Employees today are more concerned with empowerment than engagement. In the current landscape of Facebook and Twitter, we’re used to having our say, and we want to be heard.
According to Meghan M. Biro’s article Employee Engagement: Every Leader’s Imperative, enterprise social media platforms like Yammer, Jive and IBM Connections “give people a voice, a way to share their ideas and know they matter to the organization.” This argument, to my mind, is more circular – companies show their employees they matter by giving them a voice.
This doesn’t just mean the opportunity to engage by commenting on posts or providing other types of online feedback. The real power of social media is its ability to create community. Giving employees space for discussion allows them connect, resulting not only in increased productivity, but also in an increased sense of involvement.
As an employee at a company using IBM Connections, I found the software most effective as a forum for discussion. On one occasion, I received a critical response to a piece I’d posted and, before I was able to craft a careful reply, I discovered another colleague had picked up the thread.
Though it wasn’t my original intention to generate discussion around the post, the thread ended up being the most effective component of the piece. The discussion became a collaboration that helped generate ideas, not just share them.
The power of social media in the workplace lies in this sense of community. In The Real Power of Enterprise Social Media Platforms, Michael Schrage insists that “the most important impact of social media technologies comes from who — and what — they empower, not just the information they exchange.” When given the opportunity to connect, employees are empowered to share and engage.
Who’s doing it right?
REI, a U.S.-based outdoor sporting equipment retailer, offers leaders and employees the ability to discuss and debate through the company campfire, their online employee network. This isn’t a productivity tool – it’s purpose is solely to stimulate employee engagement. Nearly half of REI’s employees have logged in since the site was launch in 2012. Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith argues in her article How the Best Places to Work Are Nailing Employee Engagement that this level of employee participation “demonstrate[s] that having a voice matters to employee engagement.”
Disagreements have been expressed around the campfire, just as they were in my experience using Connections, but disagreement can be productive, too. The key is the discussion. There is power in the collaborative environment social media can foster.
Meghan M. Brio, Employee Engagement: Every Leader’s Imperative
CFM Marketing blog, Around the Company Campfire
Michael Schrage, The Real Power of Enterprise Social Media Platforms
Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, How the Best Places to Work Are Nailing Employee Engagement
Submitted by: Vanessa Parks, University of Waterloo SMBP student. To contact the author of this post, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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