LEARNING

How Enterprise Social Networks Can
Dismantle Trade Unions

Historically, blue collar and trade union workers have felt more detached from management than other workers. Maintaining productivity and stability in unionised workforces has always been a balancing act between workers’ demands for higher wages and better conditions, and management’s push for productivity. In the process, the two parties usually become discordant and communication difficulties ensue.

Before enterprise social networks were available for business, management would communicate with employees, and vice versa, via a trade union representative. He or she could choose to discuss the information with an inner circle, or even withhold it based on the political circumstances. This isolation of information could be quite destructive both to the business and individual union members.

In extreme cases of division, union representatives could institutionalise conflict in the workplace by developing or escalating issues just to "stick up for members", and so be seen to justify their presence and the membership fees.

Pushing a personal agenda is now very easy with unmanaged public social media web sites such as Facebook. Despite a message only being embraced by a small minority, the posting may go viral and swell opinion amongst the ranks.

The consequence of an unmanageable viral community is of great concern to management because once started it may be impossible to contain. We've seen dire circumstances whereby public union pressure has almost destroyed years of goodwill such as the Qantas industrial disputes of the last few years.

Companies have always tried to contain the distribution of unregulated, negative information however with the rise of public social media this has become very difficult to achieve.
 
In recent years, new techniques and internal communication channels have been developed to overcome the dilemmas brought about by powerful trade unions.

Enterprise Social Networks (also known as a private social business networks) “flatten” the hierarchy of internal employee communication which allows management to bypass union presence and communicate directly with all employees on the shop floor. At the same time, employees can communicate directly with management.

Enterprise Social Networks provide a regulated means of information distribution within the internal business environment. Regulation is achieved by leveraging the powerful moderation features that are built into the software and is supported by a carefully considered rule book or social business policy which is published for all to read and follow. Areas prohibited for discussion might include politics, sex, religion, or personal criticism.

For this to be implemented and controlled, a network manager and/or moderator needs to be appointed to ensure all internal employee communication follows these rules. Part of their job is to deal with communication that is not in-line with the acceptable use policy.

Once this is done, and the tools of the software are mastered, the network creates an environment for information and discussions to take place in a controlled and productive manner. Enterprise Social Networks thereby assist in building a trusting work environment where all the voices of the workers themselves can be considered.

The source of every comment, discussion, document or conversation is recognisable and identifiable. This transparency in the network means that everyone is accountable for their communication. More often than not, this creates a self regulating environment.

This regulated transparency in communication is one of the most powerful characteristics of business social networks and has a great impact on trade union presence.

When the enterprise social network is available on the worker’s smart phone, internal company communication can be circulated almost instantly.

Employees become less reliant on union representatives when they are better informed and gain a deeper understanding of the business and its issues. All parties are then able to move on and refocus on their work.


Mumba Cloud is an Enterprise Social Network designed specifically for companies with a strong trade union presence. The platform provides a range of sophisticated tools and moderation features that allow companies to leverage the benefits of internal employee communication while mitigating the risks associated with public social networking.

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