Employee Engagement through Social Media and Internal Community

By Heather Campbell

Building employee engagement is an ongoing goal for most organisations. It has been the topic of two recent lunches that we have hosted for senior leaders in Scotland. At the first of these, two of our guests shared their own stories of increasing employee engagement in their organisations. At the second, we explored the new opportunities that social media brings in terms of engaging people. The discussion was led by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, MD at Intelligise and specialist in the field. Gordon has captured the main points that came up during the discussion in the following blog.

– Heather Campbell, Campbell McWilliams

Guest blog by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, MD at Intelligise RGO

I was delighted to have been asked to give a talk to the Leaders’ Lunch Club on using social media and internal community for employee engagement. During the talk we explored the following questions:

  1. What are the key benefits to a large company from using social media for employee engagement?
  2. What are the key barriers that would slow adoption of social-media-based employee engagement in your company?
  3. How would we measure success once implemented?
  4. What impact might social media and internal community have on the organisation of the future?

These are some of the primary points raised:

1. Key benefits of social-media-led employee engagement

  • Learning – best practice can be shared instantly, questions answered and a sense of teamwork and sharing is engendered.
  • Cultural change – there is an opportunity to stop being top-down and to give more autonomy to employees and let people share their passion for the business. Peer-to-peer positive messages can be more supportive than top-down.
  • People work in silos – they only form narrow networks within companies, and so the opportunity for the cross-fertilisation of ideas is lost. A social media approach would make it easier to break down these barriers and network across the whole organisation, even via geographically-dispersed teams.
  • Increased trust in the organisation and a clear sense of what it wants to achieve can be created through conversation rather than broadcasting.
  • In recruitment terms the next generation of employees will be attracted to organisations that communicate internally and externally in the way that they, the workers, want to communicate. Internal community and discussion will seem natural to them and this could be a source of advantage for businesses in terms of attracting talent.
  • Meshing internal community with information from the internet would aid global learning – finding best practices and lessons from around the world and then discussing their potential implementation internally.

2. Barriers to Adoption

  • Language could be a problem in international companies – though improvements in instant translation technology are already addressing this.
  • If the wrong approach is taken then people could spent too much time chatting and being social rather than working.
  • Some locations do not have great broadband access and this can isolate some divisions and departments.
  • Managerial attitudes – it was noted that some companies represented at the Leaders’ Lunch had implemented Yammer but that the uptake was not great. It was thought that fear of saying the wrong thing was a problem, but also that this form of communication had not been fully adopted in corporate culture.
  • It was also suggested that some types of business are more suited to social media based forms of communication that others.
  • Legal concerns were also raised – could people be sued for an internal tweet or subject to disciplinary action?

3. How would success be measured?

  • Key goals linked to financial outcomes need to be agreed at the outset, such as numbers of new product ideas, levels of customer support, time saved on new product development etc. This can be used to generate a return on investment (ROI) calculation.
  • Company-wide adoption and levels of activity would need to be measured against set goals. This would include the point when senior managers start to use it and lead by example.
  • There would naturally be some chatter and gossip but the level of productive and non-productive chat would need to be monitored; the community managers would need to facilitate the right levels and types of interaction.
  • Are people more productive?
  • Can time to market and the costs of innovation be positively affected by changing the conversation dynamic?
  • Can the conversations be captured and efficiently turned into best practices that can be made available throughout the company?
  • Employee league tables that will show who shares the most and helps others the most will create ‘champions’ and ‘super-contributors’. The system may also include voting ability so that the best answers and contributions are highlighted.

4. The organisation of the future

  • Communication will change – for example applicants will expect to be rejected via a text rather than a letter.
  • Social communication will still involve real life events but these will merge seamlessly with online interactions.
  • ‘Communities of Practice’ within organisations will bring faster problem-solving benefits; call centres already use internal community to answer customer questions where the knowledge base was not able to provide answers.

This was a fascinating discussion and one of the key learnings was that simply offering employees the software would not facilitate internal community – you need to get the culture right beforehand.

It was also accepted that many companies are using outdated modes of communication – especially those whose customers include younger people – but that adoption was slow due to a lack of senior management buy-in; just like mobile phones, email and websites in the past!

If you have any questions or observations just leave a comment below – I will respond to every one.

– Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, MD at Intelligise RGO

Image: tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  1. Gordon, great post. I am doing some research on how employee engagement can be boosted by the implementation of social media in the workplace, and your blog has provided me with a wealth of information.

    Very recently, my organisation stated using Yammer as its internal social networking tool, but this move was not well supported at all by management and mainly occurred because staff were looking for an alternative way to communicate seeing as Facebook and Twitter are not permitted at work. I questioned my manager about his involvement with Yammer, and he expressed no interest what so ever in using or promoting its use amongst his staff.

    Staff have since been directed by the ICT manager to stop using Yammer as the security risks it poses are too great. I found this disappointing because staff engagement within our organisation is fairly low, and since the implementation of Yammer I witnessed a lot more communication amongst staff, and a overall boost in morale. It seems that management are still viewing social media as way staff can waste time, rather than as a way for staff to collaborate and communicate.

    Our organisation also does not have a social media policy at the moment, but due to the recent dismissal of a staff member due to some comments made on their personal Facebook page, I feel that this may soon change. Maybe once some proper policies have been established for the use of social media, the subject of an internal social network can be revisited. Any tips for changing the attitude of management toward social media, seems most of them are still living in the dark ages?

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