborate with colleagues halfway around the world with only a few clicks. Borrow from Google+ and allow workers to instantly "hangout" on video for collaborative work sessions.

7. Publish Calendars

When workers can see what peers are doing and when, they'll be more likely to collaborate. Place public calendars alongside social media profiles to encourage timely communications between peers.

8. Develop Team-Based Rewards
If getting out of the way is step one in enabling smart collaboration, then recognizing and rewarding excellence is step two. Publish case studies over the corporate media feed. Recognizing positive behaviors is the best strategy to promote recurrence.

9. Recruit Virally 
Collaborating on existing work will always take top priority, but what about planning for future projects? Reward teams that use social media to recruit and expand. One example: sponsor an outing for every five workers hired through viral channels.

10. Put the Spotlight on Executives
There's no substitute for leading by example. Managers expecting to enjoy the fruits of collaboration need to first go out and collaborate. Get top executives posting, tweeting, and otherwise talking in plain view of co-workers. They'll be far more likely to follow suit.

Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions (www.rideau.com). Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau’s employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at jenniferlumba@rideau.com