The way in which businesses communicate and collaborate is changing. It is a natural evolution; it is an alignment with how society is evolving and how social tools are becoming an integrated part of every day life.
There is still a place for traditional communications in business; and the social revolution will likely make some business leaders, and indeed communicators wary, as control over the message becomes more difficult to facilitate and manage in a culture of ‘free conversation’.
The deployment of social tools in a business is an investment in trust and a leap of faith in employees. It is giving employees the right tools to empower good conversations that may ultimately lead to better business outcomes.
That isn’t to say that social tools don’t present risks, they do. In a culture of rapid change you need to make sure that the conversation in your business stays on track and doesn’t become a risk to engagement.
That is where Internal Communications still has an essential role, by guiding the conversation and managing the organisational story – leading the narrative. Social tools can help achieve this through effective use of Yammer, You Tube, and SharePoint for example.
These are just three of the benefits that social tools can bring to a business:
The Intranet still has a place in business, but is quickly becoming challenged by the variety of social tools that provide a more dynamic mechanism to deliver content. An Intranet that has been built in SharePoint offers a range of collaboration solutions such as blogging, discussion groups and forum capabilities.
Social tools such as Yammer are providing a mechanism to drive conversations in a virtual environment, which can be an invaluable resource for businesses that are geographically spread and have agile workers.
The likes of You Tube and Vimeo offer platforms to create in house video content; creating ‘TV’ channels that can help business leaders engage with employees in a more dynamic and engaging way. The days of an all employee email from the CEO can now be easily translated into a digital solution.
All of these social tools can be embraced to drive dynamic and engaging communication; using these tools to share your organisational story can help to keep conversations on track even during intense periods of change, when you will see the biggest risks to engagement.
There is some science behind the theory that entrepreneurial businesses will drive high levels of employee engagement – culturally there is little fear of failure, and there is a real commitment to collaboration and innovation that are both key to a business being successful.
Social tools are the gateway to better collaboration; they can facilitate conversation and provide mechanisms for employees to interact and engage with each other on issues. They facilitate thought leadership and the sharing of ideas. They can remove the barriers of location and hierarchy. They can enable conversations that wouldn’t take place without them.
It is important with social tools to let organic conversations develop. There is little point in being restrictive on topics or heavily moderating. One of the key advantages of social tools is that conversations can give you visibility of issues and trends that you can shape your communications to manage.
Collaboration is something that employees will have to do naturally; you need to give employees time to collaborate, it once again comes down to trust. If you empower your employees, you can reap real business benefit by better conversations and innovation.
Employees want to be empowered. By giving them access to social tools you are empowering them to be innovative, seek new ideas, build relationships and seek help and knowledge that exists within your business.
All of those things will help to drive engagement in an employee. It is releasing some of the ‘control’ that the leadership team is perceived to have in a business. It gives you a flatter structure where conversations can take place at different levels virtually without the barrier of hierarchy.
The reason entrepreneurial businesses have high levels of engagement is in part because employees feel empowered and part of a collective. Social tools can help any business create a similar kind of culture if they are embraced and deployed without the fear of losing control of the conversation.
These are just three reasons why social tools can be an asset to a business. There are risks, but they are manageable risks, and if your communications fuses the organisational storyteller into the social revolution you can still retain control of the conversation.
It is important that social tools are one part of your communications mix, but in reality social tools are less about communication and more about collaboration which I look at in more detail here.
Social tools are about empowering your employees to have good conversations that can lead to better business outcomes. That is where the commercial benefit is for leaders that may still be wary about the social revolution.
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