Every once in a while I get a marketing email for a webinar on how to manage social media in the workplace. The messages are littered with fear-mongering phrases, like “Do you know what your employees are saying about your company?” “Your employees are wasting your time!” and my personal favorite, “How to police your employees’ social media usage.”
Apparently, there are still enough really horrible workplaces out there that someone is making money off these messages! And that makes sense, in a low-trust environment, managers and employees dread and fear what the other is doing and saying.
However, at great workplaces, social media tools are being used for all sorts of great things from peer-to-peer recognition programs, to micro-news updates from management, new hire welcoming and on-boarding, and cross-team, cross-outlet collaboration. Companies like Zappos and Southwest are even using social media to provide customer service and respond to customer complaints!
In fact, at many great workplaces, social media tools are key to innovation. This real-time medium invites anyone to join in on any conversation, meaning that an idea posted by someone out in the field, can be read by someone in Ops, who can bring it to the attention of management and implement a new idea, a new policy, a new enhancement at the speed it takes to type 140 characters. I’d take a gander and say that there is not a single company out there that you admire that has a social media policy that can be described as “policing.” Rather, at great workplaces, we see them “mining” social media for promising new ideas and new connections that can help drive innovation and growth. In fact, Wayne Wadsworth of Holder Construction will discuss just that at our upcoming conference, Enabling Innovation.
For great workplaces, the question is not if they should be using social media, but how they should use social media. In industries that are heavily regulated, have significant trade secrets, or deal with confidential information, it may be necessary to restrict access to publicly available social media outlets. However, social media is no longer just a set of “tools” but a mode of communication and an in-house or private social network is the solution of choice for many employers who recognize that the point shouldn’t be “policing” the conversation but enabling it.