Engaging employees via internal social media
In European Social Media Survey 2015, M-Brain looked at how companies use social media in their businesses. In this blog text, we decided to have a look at a relatively new phenomenon, employee engagement by means of internal social media. Colin Eagen, Principal and Founder of E Group, provides one definition of employee engagement as “a workplace movement aiming to improve the enthusiasm, happiness, and performance of employees”.
Utilizing internal social media for the purpose of engaging employees did not come up in our survey among the top activities pursued in social media. However, we feel that this theme could be of major importance when looking at the future at workplaces. While the use of external social media often focuses on connecting brands with customers, the use of internal social media aims to improve communication between colleagues. The overall purpose is to enhance the way a company operates.
Recognition is social – both at work and outside
Why, then, do we think that the importance of internal social media is likely to grow in the future? Firstly, some things do not change: we feel appreciated when we get recognized. At the same time, there’s been a major shift in our private lives, where recognition is increasingly often received through our social networks. For instance, do I feel validated if only one person liked the link I posted to a joke that I thought was hilarious? Or if a total of three people liked my face in my new profile picture, one of whom was my mother?
When we are not sleeping, a considerable amount of our time is dedicated to working. The basic human need of social recognition is unlikely to disappear, whether at work or in our private lives. It would, therefore, seem logical if employers were to make more use of internal social media, a sort of Facebook of working life, in a bid to try to create motivation in the workplace and to engage their employees.
What are the benefits of internal social media?
In his blog text, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, MD at Intelligise, lists some of the key benefits of employee engagement via social media. One major advantage is learning, as questions are answered and best practice can be shared instantly. There is also a genuine opportunity for cultural change from a hierarchical organization towards one giving more autonomy to its employees.
Furthermore, as people work in narrow groups within organizations, an opportunity for cross-fertilisation of ideas is lost. A social media approach might enable employers to gain a better understanding of their employees and to even discover hidden gems in the personnel. MacIntyre-Kemp also points out that increased trust in the organization and a clear sense of what it wants to achieve can be achieved through this conversational approach, as opposed to dictating decisions.
Last, but not least, many companies still use outdated modes of communication that are not likely to attract future employees. In terms of recruitment, it could be a major advantage for a company if its ways of communication appealed to young talents, who most likely find internal community and discussion natural.
Successful implementations and challenges
One company that has successfully created an in-house social network is China-based computer company Lenovo. In its social network, Lenovo shares both external news about the company and its products, as well as curated internal content, such as videos from company gatherings. Employees at Lenovo have found that when their posts get shared, their professional credibility increases as well.
Obviously, adopting internal social media to create employee engagement does not happen overnight or without problems, but tackling potential pitfalls would require another blog text. However, I would like to quote CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), which emphasizes that “social technology alone will not transform organizational culture” and “meaningful voice is more than simply giving employees a platform: they need to be heard”. If people do not feel they can share their thoughts openly every day at the office, they are unlikely to engage in social media either.
Finally, it is not enough to buy the all-singing, all-dancing social recognition tool (examples include Yammer and Skype): someone actually needs to take ownership of the project. The idea is not that people begin to devote their time to chatting and being social, rather than working. However, when implemented carefully, an employee engagement programme may result in a happier personnel, something that will produce tangible benefits for the employer, as well as an organization more in touch with modern day communication methods.
Want to find out more about social media? Download M-Brain’s European Social Media Survey 2015 white paper and learn how companies utilize social media in their businesses.
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