Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
~ Barack Obama
Change … it’s inevitable.
Change in the workplace is a well-known cause of stress to workforces. The rumour mill hits overdrive and people suspect there is more to the change activity than is actually the case.
Decision makers know that change – as a result of internal or external market or fiscal influences, is an essential element in running a healthy organisation. If you think of workplace change as similar to your own health – there are times when you need to diet and times when a little indulgence is manageable- organisational health is no different.
Regardless of the reasons for enacting workplace change, how you communicate that change will have a profound effect on the activity’s success and workforce buy-in.
Leveraging communication conduits that are already common to your workforce is one form of effective engagement. It also provides you with the opportunity to communicate far more broadly with other stakeholders such as shareholders and consumers, in a strategic, consistent and timely manner.
Using social media as an internal catalyst for change not only provides you with a platform for change communication, but it can also provide an audience engagement platform that creates holistic and meaningful dialogues between decision makers and their workforce.
Catalytic Change – Social Chemistry that’s worth knowing
In my blog ‘Socially Savvy Internal Communications: If you can’t convince your own workforce, who can you convince’ I introduce the concept of collaborative social productivity.
Social media presents a workplace cultural change in the way people collaborate.
If your workplace is already planning for, or is undergoing a structural change, using social media as a communications tool – or moving existing processes like customer service and complaints resolution to social platforms; presents your organisation with an opportunity.
Social media presents a collaborative, social and productive way to manage communications across workforces that are:
- Geographically multi-located;
- Divisionally segmented in structure (as found in out-posted models in professions such as engineering);
- Generationally predisposed to exploiting technology;
- Working remotely (from home, on the road, at sea); and
- Traditionally detached from the broader workforce due to job/role function such as internal affairs divisions or intelligence units.
Social media also counters the resistance to communication that are present due to barriers of rank, title and hierarchy; to achieve higher rates of workforce engagement and interaction.
Additionally, it presents organisations with the opportunity to streamline functionally to remain competitive, responsive and integrated when advertising, marketing and engaging internally and externally.
For example, traditional customer service and complaints resolution teams have long been housed in call centre’s. Another team within the business (say public relations) will be managing the same types of enquiries via the organisation’s website, and corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts. The delineation of having two separate segments of your workforce doing the same tasks is not only financially indulgent, but it is also corporately problematic. Consider:
- Savvy customers will play one team off against each other, leveraging inconsistent responses and lack of internal visibility in their dispute resolution endeavours. This looks exceptionally untidy during mediation, ombudsman investigations or legal proceedings.
- The media may pick up on stories of corporate inconsistency and if your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools aren’t aligned, the right hand (the call centre) has no idea what the left hand (public affairs) is doing, has said or committed to.
Using social media as a catalyst for change in the above example, would have several significant, efficiency based outcomes for an organisation: in quantifiable terms of human capital, information management, CRM efficiencies and overhead savings.
Externally, this would equate to an improved customer experience and, if done consistently well, it nurtures the opportunity to create enduring positive public perceptions and consumer confidence.
Why create Brand Ambassadors during change?
If change is viewed as an opportunity and an investment is made into the workforce before, during and after the change activity; the result will be a workforce that is happy, well adjusted and well informed. This organically leads a workforce to authentic brand ambassadorship.
Workforce engagement during a change activity peaks at different points in the communications cycle. Each organisation will have different peaks based on their timeliness, messaging and follow-up activities. By strategically identifying these peaks and aligning key brand ambassadorship messaging to your workforce, you can lead them through organisational change and create an engaged workforce that is not only adaptable but resilient.
Authentic brand ambassadorship is what companies such as Google and Apple are best known for. It’s a combination of an uniquely productive organistional culture, sound internal communication mechanisms, a collaborative approach to business from all elements of the organisation and of course, an awesome product and/or service offering.
Any organisation or business can achieve authentic workforce brand ambassadorship through change if they actively invest in:
- The preferred communication modes of their workforce (such as social)
- Ensuring workplace culture and technology are happily united- there is little point in establishing social media as a conduit if your workforce isn’t social or you can’t/won’t provide workplace access to social networks.
- Establishing a ‘you heard it from us first’ organisational mentality: by ensuring your employees hear, honestly and openly, about any good or bad news before the public does, you empower them – and they will return that loyalty with support.
- Inclusive marketing and advertising campaigns – Bunnings and The Good Guys do this best: they canvas their own workforce to feature outstanding employees. This has targeted audience appeal – online, on screen and in print. Provide ample opportunity for your workforce to become part of your product of service’s story.
The best way to leverage social media during change activities is to invest in an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) such as Salesforce’s Chatter or Microsoft’s Yammer. Facebook and LinkedIn closed groups and private Twitter feeds are also options.
It’s strategically important to choose a social platform that meets the needs of your workforce, while catering to where your consumer or client audience is most active. Being socially present is all about strategic alignment of platform to audience.
In corporate settings this may be LinkedIn while in consumer-sales environments Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be more effective. Don’t discount the positive impact concise, well-produced video clips can have – both internally and externally.
The key, not matter which ESN you choose, is to make it easy for your workforce to engage. For example, if you actively use Facebook as a marketing tool it makes sense for your workforce to have access to Facebook within the workplace. Provide the infrastructure/platform and make it easy for them to share your social successes. You’ll be surprised to learn that engaged employees will actively monitor the social sphere and alert you to social risks.