Social Tools and Organizational Performance

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

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Concept description

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley (reference below, link on right) describe how organizations are using social tools to improve organizational performance.

A 33-minute podcast featuring the two authors can be found on HBR’s 27 February 2018 IdeaCast entitled “Make Tools Like Slack Work for Your Company” and can be found at

Leonardi and Neeley write:

“Workplaces have adopted internal social tools – think stand-alone technologies such as Slack, Yammer, and Chatter, or embedded applications such as Microsoft Teams and JIRA – at a staggering rate.  …

“To more systematically identify the performance value that social tools can bring to companies, we split employees at a large financial services firm into two groups and observed them for six months. The first group used an internal social platform called Jive-n, while the other group did not.

“The results were remarkable. The employees who had used the tool became 31% more likely to find coworkers with expertise relevant to meeting job goals. Those employees also became 88% more likely to accurately identify who could put them in contact with the right experts. They made these gains by observing what their coworkers talked about on Jive-n and with whom. The group that had no access to the tool showed no improvement on either measure over the same period.”

After analyzing four “traps” to avoid in introducing such tools (flawed assumptions about millennials; repressing informal communication; failure to recognize learning; focusing on the wrong data), Leonardi and Neeley summarize the most significant ways in which social tools can provide value in organizations:

“Improving collaboration. Internal social tools can enable employees to engage with coworkers more widely, building awareness of expertise and increasing collaboration across the organization. …

“Enhancing knowledge sharing. Companies are increasingly using social tools to gain a competitive advantage through internal knowledge sharing. Often this benefit emerges organically and is then put to strategic use. …

“Creating a connected global company. Employees who work in different locations around the world often have a hard time building relationships and forging a shared identity. Social tools can facilitate personal and professional connections, increasing trust and rapport across geographic and cultural borders. Many global employees report that internal social tools give them a window onto broader organizational discourse that is otherwise unavailable to them. …

“Preventing duplication of work. Social tools allow employees to learn about existing projects and initiatives that overlap with their own and to coordinate efforts. This can reduce work duplication and free up time and money to generate new knowledge. …

“Increasing innovation. With the help of social tools, employees can sometimes borrow ideas and solutions from other parts of the organization and combine them in fresh ways to create new products or processes.”

The authors conclude:

“Bringing social tools into a company may look simple. Most of them are cloud-based applications, so they require virtually no investment in infrastructure. What’s more, today’s employees have experience using social media in their personal lives, making the learning curve easy for most people. But belying this apparent simplicity is a much more complicated reality: to achieve the benefits of a social enterprise, companies must work hard to avoid the common traps we’ve described – traps that can ensnare even the most adventurous enterprise. Some of the organizations we’ve studied have succeeded by using the strategies in this article. As a result, their employees are more engaged with their global companies, do a better job of communicating and sharing skills and knowledge, and collaborate and innovate more effectively.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Promoting Innovation and Driving Change (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107


Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley (2017), What Managers Need to Know About Social Tools, Harvard Business Review, November-December, at, accessed 2 March 2018.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 2 March 2018.

Image: Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley (2017), What Managers Need to Know About Social Tools, Harvard Business Review, November-December, at, accessed 2 March 2018.