September 23rd, 2013

Using Social Media to drive Employee Engagement

It seems so obvious - using social media to work the employee engagement 'magic' - and yet the driver is (pure) sales. But more than that so few businesses see the opportunity not just to change the buy in of their employees but the whole cultural dynamic.

Certainly, in the United Kingdom this seems odd when you think that one of the most lauded companies is the John Lewis Partnership. Now, I'm not suggesting that they allow all their staff to blog, Tweet or maintain an independent presence; but if ownership begets engagement begets profit then surely, even where a company doesn't have shares or a bonus pool to offer, there is at least a thread of evidence to suggest that those employees who feel bought in to what you are doing will be more engaged.

This isn't a case of forcing people to engage in a top down process that is alien to them but, increasingly, your people want to use the platforms at their disposal to help your business. The question is why aren't you allowing them to do so?

If I had my way, I would make it a condition of all first line managers to make sure that every member of their team had the knowledge, confidence and guidance to use social media as part of their job. Too often, I see a situation where no one really knows what they can and cannot do and, as a result, the internally confused picture is replicated externally.

Of course, there is greater risk when you don't maintain a top down approach, but you can't have it both ways - an engaged workforce but one that you don't trust.

The leaders in your business need to understand that social media sits at the heart of the company. It's not some nice to have option. It's a paradigm shift where they need to secure the cooperation and support of everyone. We all know that half the problem with employee engagement programmes is that no one has bought into the hyperbole. In many cases, there just isn't enough of the old fashioned walking the talk - more slogans than action.

But if you properly introduce social media into the mix, you are, in effect, turning the table on people and saying 'here, you have a go.' It's not a case of abdicating responsibility but instead, dare I say, empowering them.

Of course, the cynics among you will say that it takes more than a bit of social media fluff to change the mindset of the actively disengaged.

And I wouldn't disagree save for one point. Until you try it you won't know.

Sitting above any social media 'endeavour' is the need for artful communication. The sort of communication that doesn't begin and end with the usual Powerpoint guff but a message that is believable. How many times have you heard the usual mission statement nonsense where leaders talk about being the best or the like? Frankly, it's meaningless. If you want to be up there with the very best then social media is just one component of the feel good factor that is so necessary for any business to be great.

I firmly believe that businesses who take this message to heart are the ones who will adapt fastest to the changing market, and find a way to tap the huge reservoir of talent in their midst. Right now, much like the old chestnut that everyone is in marketing, social media is, I believe, one of the few variables that you can internally shape you business for the betterment of everyone.

Here's to the empowered among you!


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