Over the past few years, there has been a significant shift in understanding the critical role that social dimensions play in the success and longevity of businesses.

From health and safety hazards to employee well-being and accountability towards human rights, organizations are increasingly recognizing these factors as direct operational risks.

As we embark on a new era of workplace transformation, one key area that is set to revolutionize the way we operate is social analytics. In this article, we will delve into their role in today's business landscape and explore how it can drive workplace effectiveness.

The Awakening: Addressing Systemic Inequalities

The year 2020 will be remembered as a year of social awakening. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fundamental weaknesses in our social fabric, leading to a renewed focus on systemic inequalities. The #BlackLivesMatter movement, in particular, pressured organizations worldwide to reevaluate their operating practices and find ways to prevent and mitigate such inequalities. Key social dimensions were scrutinized, including equal representation by race and gender, the strength of community relations, and corporate behaviors toward human rights abuses.

Amidst these challenges, it became evident that organizations needed to move beyond mere “Standards of Conduct” and develop comprehensive toolkits that educate and guide all stakeholders. While prevention and monitoring strategies initially seemed like sensible approaches, they often fail to address the complex and deeply rooted issues of social biases within the workplace.

Unveiling the Hidden Costs of Social Disconnection

Social biases within teams and organizations have far-reaching consequences. Businesses have long faced challenges related to disengaged employees, decreased productivity, and hindered innovation.

Even before 2020, a May 2019 report titled “Deskless not Voiceless: Communication Works” shed light on remote workers' experiences. The report revealed that 54% of respondents felt disconnected and “voiceless,” while only 20% believed their ideas contributed significantly to conversations with their managers. The pandemic's impact has significantly amplified the shift towards remote work, making these issues even more prevalent. The same report released in 2021 highlighted how 75% of respondents did not trust thri organizations to communicate transparently (*)

Measuring What Matters: The Role of Social Analytics

The concept of “measure what you manage” has its critics, with opponents citing the lack of comparable data sets and privacy concerns as barriers to effective implementation.

However, failing to incorporate social metrics in corporate decision-making exposes organizations to long-term issues and reputational struggles. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the impact of physical and mental health on operational performance to the forefront of business continuity planning.

A recent study by McKinsey & Co. highlighted the interplay between social cohesion, individual purpose, and trusting relationships in the newly digital workforce. While business leaders have recognized the value of collaboration tools, adoption rates remain low, with only 56% currently utilizing such tools.

Empowering Teams Through Social Innovation

Social innovation is key to bridging the gap and driving inclusivity in human interactions. One notable example is the AI-enabled team communication platform, Riff Analytics (part of edtech leader Esme Learning since 2021).

Founded by an all-star crew of MIT-trained funders and advisors, the platform provides valuable insights into team meeting dynamics, such as interruption/flow, dominance, bias, and influence. Importantly, it preserves the privacy of human interactions while delivering objective data.

Beth Porter, CEO and co-founder of Riff Analytics and Esme Learning, emphasizes the value of an augmented team working with tools that measure how they collaborate and relate to each other. By empowering individuals and teams with direct access to data, these tools enable self-management, regardless of organizational structure.

Embracing a Human-Centric Approach for Enhanced Productivity

There is immense potential for human-centric solutions that enhance productivity gains through a connected and inclusive workplace. Gallup reported an average 17% increase in profitability for businesses that prioritize employee engagement.

Organizations must consider the interplay between social biases and human capital development as technology evolves. Mass connectivity should go beyond digital readiness and place employee engagement at the heart of technology adoption.

Key takeaways

The rise of social analytics signals a transformative era for businesses, offering the means to identify and address social biases, foster inclusivity, and enhance team dynamics.

Organizations must recognize the importance of social dimensions in operational success, especially in the wake of the events of 2020. By harnessing the power of emerging AI technologies and embracing social innovation, businesses can create inclusive and productive workplaces that drive profitability and long-term success.

To learn more on employing social analytics in the workplace, you can access The Impact Challenge in open source here.


(*) “Deskless Not Voiceless 2021: The Frontline Barometer” by Coleman Parkes (Workplace from Facebook commissioned study of 7,000 frontline workers and 1,350 C-suite leaders in the UK, the USA, Canada, Brazil, France, Mexico and Australia), September-October 2021

About the Author

ALESSIA FALSARONE, SASB FSA, is a sustainable finance expert and a fellow of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. Her work bridges the gap between sustainability, financial innovation and risk management. A sought-after commentator for media outlets and contributor to academic programs, Ms. Falsarone is a member of high-level advisory groups that promote environmental and climate finance, including the G20 Environmental Ministerial, the London Stock Exchange, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (Value Reporting Foundation) and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. In recognition of her innovative vision for business and society, she has received an Honoree Award from the Women’s Venture Fund and the 2021 Global Leadership Award by the SheInspires Foundation in the UK.

She is an alumna of Stanford University, the MIT Sloan School of Business and Bocconi University. Ms. Falsarone holds certified director status with the National Association of Corporate Directors. An avid advocate of sustainability in business education, she has contributed to educational initiatives on the topic at the Asian University for Women, the Society of Corporate Compliance, the Swiss Sustainable Finance Initiative, the United Nations, the World Bank, Stanford University and University of Chicago, including delivering training on climate risk and green finance in Asia Pacific and Latin America.

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