Many employers are reluctant to use digital and social media when communicating with employees, fearing they could lose control over how communication is managed within the organisation.
Taking a command and control approach to communication may spread a message but in most cases it won’t change employees’ behaviour substantially. If employers truly want to engage with their people, then communication needs to flow freely in all directions: downwards, upwards and across the organisation.
Many different tools and approaches can be used to facilitate this flow, including ‘digital hives’, whereby employers use social media as a tool for encouraging wider employee participation.
Arne Gast and Raul Lansink have conducted research that shows how insightful employers are using online communities to accelerate change by:
• engaging the workforce in better strategy
• using social media to connect workplace silos
• enlisting key customers to improve the value proposition
• uniting a dispersed sales force to drive higher sales.
Digital hives involve large numbers of previously disenfranchised employees working together for a common organisational good. Creating these hives requires a delicate balancing act – not least a willingness by top managers to let go. Managers should not be afraid to commit themselves to acting on the results of these initiatives and should encourage unrestrained participation, however unpredictable the consequences.
But that does not mean playing a passive role. Gast and Lansink’s research shows that the vast majority of such initiatives fail to achieve their objectives unless there is substantial CEO and top leadership involvement and support.
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