Communicating with your employees – don’t be anti-social!

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31st May 2011
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Employee engagement should be high on business leaders’ agenda, especially given the economic uncertainty of recent years. This has been particularly challenging with a number of companies being unable to offer their staff a pay increase to maintain levels of engagement.

However, an attractive employee benefits scheme can be a cost-effective alternative to a pay rise to help keep staff engaged. The financial downturn has presented an opportunity for leaders to evaluate their employee benefits package, and ensure they are offering an attractive scheme which employees understand and are aware of.

Communication is essential during turbulent times to ensure staff are updated on the good news and bad, and there are many channels leaders can use to communicate with their people. Social media is one of these channels, and presents a fantastic opportunity for employers to engage their staff in a two-way dialogue, and is particularly useful in communicating employee benefits: a powerful tool in maintaining staff engagement, morale and reducing staff turnover. Additionally, enabling access to social media in the workplace will empower staff and give them a feeling of autonomy, in itself an intrinsic reward.

However, many leaders have questions around the most effective ways of engaging and communicating with their workforce, and some still have reservations about social networking, questioning whether it should be seen as a friend, or foe.

Many companies are still not convinced at the idea of employees accessing social networks within the workplace, seeing them as a distraction, and potentially a tool which is decreasing productivity and having a direct impact on profitability.

This raises the question of whether companies can really ignore such a prevalent and emerging communication tool. Some of the more progressive companies are asking pertinent questions into how companies can utilise social media to their advantage, and use these tools to engage in a dialogue with their employees, driving positive results and outcomes.

An increasing number of HR departments are recognising the need to review and amend their social media policies, and embrace new technologies that employees are keen to use.

A recent survey found that, of all employees who have restricted internet access, 30% believe this makes their job more difficult, and 82% say it makes their job more boring. Only 6% of employees surveyed said that they actually think it helps with their productivity at work. These types of findings speak volumes. By taking away the tools your employees use to communicate, are you risking a reduction in productivity?

This move is generally being driven by a couple of key trends:

•    Many employees are utilising these platforms from other devices regardless of the policies in their workplace. The advent of Smartphones and mobile broadband means that employees have alternative ways of easily accessing content that has traditionally been blocked

•    Employees increasingly belong to Generation Y – they have grown up using, and communicating through, channels such as Facebook and view it as a lack of trust if their employer does not let them use it in the working environment

Employees everywhere are discussing, analysing, influencing, supporting, recommending, critiquing, and participating in multiple conversations about their company every day, and there are a number of ways in which companies can embrace this and bring these conversations out into the open so all can participate.

An effective social media approach should integrate with the company’s existing communications channels and objectives. These are our 5 golden rules for implementing social networks effectively in the workplace:

1.    Build trust
Allowing the use of social networks shows employees that you are placing trust in their judgment as individuals which will make them feel more valued. Use your communications or HR team to manage social media activity, and allow other employees to start the conversations empowering them to use these tools in a positive manner.

2.    Be open
Ensure company networks are set-up so all employees can participate in social networking. Allow everyone in the company to access social media sites, and do not limit to top management or IT departments, creating a sense of community rather than a “them and us” mentality.

3.    Teamwork
Encourage your workforce to use social media to engage with their colleagues and find new ways of promoting the company brand. Why not tweet to announce positive news such as a new client win, or to relay positive customer feedback?

A company Facebook page can be created to update both customers and employees on company achievements simultaneously. There is nothing like public recognition of good work to motivate employees, and social networking is an ideal medium to do this.

It also goes a long way to portray a positive brand image to your customers. To coin a Generation X phrase: “A happy workforce is a productive workforce”.

4.    Customer service enhancement
Encourage employees to use social media to engage and interact with clients – for example, are they following their clients on Twitter? Promote this as an opportunity to engage with the world outside the workplace and to drive customer service rather than just being an opportunity to chat with friends online.

5.    Set the rules and boundaries
Implement a social media ‘Code of conduct’ for staff when using social networking sites which sets clear boundaries – both in and outside of working hours. Remember, when an employee is using social networking out of the working environment this can still reflect on the company!

To capitalise on the benefits of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, companies must embrace social media solutions which bring together the best of a cross channel communications strategy; one that goes where your employees are, and not only empowers them but also challenges them to use these new technologies and communication tools for the benefit of all.

It doesn’t matter how great a company’s benefits package is, if employees aren’t aware of what is available to them and how they can access these benefits then there’s no point in offering them. Social media should be a central cog in communicating benefits to your employees, as it’s a communications channel that many now prefer to use.

There will undoubtedly be challenges along the way, but equally the positive outcomes of creating a more open and trusting environment may just surprise you.

Lisa Gregory is the CEO of Stormchild Ventures, one of the UKs newest Loyalty & Reward platform providers.

For more information, please visit: www.stormchildventures.co.uk

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By donr1
05th Jun 2011 00:23

I am pleased to see someone debunking the idea that access to social media during work hours is all bad.  What I would like to see from here though is some discussion around the final point...........establish the criteria in which this access is encouraged, utilized, and managed.  There are sufficient examples of late to show that unbridled, if you like, access to social media sites by Staff, particularly relating to criticisms and displaying sensitive Organisation information, can create problems.

So is it possible for Lisa to give some idea of at least the major issues she believes must be addressed when formulating a policy?  Her ideas on content would be even more appreciataed.

Cheers.  DonR.

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