A recent article from BBC Capital proposed that Generation Z are now the youngest generation in the workforce, the oldest of this generation typically being 22 years old.
It suggests that they are set to redefine the workplace due to their natural inclination to technology, however I believe many organisations are already years ahead with this ‘redefinition’; they’re already using the most technology has to offer, maximising employee engagement across all generations within the organisation.
Healthy workplaces are in a constant state of evolution and adaptability because they recognise the advances of technology and how it organically fits specifically into their work culture. They have the forethought to see what’s on the horizon, and how the company and those who work within it can keep up with the pace.
They’re keeping on top of new methods of getting their message out to target audiences, most likely their consumers. As popularity of social media continues to grow, more organisations are ‘going viral’, or in other words, spreading hot topics and messages across a number of platforms to a bigger and bigger audience after each share.
So if going viral is helping organisations get their message across to their consumers – be it their mission statement, their teams, or a recent product launch – how can HR use this system to communicate to staff and stimulate employee engagement?
Below are just a handful of the excitingly expanding methods organisations are adopting to rekindle employee engagement.
Most of them require some technical know-how but the learning curve can be self-directed (or at least with the help of YouTube in the spirit of all things technological!) and not only are they the sort of skills that will make sense easily and therefore likely to be effortlessly retained, they will see you through a lot of other areas in work life, for example project work or recruitment campaigns.
Just make sure that you include easy methods of sharing the content – you can’t go viral if people can’t spread it!
An internal blog is a great way to get teams across the organisation to share what work they’re doing in a really engaging way. For example, this might pique someone’s interest that would not have otherwise be known to them, opening a tide of opportunities for job shadowing, collaboration, coaching and providing feedback from new perspectives.
HR can make the most of this when it comes to development projects, for example drafting a new policy or welcoming new apprentices. Most posts should have some sort of comment capacity to prompt questions, praise and generally keep the conversation going.
And as the blog is internal, it can be as formal or informal as you like (or a bit of both), with frequent callouts for contributing writers amongst the staff.
An external blog, normally as part of the company’s website, can also be formal or informal but with organisation-only jargon removed and only include topics that consumers will find interesting. HR can use external blogs to really pump the company up, for example being transparent with rewards and benefits, as well as publishing success stories from recruitment campaigns or the development of staff following implementation of a new LMS.
Video blog (‘Vlogs’)
Video blogs, or ‘vlogs’, are becoming more popular – so popular in fact that the word ‘vlog’ doesn’t show up in my spell check! With video being the most favoured method of consuming information, and Forbes predicting that by next year video will account for 80% of internet traffic, it seems logical for HR to get a piece of this action.
Vlogs can be used for most, if not all, messages that can be shared through a blog but with the audience seeing real people or images, the content has more personality and therefore is more relatable. This is especially true for recordings of, for example, interviewing new CEOs, company events or helping senior management become more visible to the workforce with ‘getting to know you’ videos.
Again, vlogs can be internal and/or external. Many organisations go on to set up their own YouTube channel.
Similar to vlogs (well, sort of), webinars offer information through video. As the name suggests, they’re mostly used as an online, or ‘web’, seminar, sharing complex and important information that can be referred to at any time.
HR can choose to record these live or have them pre-recorded to announce a new occupational health provider for example, or walk a manager through managing someone who has carer responsibilities. The benefit of live webinars is that questions can be asked either during the webinar or at the end in a Q&A session.
This means that the audience gets the most out of the webinar.
The disadvantage of live webinars though is that it will be raw, or in other words, not edited, which means it might be less slick as training material for later viewing. This is where pre-recorded webinars are more beneficial as they can be edited to remove mistakes or to add graphics, music and frame transitions.
Podcasts aren’t as popular as videos but although the uptake has been comparatively slow, it is still increasing. One of the benefits of podcasts is that information can be consumed while doing other things. You don’t have to sit down and focus all of your attention on watching a video; instead you can listen to a podcast episode while travelling, commuting or working at your desk.
It’s a proven way to incorporate key messages and training into an employee’s travel time between offices, or during a commute (if that’s their preference).
