General Electric has more than longevity going for them.
The perennial Fortune 500 Company is 124 years old in 2016, but from any angle, GE doesn’t look any older than the tech-savviest millennial.
For more or less their entire existence, GE has been known for innovation and timeless quality of their products. They’re a name consumers trust and one competitors envy. These days however, a company is rarely able to get by on their historical reputation alone. In addition to needing great products and having a great legacy, in order to thrive they also need to have engaged employees and a comprehensive new media strategy.
Imagine yourself as an employee at GE: you’re a young and technologically adept person working for one of the world’s most successful companies. You’d want to play a part in its success, right? – GE knows that and they’ve harnessed the power of social channels and social media to drive their employees to buy in.
David Moth over at Econsultancy published a pretty good roundup of how GE uses social media in a Spring 2013 post. Among other things, he wrote that they have found a way to draw employees into customer-facing content by having their scientists participate in Facebook banter with their subscribers. The activity is called “Stump the Scientist [which] asks Facebook fans to pose questions to one of GE’s chief scientists.” They involved their scientists directly in a social media campaign, tailoring one for them, rather than just having a content manager take the wheel.
Similarly, on National Inventors’ Day in February 2014, GE created a buzz on Twitter with the hashtag #IWantToInvent.
“The brand had a team of designers standing by to create blueprint sketches of the inventions in real time,” Moth wrote, “it produced more than 70 images in under seven hours, including solar powered wings and a doorbell ID.”
Really, they hit two birds with one stone here – harmonizing employee engagement with customer engagement – and did a great job with both. These days, the company is known for both its innovation as well as its outstanding online presence and they have found ways to engage their innovators with consumers.
On the inside, GE has developed social engagement methods for its employees. Of course, for a company of more than 300,000 it’s easy to feel forgotten. In 2012, the company identified this prior to the bi-annual GE Opinion Survey (GEOS) and came up with steps to improve response and to get employees involved with creation of the survey.
The Arthur W. Page society highlighted some of those steps, which included crowdsourcing questions from employees, developing a tool called “Manager Snapshot” which “allowed the company to reach managers with regular, short, communication updates throughout the survey process,” and encouraging leaders to relay info about the survey in blog posts (or other methods) rather than in formal email messages.
They also developed a “Like” button – similar to Facebook – for GEOS portals, with hopes folks would see their peers participating and join in: “Employees could click the button to tell their Colab followers that they have completed GEOS and invite them to do the same. When one hits the “like” button, it appears in their stream for all other followers to see.”
The results were tremendous – the participation rate was over 80 percent, hundreds of new questions were generated, thousands of “likes” were recorded.
Lessons for Others
So those are some anecdotal examples of GE’s employee engagement methods. But what does the company say about their initiatives?
They preach “promoting fun with a purpose” and they want their communications to inspire employees to engage more. The keys to getting their message across is outlined in five specific points.
“GE has found that employee communication initiatives succeed when they:
Fit with the organization’s overall approach
Take advantage of existing communication channels
Are delivered by the right messenger
Are well understood by the messenger
Are tailored to the recipient”
General Electric may be well over a century old, but stodgy it is not.
Industry: Appliances, Fossil Fuels, Energy, Aviation, Healthcare, Transportation
Name of Organization Contact: Becky Edwards, Director of Employee Communications
Authored by: Brad MacDonald
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.