Love at The Commission

This wonderful article, reproduced with her permission, by Maria Podlasek-Ziegler at The European Commission totally nails why social matters in organisations.

‘Love’ at the Commission By Maria (DG EAC)

I was rather sceptical when somebody told me about using Facebook, Twitter and so on. I considered I did not have time for such ‘toys’, it was enough to manage two e-mail accounts, the business and private one, to combine work at the Commission with raising children, keeping the household going on. And I simply did not have interest in the social web knowing well from the media how exhibitionistic the people can be talking to the entire world what they have had for breakfast or how bad they feel at the moment. And I was also alarmed by warnings how the data could be manipulated or misused.

But I had to show interest since I deal with EU programmes for young people being implemented by a network of national agencies. I have even encouraged colleagues ‘yes indeed it is something for young people, so we need to use social tools when we communicate with them’.

Everything changed after my last meeting with the colleagues form national agencies in October last year. As usual we raised the question of social media and listened to an external expert, Euan Semple. I expected some explanations about vimeo and Google+, instagram and hashtags. But suddenly I heard words like ‘leaving a trace’, ‘writing yourself into existence’, ‘growing up’, ‘the more you give, the more you get’ and … ‘love’ .

These unexpected words were so weird in the context I found myself at that moment that they provoked my curiosity. Two days later, after coming back from the mission, the first thing I saw on my PC’s screen was the message: Yammer at the Commission! I knew already this was an ‘internal Facebook’ for organisations. And I thought ‘this time you cannot escape’.

And I started discovering this new world. First of all I discovered an immense source of information related to so many areas in our work. I could read amazing articles, watch videos that I normally would not have found. And it was so easy to access all the people involved by simply asking questions. Although posting the first one took me some time: I hesitated, I was not sure about how to ask, if to ask… I had to learn that this was a new way of communication, which follows its own rules: it is so easy und natural as if you would speak to your colleague next door. At the same time you speak in public and each word you write down is being recorded and „observed” by maybe hundreds of colleagues.

Once you have overcome this initial fears to speak online, you discover that there are so many people that think in the same way you do, that you are not alone in this big organisation with 38 000 people. You start building up your networks, you recognise some names and other people start recognising yours. And so many colleagues simply listen to what you say. This gives you the courage to continue reflecting and expressing your views and provides you with an inner power.

The adventure started when a colleague from DG HR posted an announcement and encouraged everybody to contribute to the programme of the Digital Competence Day training. An avalanche of comments on a draft version started rolling, as if we were sitting in a meeting room and talking to each other. Nobody asked us to contribute; nobody supervised and controlled the progress of the work. We were driven neither by internal competition nor by expectation to gain some extra points in the carrier. And we had such a fun when simple creating something together. The results of this Yammer meeting you can see today.

But what all this does have in common with ‘love’? It does a lot. Thanks to the „meetings” and „conversations” on Yammer you see this institution opening up, you see all the individuals it is composed of: thoughtful, helpful colleagues with all the richness of their cultures they originate from, with all their expertise and human qualities. Suddenly you feel you are part of such a great unique community and you have the privilege to share with this community a common goal: to make a difference, change a bit the surrounding world and help building up a better Europe.