Most business leaders accept that with external customers that they are speaking to audiences with audiences, that feedback needs to be thought out, and that transparency and real-time discussion has value. Many also use social media tools for external recruitment. Social media enhancements that external communication. It's time for all to apply that reality to their critically important internal audience as well – employees.
Leading edge companies use social media to enhance employee engagement
Companies that are on the leading edge of technology already use social media in various ways to enhance employee engagement. Best Buy, for example, integrated an internal social networking site with many components aimed at increasing employee communication and collaboration. Blogs, wikis, social platforms, intranets, and even instant messaging components are used by leading edge companies like Best Buy, British Telecon, Cisco, and more.
Corporate culture is key to results
The strength of social media tools is their ability to enable connections, foster collaboration, and speed up the sharing of information. However there's no magic bullet and no guarantee of success with a focus on tools alone.
Employees respond well to social media tools when they complete existing positive ways of communicating. These tools can then drive increased interaction, connection, collaboration, innovation, and conversation – attributes of an engaged work which can result in a positive external image, increased employee retention, and improvements in the business itself.
If the corporate culture inadvertently works against creativity, innovation, and collaboration and does not recognize the value of feedback, then social tools alone are not going to change that.
However, just as most employees want to be engaged in their work, most leaders want the benefits that creativity, innovation, and collaboration can bring to their businesses.
Using social media tools – some examples
The examples below illustrate how companies use tools to enhance or add value to the face-to-face experience. Some use commercially available software or applications; others build their own applications to support increased internal security or control.
Companies often beginning internal blogs as a way to streamline communication to employees; some soon realize the benefit of blogs to also receive information from employees and to engage employees in discussion with each other on topics of interest. Used properly, these discussions can provide management with insight into what employees are thinking.
Some companies establish the blogs and content guidelines, a few allow the creation of personal blogs, all have the capacity to increase employee interaction.
"Micro-blogs, instant messaging, profiles, and wikis
It's not unusual for companies to experiment with various other tools that are commercially available or based on commercially available tools. Micro-blogging capabilities (think Twitter) and instant messaging (similar to texting) provide outlets for employees who are used to communicating with these tools in their personal lives.
Some companies enable employees to create "profiles" about themselves, to include a degree of personal information, subject expertise, projects being worked on, publications, and other information (think Facebook and similar tools). Especially when integrated into a leader internal social network, such information can assist employees in finding colleges to help with work-related projects.
Wikis are often created to enhance lessons-learned and to draw upon and save the collective knowledge of many people on any given topic. When well-utilized, wikis are a "crowd-sourced" tool for internal knowledge management.
Online discussion forums are another tool for supporting online collaboration, especially useful to enable collaboration across departmental and geographic boundaries. In addition to allowing healthy venting and enabling employees to post questions for which they need answers, this venue for broad collaboration can also result in productive solutions to business problems.
Internal social networking sites
Some companies develop internal websites that pull different social media tools together to support a virtual community of employees. In addition to making it easier for employees to access and use the various tools, these sites sometimes incorporate "relevance" algorithms that search across employee profiles, blog posts, and other data to identify other people who have expressed an interest or expertise in a given topic. This can help increase collaboration, communication, and problem-solving.
Tap the brilliance
There is brilliance within each employee. Social media tools can help leaders tap that brilliance to contribute significantly to the success of the business and to build a highly engaged workforce. Who would not want that?
Copyright 2011 Christine McLeod