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Using social media specifically to heighten employee engagement is not as established as its other uses, despite the potential for greater collaboration and ideas sharing, discovers Cath Everett.
While organisations have been using social media widely for external marketing and customer service reasons for at least five years now, internal adoption for employee engagement purposes has only really taken off over the last couple, according to experts.
The reasons for this slower uptake are in some ways obvious – most companies focus their attention on winning over and retaining customers rather than staff because it is from the former that income is generated.
This makes it much easier to justify investment in new projects and to see a concrete return, says Jonny Gifford, a research adviser at the CIPD.[pullquote]A lot of companies adopt social media for customer-facing activity and still ban it internally, but if it’s going to work effectively, you really have to embrace it across the board." - Gareth Jones, Chemistry Group[/pullquote]
Employee engagement, on the other hand, is a more nebulous and abstract concept that can be tricky to measure in terms of productivity gains or hard financial returns.
But as Gareth Jones, partner and head of technology at talent management consultancy The Chemistry Group points out, the problem with that argument is “you can’t be truly social as a business externally unless you do it internally too”.
“A lot of companies adopt social media for customer-facing activity and still ban it internally, but if it’s going to work effectively, you really have to embrace it across the board,” he explains.
Also, if you have happy staff, you generally have happy customers as people will tend to be more affable and willing to go the extra mile, which makes everyone feel good.
But, while it may be relatively early days for most organisations in terms of social media engagement, there are some who are using it to their advantage.
They argue that if it is used well, social media can help to foster more effective internal networking, communication and collaboration activity, as well as give employees a voice.
The most common usage in this context, according to Jones, is employing tools such as Microsoft’s Yammer or Jive to encourage employees to converse more with their peers, creating a more positive and collaborative working environment.