Know Your Employees

Social media allows your employees to share ideas, build relationships, and foster understanding. There are many different Web 2.0 options to choose from, and this can be overwhelming. The most important thing to remember is your audience. You have to understand what media they’re already using, what media they’re willing to try, and what media simply isn’t going to work for them.

Social Technographics Ladder

An easy way to get an idea of this is to refer to the Social Technographics Ladder, explained in a side-show here. Once you know what category your employees fall into, you can begin to consider the different technologies. Please note that it’s extremely unlikely that all your employees will fall into the same category, so it is important to have a variety of social media options available to them. The importance of knowing this background information is so that you choose the right technologies. If you have a lot of creators and don’t give them opportunity to create original content, your plan won’t be successful. On the other hand, if you have a lot of spectators and expect them to write blogs, you’ll also be facing resistance. Forrester Research provides a short case study illustrating the importance of understanding your audience.

What Should I Use?

Wondering what types of technologies to include in your internal communication plan? Remember to always think in terms your employees. They are already having conversations and they need the technology that will facilitate these conversations. Another factor to consider is the objective of your communication. Many businesses are turning to social media to increase collaboration and engagement among employees. It can also be used to keep employees informed and up-to-date as well as encouraging an upward flow of communication from lower level employees to management.

Collaborative technology is highly effective for information sharing and participation, this is especially helpful for geographically separated employees working on a project together. The technology is very easy to use, and allows multiple people to work on a document simultaneously or at different times. Examples of this technology include wikis, googledocs, and wikipedia.

Social networks are a critical tool to engage with younger employees. This is a way to meet your employee where they are, and engage them there. Other options include video-sharing, blogs, micro-blogs, and corporate intranet. I’ll discuss these options in detail in coming posts with case studies to illustrate how companies use these tools successfully. Here’s more information on leveraging Web 2.0 technologies to benefits employees, this article also provides helpful descriptions of different social tools you can use.

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Why Does It Matter?

The number one reason employee engagement is important is because it affects the bottom line. According to Ethan Yarbrough, president of Allyis, Inc., engaged employees are up to 28% more productive than their unengaged counterparts. Disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses between $243-270 billion a year. SnapComms.com, a privately owned business that focuses on employee communications, adds that engaged employees lead to an overall improvement in business performance, increased profitability, and a rise in customer satisfaction.

Engagement also has a stabilizing effect on the company by minimizing employee turnover rates, this is explained in detail in this employee engagement slide-show by Yarbrough. The cost to recruit and train a replacement is estimated to be double the salary of the previous employee, making retention a major influence on the bottom line.

Why Web 2.0?

According to the 2009 IABC “Employee Engagement Survey,” communications departments are being hit hard with budget cuts: 52% of participants reported decreased funding. About one-third (35%) also reported staff downsizing in the past year. Despite the reduced funding and reduced staff, about half of the companies did not adjust their employee communications plans. Smart Pros discuss the results of the survey here.

The survey also indicates that about 20% of organizations are using social networking as an employee engagement strategy, and many organizations are planning to use these technologies even more in the future.

Shelley Aylesworth-Spink of Suite101.com explains the shift in employee communications from traditional media to social media in her article here. The environment of reduced communications personnel and budget cuts coupled with a growing need for internal communication and information sharing creates an ideal opportunity for a Web 2.0 employee engagement initiative. Social media software is usually very inexpensive, and sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many blogging sites are virtually free. Web 2.0 technologies make it easier to communicate with geographically dispersed employees, easier to engage in meaningful two-way communication, and help reduce the gap between senior management and lower level employees.

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