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Corporate social networks: an untapped resource?

Mohamed Hédi Charki , Professor

In our digital age, enterprise social networks (ESNs) such as Slack and Microsoft Teams have become essential tools for fostering communication and collaboration within organisations. However, their role goes far beyond simply facilitating professional exchanges. According to Mohamed Hedi Charki, Professor at EDHEC Business School, these platforms play a crucial role in knowledge sharing and cultural transformation within companies.

Reading time :
18 Jun 2024

A new form of knowledge sharing: a key to organisational success

Knowledge contribution and sharing are invaluable resources for the success of an organisation, especially in a competitive environment. In a recent article (1) Mohamed Hedi Charki and his co-authors, Nabila Boukef and Mustapha Cheikh-Ammar, explore how non-work-related knowledge contributions on ESNs can stimulate work-related knowledge contributions. Drawing on social exchange theory, the authors show that this original form of knowledge contribution is associated with work-related knowledge contribution.

The authors also propose a model highlighting the important role played by the company when it provides a context that fosters a sense of psychological safety, enabling employees to express themselves freely, and a perceived organisational support conducive to their well-being.

The article points out that it is necessary to highlight the nonwork domain of corporate social networks by considering it as a favourable terrain capable of generating real knowledge and not just ordinary posts and comments. So, for corporate social networks to be truly effective, it is crucial to go beyond the purely technical aspects and focus on the cultural and human dimensions. The perceived support and psychological safety of employees are essential elements in encouraging the transition from non-work-related to work-related contributions.


When a  positive employee-employer climate is created, employees feel indebted to their companies for sharing their professional knowledge on corporate social network as recognition for having given them the opportunity to share their nonwork-related knowledge.

Research (2) shows that traditional knowledge management initiatives have not always produced the desired results. By opening up the possibility of contribution to all employees, regardless of their position or field, companies can better exploit the collective capabilities of their teams.


Can Slack or Teams change corporate culture?

At the same time, Mohamed Hedi Charki points out that corporate social networks reflect organisational culture to a large extent (3). In his view, it is not enough to limit ourselves to a statistical perspective in order to give an opinion on the effectiveness of social networks. Indeed, the vast majority of companies develop performance measures for these networks based on the number of contributions and periodic comments. However, this approach may only reflect the tip of the iceberg.

By way of example, Mohamed Hedi Charki points out that corporate social networks cannot be expected to generate an innovative attitude and/or creative ideas if they are used to communicate about innovative ideas once they have been implemented. Companies get the most out of corporate social networks when employees are involved right from the idea generation phase. It is at this level that corporate social networks enable the detection of knowledge and know-how that is often hidden due to the corporate structure, which does not allow open, upstream sharing of opportunities and projects in progress.


Paradoxically, a company can provide its employees with a corporate social networking platform that is technologically well developed. However, on this platform, they will find those who are already well positioned in the offline social network and who use the corporate social network essentially to reflect their offline positions and achievements.

The company can also use the corporate social network as part of the idea generation and development phase. The researcher gives the example, cited by Adam Grant (4) in his book "Originals", of Pixar, which involves all its employees in giving their opinion on the originality of film scripts at an early stage.


The future of business clearly lies in innovation, and corporate social networks can play a major role provided that the company does not see them as a simple application, but rather as an exceptional opportunity to encourage the expression of creative ideas upstream in a framework of psychological safety and free expression where managers value the ideas of contributors.




(1) Boukef, Nabila, Mohamed Hédi Charki, and Mustapha Cheikh‐Ammar. "Bridging the gap between work‐and nonwork‐related knowledge contributions on enterprise social media: The role of the employee-employer relationship." Information Systems Journal (2024). https://doi.org/10.1111/isj.12500

(2) Wang, Sheng, and Raymond A. Noe. "Knowledge sharing: A review and directions for future research." Human resource management review 20.2 (2010): 115-131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2009.10.001

(3) "Social Media and the Inlaying, Infixing, and Annealing of Cultural Toolkits During Cultural Change". Mohamed Hédi Charki and Nabila Boukef (2023). Academy of Management Proceedings. https://doi.org/10.5465/AMPROC.2023.11538abstract

(4) Grant, A. 2017. Originals: How non-conformists move the world. Penguin. https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/431359/originals-by-adam-grant-foreword-by-sheryl-sandberg/9780753556993

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