Asean CEOs go social for greater engagement, collaboration

update CEOs in Southeast Asia looking to up social network use to drive customer engagement and encourage more open, team-based work culture to boost business, research reveals.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on

update SINGAPORE--CEOs in Southeast Asia plan to use social networks as the new mode of direct engagement with customers, and also promote greater openness and internal collaboration within their organizations, an IBM study reveals.

Released Friday, Big Blue's biennial Global CEO Study showed that 25 percent of the region's CEOs are already using social networks to forge closer relationships with customers, partners and the new generation of employees, as they shift their focus away from e-mail and phones as the main modes of communication. By comparison, only 16 percent of CEOs globally have indicated to be doing likewise. 

The number of top-level executives using social networks will only increase, with Southeast Asia expected to see a spike from 25 percent to 68 percent in the next three to five years while the global figure is projected at 57 percent, it added.

This shift toward social has brought about benefits. The study found that organizations that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness--often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation--as a critical influence.

"CEOs are embracing new models of working that tap into the collective intelligence of an organization and its networks to devise new ideas and solutions for increased profitability and growth," the study noted.

The fifth edition of the study involved polling the views of 1,709 CEOs and public sector leaders from 64 countries and 18 industries. Of these, 54 CEOs were from the Southeast Asia region. The survey was conducted between September 2011 and January 2012.

These new models of working have also led to stronger alignment between C-level executives, noted G Venkatraghavan, managing partner at IBM's global business services. He told ZDNet Asia during the media briefing organized here on Friday in conjunction with the CEO Study's release that the time lag between CEOs conveying their strategic intent and CIOs and CMOs acting on this business plan have since become shorter, and there's more consistency in execution across the top-level executives.

One example of this consistency and alignment can be seen when 65 percent of global CIOs identified partnering extensively with other organizations as a priority--something which 53 percent of CEOs have similarly highlighted as a priority, the IBMer pointed out.

"The increase in collaboration have facilitated greater exchange of ideas and interaction internally, as well as a stronger feedback mechanism between the C-level executives," Venkatraghavan said.

Team players in demand
CEOs in the Southeast Asian region are also more likely to regard interpersonal skills of collaboration and creativity as key drivers of employees success to operate in a more complex, interconnected environment than their global counterparts. Some 87 percent of the region's chiefs identified skills of collaboration as key compared with 75 percent of global heads, while 72 percent in the region picked creativity compared with 61 percent globally, the study stated.

To create such an organizational culture, companies have been actively recruiting workers who excel in open, team-based environments, IBM stated.

Anita Mehta Iyer, partner and leader of strategy & transformation at IBM global business services in Asean, said: "Given their intent to create greater openness, CEOs are looking for employees who will thrive in this kind of atmosphere. CEOs are increasingly focused on finding employees with the ability to constantly reinvent themselves. These employees are comfortable with change; they learn as they go, often from others' experiences."

Thus, leaders must build and support practices to help these employees thrive, such as encouraging the development of unconventional teams, promoting experiential learning techniques and empowering the use of high-value employee networks, the study recommended.

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