From interviewees being asked for their Facebook passwords, to the UK’s first LinkedIn tribunal, there’s been a lot of talk recently around employee activity in social media and how this has implications not just for their own work, but also for their organisation’s reputation. Based on our recent research and work with organisations such as the NHS, City & Guilds, and Red Bull, RMM has identified a trend towards organisations building their own internal understanding, knowledge and skills around social media.
And it makes perfect sense that at the heart of these capabilities should be a workforce using social media to exchange information and build relationships. Well known examples of organisations that have generated real business value by doing so include Dell and Best Buy.
However, many employers still continue to view their employees’ use of social media as a Pandora’s Box. They fear that if they open the box any wider they will increase the risk of an employee performing an action in social media that critically harms the brand. This reticence can often be counterproductive; a recent study showed that less than 20% of organisations firmly believe that their employees knew how to represent them in social media. With more employees more active in social media every day, an organisation must take a proactive and constructive approach to providing social media guidance.
A set of basic social media rules posted on the corporate intranet will not suffice. Organisations need to follow a process of employee understanding, education and support to ensure they not only mitigate potential risks, but generate the maximum value from their employees’ activity in social media.
In our experience, two key criteria will help an organisation determine how, and how quickly, it can ‘socialise’ its workforce. First it needs to understand the existing level of skill and knowledge within the organisation’s workforce in regards to social media. It then needs to understand the speed with which it can up-skill and increase knowledge whilst retaining full control of the process and managing the level of social media activity.
We typically see three stages in an organisation’s cycle of socialising its workforce:
- Stage one’s objectives are to protect the brands reputation and prevent crises from originating from employees’ use of social media. This stage is the foundation upon which an organisation’s future social activity should be built. The key to success here is in striking the balance between prescriptively forbidding certain actions and empowering employees to proactively engage in positive actions. Equally important is communicating to the workforce the ways in which their responsible use of social media is good for both their career and the organisation’s wellbeing.
- The objective of stage two is to increase operational efficiency. The key to success here is in helping employees realise that effective knowledge management and collaboration using social media can make their lives easier as well as saving the company time and money.
- The objective of stage three should be to strengthen customer relationships by enabling a proportion of the workforce to talk to customers and answer their questions via social media. The key to success here is in creating a system which allows employees to manage networks of customer relationships in social media while building their own knowledge, skills (and potentially their own personal brands).
The success of all three stages relies on the fact that the activities performed are mutually beneficial for the organisation its employees and its customers. In this way the organisation will create a knowledgeable, motivated and focused group of employees, which understands how, when and why they should use social media.