Ok, this may seem a little different from what I usually write about, but it’s a subject that is of much interest to many HR people in larger companies, and was the title of our last HR English Breakfast that we held last week; a bi-monthly event where we invite HR professional to debate topics of relevance in English
There’s no doubt about it, social media is here to stay and not only that, its format and usage are changing very quickly which means we have to be curious and open minded, ready to test, adapt and test again. If companies do not embrace social media as an internal communication tool, they will not only lose out on credibility from the younger generations but will be stifling much needed open, transparent communication which often gives rise to employee empowerment, engagement and creativity.
This topic of creating a culture of openness was a theme running through much of our Breakfast debate, and one of the fundamental questions that arose was:
- ‘What changes need to be made to a company’s culture before using social media for internal communication can start to become effective?
Ninety nine per cent of companies still run on a hierarchical structure and it is a brave person indeed who speaks a truth that no one else has dared to say for fear of ‘reprimand’ from above.
At its roots, social media is about openness and transparency and for social media to work as a communication tool, the culture of a company has to totally support free expression. Company culture is determined by the leaders of the company; all employees naturally look to the leaders for vision and direction, and in the area of social media as related to its adoption and usage, there is no difference. A strong and logical conclusion from the Breakfast participants was that if there isn’t buy-in from the executive team, the potential for success can only be limited.
Not only do we need leadership in this area from the executive team, but we also need to give guidelines and training to our employees on how to get the most from this new tool. Not everyone is comfortable with using social media, especially the older generations; for many people we are talking about changing the communication habits and natural behaviours of a life time and that is no easy feat.
We can’t force everyone to be suddenly open and start sharing their experiences, thoughts and opinions via social media, but we CAN dedicate time to educating our staff about new ways of expression and communication.
Like any new strategy, successful implementation requires will, dedication and persistence and perhaps, in the case of implementing social media as an internal communication tool, a good dose of passion from a few early evangelists, (and if one of these evangelists happens to be the CEO, that’s even better!)
But getting social media off the ground in the early days has to be delegated to a team of people (hopefully the passionate evangelists) who have this responsibilty written into their job description. Like anything else, we should identify what are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) related to social media as an internal communication tool and treat this initiative as seriously as any other – if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!
What about your situation? Has your company embraced the use of social media to communicate internally? If, so, how successful has it been? Where do you think improvements are needed to make it more effective?