Here are some notes from Leon Benjamin’s presentation on day three of the Peer Awards 2012.

Leon Benjamin, enterprise social media practitioner at Virgin Media, shared the story of how Virgin Media is developing social tools to drive employee engagement.

He started off by stating the importance of peer-to-peer communication within his – and any – organisation and shared some research by Booz Allen on the rise of the ‘nomadic worker’. Managing people and teams ‘from a distance’ is the next big challenge for organisations, he said.

Benjamin told delegates that senior execs needed to hear a concrete case for developing social tools and this required putting numbers against the investment. At Virgin Media, he is tracking the use of their new social tools – Web ex and Cisco’s collaboration tool Quad – against the spend on travel and expenses related to business meetings. This is being tracked on a monthly basis.

As with any change project, it takes time to shift attitudes and behaviours. This needs to be made clear to the senior executive team. ‘This is not an event, this is a journey and it takes time,’ he said.

Benjamin had carried out a lot of research both prior to developing Virgin Media’s social tools and as the tools have been used. Asked whether age and gender affected adoption of these new tools, he relied that tenure was the number one barrier to adoption.

He said that colleagues who had been with the company for many years found it hardest to adopt new tools and that a new starter aged 50 had no problem with the new tools because they were the tools they had to use for the job.

The new tools had already led to a 6% increase in employee engagement – the biggest single jump the company had seen. And they are already approaching the point where the increased use in social tools will cross the line of decreasing travel and expense costs. The tools have been in use for around a year.

Asked about things he had learned from the provcess, he said if you are going to have a video call facility (one click and you are dialling), then provide headsets for everyone.

He also said to sell the idea of using these tools you need to find your ‘super-connectors’ and sell the idea to them face to face. Just building the technology will not mean users will use it. This point was reiterated by many of the other presenters at the conference.