Developing a Method for Measuring "Working Out Loud"

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Enterprise social network software platforms (ESNs) are increasingly being deployed in firms across almost every industry as a means of fostering employee collaboration. Although benefits in increased productivity, innovation, and employee engagement are highly touted, there is a high failure rate of these deployments. This often occurs because (1) there is a misapplied focus on technology adoption rather than adoption of the employee behaviors that are ultimately required to obtain those benefits, and (2) it is unclear what those behaviors are and how to measure them.

“Working Out Loud” is one possible framework for understanding and measuring the behaviors necessary to fulfill the promise that ESN vendors advertise. It is loosely described as doing work in a way that makes it visible to others, and is often associated with the use of social business tools. As these tools proliferate within organizations, the Working Out Loud concept is becoming increasingly popular as an organizational and individual goal and mantra among social software vendors, their customers, and leading pundits and consultants in this space.

Many benefits have been associated with Working Out Loud; however the concept is still somewhat amorphous. No attempts have been made to quantify it and little research has been done on whether the benefits attributed to it really exist. The common industry definition of Working Out Loud identifies two separate behaviors: narrating one’s work in the form of blog posts, status updates, etc. (typically individual behavior), and performing work in a transparent and observable way through the use of an enterprise social platform (typically group or team behavior).

This research hypothesizes that these two behaviors do exist and are related but distinct, and thus scales can be developed to measure each. A survey was given to employees of Lexmark International, Inc. (the author’s employer). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses performed on the data confirmed the hypothesis and resulted in scales for individual and group Working Out Loud that are designed to be minimallyintrusive so as to enable both researchers and practitioners to track an organization’s Working Out Loud behavior on an ongoing basis.