Internal Social Media: Open the Floor to Boost Employee Engagement

More companies are using unfiltered social media as an internal communications channel in a bid to increase transparency and employee engagement. Here, HR tech expert Nigel Davies explains why the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

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Today, businesses are using companywide social media feeds to transform traditional internal communications, like newsletters ghostwritten for the CEO, into dynamic, interactive experiences that engage employees and provoke a response.

The United States is suffering from an employee engagement crisis. Gallup reports that only a third of employees are engaged at work—a figure that has more or less stagnated over the past decade.

The same study reveals that, when comparing businesses in the bottom quartile of Gallup’s database to those in the top quartile of engagement, those with the most engaged workforces see 10% higher customer metrics, 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales, and 21% higher profitability.

That means businesses need to get creative—for their output and their bottom lines if not for employee happiness and retention. And engagement starts with internal communications.

Think Social

Live and prerecorded video content, webinars, and rolling company news updates within a companywide feed are becoming more widespread, particularly in businesses with multiple offices or branches, franchises, and those with global operations.

While internal communications have traditionally been one-way, they are becoming ever more social, combining both employee-generated and business-generated content in a live and unedited rolling feed. Employees are encouraged to create posts and interact with them by adding comments and likes.

Hopes for internal social media (ISM) are high. A 2016 APCO study found a positive correlation between effective use of ISM and employee confidence, leading to employees’ becoming brand ambassadors. And a 2013 Gartner study predicted social and collaboration software will be as impactful as the implementation of telephones and e-mail.

A 2012 McKinsey Global Institute study found that ISM creates not only a valuable source of data about employees but also a searchable data bank that reduces employee time spent searching for company information by up to 35%.

Unfounded Fears

In my experience, one of the biggest barriers to implementing ISM is the fear that it will be abused, that it could become a staging ground for inappropriate discussions, or that it could be used to share private company information.

But this is rare. And with sites like Glassdoor at their fingertips, disgruntled employees would be able to find better platforms to air their grievances anonymously.

The introduction of ISM is as much a cultural shift as an operational one. If trust and transparency are important parts of company culture, ISM is a good way to prove it. And with good implementation, and a well-communicated usage policy, it can be hugely popular.

Employees are intelligent enough to understand the distinction between personal and business social media channels and to use them with care.

In part two of this article we’ll look at making ISM easy to access as well as some ways you can make ISM work for your business.

Nigel Davies is the Founder and CEO of digital workplace Claromentis.

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