That was the unexpected result from "The Coworker Network" study conducted by Paul Leonardi, a professor of communication at Northwestern University's Kellogg School. In 2012, Leonardi learned that a large credit card company planned to adopt an enterprise social networking tool called A-Life. In order to streamline communications and reduce inefficiencies, the firm wanted its 15,000 employees to have a better sense of who their colleagues were, what their backgrounds were, and what they did.
To determine the impact of the social networking tool, Leonardi compared two demographically similar groups within the company: one in marketing and a second in operations. Before the tool's implementation, the groups were asked questions to gauge their knowledge about their colleagues. One group was given the new social networking tool and encouraged to use it. The second was not, and instead relied on traditional communication channels, such as email, to exchange company information.
Not surprisingly, after six months, those using the enterprise social networking site had improved their ability to find relevant data by 31%. They enhanced their ability to find an employee with needed information by 71%. This improvement occurred even though employees sent, on average, just one social networking message per week, the study found.