How to engage, collaborate and communicate with employees through social media – Harish Vasudevan
(This is the second guest post – this time from my friend and former colleague Harish Vasudevan. He is the Asia Pacific head of an innovative WPP agency called Enfatico [ www.Enfatico.com.sg] . He has been in the marketing services field for over 20 years working in India, China and now Singapore. In this period he has led numerous teams to success of the revenue and awards type. He blogs his marketing related thoughts at harishvasudevan.wordpress.com)
Over the last couple of years we have seen the explosion in social media usage. Be it Facebook or Twitter and now Google+ everyone’s on it. And not just on it, hours a day are spent sharing ones thoughts and feelings. It is rather surprising to see the extent of sharing that goes on. Nothing is too private or personal. No surprise that the heaviest users are the younger population. Marketers have jumped on this bandwagon quite quickly and running campaigns. Employers less so.
So far most employers have been struggling with Social Media policies. Some companies have an outright ban on using them in the office, while others have policy documents about the use. This sis where most companies have invested their time.
A few years ago I was involved in working on a recruitment campaign for a large global services company operating in India. In that process I was reviewing some research done amongst the potential recruits, as well as recent joinees. A new attitude leapt out. This is not a generation that will do as told, just because it is told. They expect to understand the big picture. If they don’t like what they are doing, they are vocal about it. They don’t want to be boxed into departments for life. They want to know more. Experiment with opportunities across the organization. I believe they are what is fashionably called Gen Y.
I feel there’s an opportunity to use Social Media to engage this new generation employees in the organization.
ENGAGEMENT : Typically in an organization the CEO is a distant figure. Employees hear from him in company wide emails or perhaps a speech somewhere. For the new comer the CEO is probably someone she will never meet or see. Social media provides the CEO, and other senior managers, the opportunity to connect with their employees. Some CEOs blog about their interests which presents a personal side to themselves and can encourage staff across the company to respond and connect with them. This sort of engagement is what the Gen Y employee seeks. At a WPP Company the global CEO would show up on the internal company platform once every few days, and share what was happening on client businesses, new initiatives and also respond to any Qs people may have..LIVE. This sort of engagement also brings a level of informality in the relationship which increases the employee engagement significantly. Which is what all companies want. Engaged employees.
The channel also provides employees the opportunity to reach out to senior most people to share concerns, grievances etc.
COLLABORATION : The other aspect of this is to encourage cross department partnership. The days of water coolers are over. People don’t have a place to hang about and chat and bounce ideas. Social media can be a good substitute for that. Create pods for new projects and encourage company wide participation. If you want the best ideas within a company throw the problem open to all. Deloitte is widely recognized as a company that has used a platform called Yammer to spark internal conversations amongst it’s disparate practice groups. This has resulted in richer conversation than previously as there is far greater dialogue amongst staff that previously had no reason to connect.
COMMUNICATION : The last aspect of this is just old fashioned communication. Rather than a boring email social media can make information sharing much more fun. Microsoft launched an initiative called Yellow Balloon. This was used to share internal information about Microsoft, changes in the organization and encouraged employees to ask questions.
Social media gives companies the opportunity to have a two way conversation with their employees. And don’t forget the new generation employees are not scared to voice their problem. It is better for companies to provide them the platform to share internally than on some external website.
This is a challenge to many organizations as it breaks down hierarchy and brings a lot of transparency into an organization. One can no longer hide behind ‘Waiting for the boss to decide’ because the boss is a click away. So my advice to companies embarking on this would be to plan out the engagement process. Think through the various items that could come up and plan for it. Once started you cannot shut it down nor try to manage it too aggressively. The returns far outweigh the risks.
Having said all this, there’s still nothing that beats face to face communication. So if you sit in the same building as your employees there’s nothing like walking around, talking to them and doing old fashioned team lunches. Starting a social media platform to connect with someone 2 floors, or even buildings away, is just bad form!!
Use the medium to add to other efforts and watch your employee satisfaction scores go up as the turnover rates go down.
“Who is going to write your next guest post? Some one from Australia?” asked Prasna**
” Australia? Why Australia?”
“The first one was from the US. This one is from Singapore. I thought you are focusing on overseas guest writers.”
“I think you have given me an interesting idea. May be I should look for one from Australia!”
**Prasna Rao is an unusual friend. He appears every time I start writing something. He is almost always there when I am writing my blog. He asks questions that are razor sharp and often makes me uncomfortable. He is relentless till I answer his questions in simple, clear terms. You might find that he is most of the times asking questions that you want to. Therefore he is on your side, while he is putting me in the dock. I call him my Uninvited Coach