The Business Case for In-house Social Networks

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End of the day, however, and the verdict for 2008 is shaping up as: Give networks a try, if only to bridge a looming generational divide.

Case in point: Bill Hayduk, CEO of RTTS, a software quality assurance and test company based in New York, says that while he personally doesn’t get what the buzz is about yet, he nonetheless recently greenlighted building an internal network.

“I’ve got a bunch of young IT people whom I want to keep comfortable working in the way they want to,” says Hayduk, who adds that he believes an online network will help pull together workers at various RTTS sites such as Phoenix and Philadelphia.

You must stay relevant

Time waste by employees of course is a concern, admits Hayduk, but he says his employees already have been using social networking sites, so why not try to steer them to an in-house vehicle. Besides, he adds, “if you want to stay relevant you have to play by their rules and, right now, these kinds of sites are so popular.”

Robert Stanley, senior test engineer at RTTS and the lead for the build-out of the social network, admits that the company initially stuck a toe in these waters by launching a wiki, “but it was under-utilized. There was no reason to go there.” Less than five percent of the workforce ever contributed content.

That is why RTTS now is launching a more robust, multi-dimensional site. “We want employees interacting with the site as much as possible,” says Stanley. More ways for more people to get and stay involved is emerging as a key strategy for making internal networks relevant and, so far, say the experts, putting up lots of content (from company news to in-house craigslist-style swap classifieds) is the solution du jour.

This still leaves the open question: Will a business value be evident? The answer for right now: nobody really knows, but the smart money is betting that some kind of trial needs to happen, now, if only to show under-30 employees that their employer gets it. Sort of.