While “alignment” is often an overused word in business circles, it does convey an ideal state in which information and ideas flow easily between people in various parts of the business. For insurance companies, its especially critical to involve many moving parts of the business—from marketing to agents to underwriting to claims—in the delivery of customer service.
Technology plays a key role in any alignment process, of course. In their latest book, "Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance," co-authors George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky explore the difference social media platforms make in alignment—or realignment—efforts.
Social media can serve as a powerful alignment tool, they advocate. While “social media” may be just as overused a term as alignment, there nonetheless has been a positive force, tearing down the walls between managers and employees, between organizations and customers. Social media platforms have “opened organizations to voices that cannot be tightly controlled by management—both inside and outside voices.”
There are two ways alignment needs to be achieved: vertically and horizontally, the authors explain. Vertical alignment “is strongest when people are convinced that a strategy is good for them and is something they can trust. However, over the past 10 or more years, employee trust has eroded: “They've seen coworkers furloughed and pay levels frozen. They've watched as production and customer service jobs have been outsourced. They've observed as mergers and acquisitions strategies have eliminated entire departments and related personnel.”
New social media technology “can provide the platform for employees to get on board with the strategy,” they continue. “If used thoughtfully, social media can be a tool for generating trust and bringing people together in service of the Main Thing [people, service, profit] as well as management's strategy for achieving it.
Social media can also be used to achieve horizontal alignment as well, the authors state. It starts by integrating the disconnected and inward-looking silos, and second by opening clear channels between customers and the employees who serve them.” Functional areas—such as HR, finance, claims processing, legal—are necessary in complex organizations, but tend to coalesce into “self-interested, self protecting silos.” Plus, employee efforts—and brainpower—tend to get duplicated. An employee working on one solution may not be aware of another already put in place somewhere else in the organization. Social media opens up collaboration and knowledge in ways never seen before.
Some words of advice from the authors: approach social media strategically, with policies, executive sponsors and recognition that it is a culture changer.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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