Leveraging Social Media to Cultivate Transparency Within An Organization
According to Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, “The currency of leadership is transparency.” From publishing pay information to inviting all employees to every meeting, many organizations strive to become more and more transparent to both employees and the public. But transparency does not have to be as radical as sharing how salaries are calculated. A more sustainable yet progressive demonstration is the endorsement and inclusion of social media into a company’s human capital management strategy.
Just Say No…to Policy
Mandating how employees use their personal social media accounts does not translate into sound human resources management. Just as an employer should not dictate how employees spend their time off, it should not tell someone what he may or may not share online. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board has been steadily cracking down on strict workplace social media policies. Instead, a company should make clear its formal stance and provide guidelines on how employees may best represent the company on the web. In it’s corporate (and public) blog, Adidas encourages open communication and informs employees to “tell the world about your work and share your passion.”
Encourage Best Practices
Lead by example. CEOs, directors, and managers who actively use social media influence their employees to do the same. Their affirmation also promotes transparency. Though many executives have not yet embraced social media, they should at minimum, have a professional online profile that is accurate, up-to-date, and sets the standard for others. For example, LinkedIn provides a modern day business card and resume wrapped into one convenient package and serves as an effective networking tool that can lead to new business opportunities.
Be a Coach
Teach employees how to use social media effectively. Include “Social Media 101” as a topic in new employee training programs. Gloria Burke, Chief Knowledge Officer and Global Practice Portfolio Leader of Unified Social Business at Unisys, says, “Offering such training creates a team of advocates who are equipped to represent their employer online . . . you’re empowering them to be more confident and effective in what they’re sharing.” Additionally, designate official company social media ambassadors to mentor associates on how to establish or enhance their personal online brand.
Whether or not an organization formally endorses social media, tools to facilitate communication among staff members should be implemented to encourage teamwork and increase productivity. Both Salesforce and Microsoft offer enterprise social networks as features within their products. In 2011, Nationwide launched Spot, a social intranet built on Yammer and SharePoint. Today, nearly all of its 36,000 employees are more engaged, better connected, and have access to the expertise they need to get their work done, resulting in an annual savings of $1.5 million.
As a result of the growing influence of social media, employees have become a much more valuable marketing resource. Each time a press release is circulated, a new blog post is published, or a key event is publicized, everyone should be informed, and suggested tweets should be shared. The aforementioned ambassadors may also serve as key brand promoters within the firm and with customers. If employees are too busy to keep up with Twitter, then offer support to post and retweet on their behalf. Applications like Hootsuite make it easy by allowing users to schedule activity for multiple accounts.
An obvious motivation for formalizing an organization’s social media program is to avoid public relations disasters. But, more importantly, it inspires transparency. If a company embraces employee participation in social networks, then it need not worry about what employees discuss on the web. Instead, workers will feel empowered to contribute to the organization’s success via the online community.
Freedom from What?
Transformation by Design: Employees at the Epicenter of Corporate Restructuring
When business leaders decide to restructure or reorganize, they are transforming the company and, therefore, must carefully consider the design of such a change. Like an architect who takes months or years to thoughtfully design a building, a company must intricately and carefully plan for change. As they do so, they need to keep in mind the most critical component of an organizational redesign are the employees, whose performance can make or break a company.
Whether a start up or legacy corporation, the primary driver behind reorganization is usually profitable growth. Of course, such plans may also result from a desire for improvements in customer service performance or production quotas. But, most importantly, and often with little consideration, it’s how the restructuring will impact the people that matters most, which is why the emphasis on concise planning and thoughtful design is so important.
Many senior managers simply focus on the what, the desired end goal of organizational change: Improved financial performance as a result of restructuring and resizing. They often ignore the human factor in such a modification. Instead, it’s the innovators who bolster the objectives by carefully composing how employees will proactively participate in reorganization and impact the bottom line, and how they will interact for the good of the firm after the change has been implemented.
Throughout my career, I’ve both been directly involved with and witnessed organizational change. In one instance, as a lodging company prepared to go public in the early 1990’s, leadership made the strategic decision to streamline operations and eliminate the Assistant Manager position, thereby empowering non-exempt employees with such tasks as resolving customer disputes and making bank deposits. Imagine an hourly employee deciding to refund a dissatisfied guest! But, it worked. The hourly workforce was invigorated, and property managers now had home office support for what were then unconventional solutions.
On another occasion, I observed a division of a Fortune 500 company as it implemented a mass reorganization. In this instance, employees felt under informed and many worried about job security. As the implementation began, a good number were in limbo for months, “officially displaced” as managers competed for their skills and loyalty. It was evident that minimal consideration had been put into the human aspects of the organizational redesign and delivery.
A revolutionary example where people are at the center of transformational change is the recent decision by Zappos to embrace Holacracy, which, according to Forbes magazine, is “a New Age approach to leadership that involves no job titles, no formal bosses, and lots of overlapping work circles instead.” Certainly, Holacracy is not the Holy Grail, and all eyes will be on Zappos to see how it fares with this new model. However, one advantage Holacracy has is that its organizational premise is people-centered and focused on providing clarity around aligning resources and accomplishing tasks.
Human resources matter most when a company decides to restructure. A well-considered design with employees at the forefront will result in an operational transformation that benefits the organization, its employees, and its customers, thereby improving financial performance.
Scott Wise, founder and CEO of Scotty’s Brewhouse restaurants, professes that his employees are the key to his success. They are more important than customers. He states, “If your employees believe in your dreams and values then ultimately they will make your guests happy, too.”