Podcasts can be used for particularly wordy messages as engagement levels are more likely to stay strong hearing it minute by minute, instead of tackling a 30-page document.
Podcasts needn’t be listed on iTunes, or the like, which requires hosting, RSS feeds and meta-tagging. Instead it can simply be recorded and shared as a simple audio file.
A portmanteau of ‘information’ and ‘graphics’, infographics are a bit of a hard stretch to be categorised as ‘technology’, based purely on the fact that they can (but not always) be constructed on a computer. However in terms of virility, infographics offer short and snappy snippets of complex information and processes.
They can act as easily-sharable summaries of, for example, a new process for applying for flexible working, managing attendance or as a decision-making flowchart.
They can also be incorporated into any sort of communication to add imagery while also offering complimentary information, for example, celebrating a successful campaign or project by having an infographic timeline of key milestones.
There are plenty of free infographic makers out there, some of which don’t require any sort of credit or attribution. If you want to go hard core, you can also pay monthly which offers more templates and graphics than standard packages.
Warning – once you’ve made one infographic, you’ll be looking at everything to see if it can be infographicified!
Social media platforms
The source of most viral content, social media platforms offer users to have their own accounts, follow those they want to follow, contribute to conversations they want to, and collaborate with other teams they want to learn more about.
HR can play a big part in internal social media platforms, like Yammer.
HR can use it to share articles of particular interest (like this one! *wink*) with the rest of HR and/or the whole company; they can use it summarise lengthy messages and documents, like policy changes and appropriate minutes from senior management meetings, while providing links for the entire document.
They can also use it to get an insight on how employees feel, for example sharing links to surveys or putting a single but crucial question to the workforce (eg ‘What one thing can make your job easier?’); they can use it to link to all new blog posts, vlogs, webinars, podcasts, infographics etc.; and anything else your specific HR team would like to use it for.
The company’s public, external social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram can also be used to engage employees by getting them to share personal insights on working for the organisation, or their experience during a recent local charity event organised by the company.
The role of these in L&D
Organisations are continuing to focus their attention on developing a growth mindset workforce. Peer learning and knowledge sharing align to this way of thinking, empowering employees to direct their own learning and, in turn, careers.
Offering viral-friendly information to employees enables this and offers more opportunities for collaboration, powerful conversations and a mutual and open dialogue between employees and HR.
This is an opportunity for L&D to offer more in the way of IT literacy training too. Bringing employees up to speed with technology not only ensures content is accessed easily, it’s also a skill they can carry over to their life outside of work.
Before implementing this sort of engagement, it’s essential you have robust conduct and social media policies.
These needn’t be restrictive to prevent employees voicing their thoughts and opinions – indeed ‘negative’ feedback should be encouraged so it can be addressed – but policies will set expectations of staff, for example treating others with respect and keeping communication professional.
HR will also need to educate managers on what is acceptable to share both internally amongst staff and externally to the public. You wouldn’t want something going viral for all the wrong reasons!
Accessibility is another issue HR will need to consider. Just because offering content through technology is helpful for some, it might not be for those who have a disability that makes it hard for them to read from computer screens or focus on fast moving images, or for those who just don’t feel comfortable enough on using computers.
Make sure information that is shared is done so in various ways that ensures EVERYONE’S preferences and abilities are catered for.
If this has given you a new perspective and you’re excited to present your ideas to senior management or IT teams, focus on one method first. Learn a lot about it, play with it, make mistakes, grow with it. If employees are to get engaged with this, it needs to be handled in an effective way from launch day.
Any bad experiences might put them off, so make sure you get teething problems out of the way before rolling it out to everyone.
One way to do this is to establish a pilot group that provides feedback and constructive input. Once you’ve got a handle of one method, move onto the next.
Has your company adopted any of these, or other methods to help content go viral?
About Charles Goff-Deakins Assoc CIPD
Charles Goff-Deakins is an associate member of CIPD and works as a senior HR officer, having a particular interest in HR policy, learning and development, and employee engagement. As well as writing for HR Zone, Charles also writes about career management and professional development on his blog The Avid Doer.