06/07/2011

By Lisa Gregory, CEO, Stormchild Ventures

In every business, effective communication with employees is crucial, and this is especially true during times of economic downturn. Communication has become increasingly challenging, especially as many companies are unable to offer pay increases to maintain levels of commitment and engagement. The financial situation has presented an opportunity for employers to evaluate the employee benefits package — an attractive scheme can keep staff happy and engaged, and it is low cost for the company.


Communicate

Employers should ensure staff are updated on all news — good or bad — and there are many channels through which this can be done, one of which is social media.

Social media is an excellent opportunity for leaders to engage their staff in a two-way dialogue and is especially helpful in communicating employee benefits. Additionally, it can be useful to heighten morale and is a powerful tool in maintaining staff engagement, thus reducing staff turnover.

Enabling access to social media in the workplace empowers staff, giving them a sense of community and value.


Social media

Many leaders question the most effective ways of communicating and engaging with their workforce, some employers have reservations about social networking and whether it will have a positive or negative impact.

The idea of employees accessing social networks within the workplace leaves a surprising number of companies unconvinced, they see it as a distraction rather than a tool which can increase productivity and have a positive impact on profitability.

This raises the question of whether companies can really ignore such a powerful communication channel. More advanced companies are asking questions into how social media can be utilised, including employee interactions and driving positive results and outcomes. Therefore, many HR departments are reviewing their social media policy and embracing new tools of communication that employees are keen to use.


Embrace technology

There are a couple of key reasons why employers should embrace technology:

• Employees can use social network platforms regardless of workplace policies due to the development of Smartphones and mobile broadband. Employees can now access previously blocked content in other ways, so why not embrace this rather than fight it?

• The workforce is increasingly made up of Generation Y which has grown up using and communicating through these channels. If they cannot use the tools in the workplace it can be viewed as a lack of trust.

• Many contemporary marketing projects have taken utilised technology to create a buzz around their product, viral videos and interactive adverts posted through social media are becoming more apparent and will continue to alter how companies create brand awareness.

Employees everywhere discuss, support and critique their company through social networking every day, and there are a number of ways companies can embrace this and encourage full employee participation.

Implementing social media effectively
The existing objectives and communication channels should be integrated into the social media approach to make it effective.

These are our five golden rules which business owners and leaders should abide when implementing social networks effectively:

1. Trust your team

If you allow employees to use social networks they feel trusted and valued. Allow them to start conversations and discussions through these tools and have the communications or HR team manage the activity.

2. Create a sense of community

Ensure all employees can participate in social networking rather than limiting it to management, this will ensure a sense of community and belonging rather than an “us and them” division.

3. Work as a team

Employees should be encouraged to use social media to engage with each other as this can lead to positive company promotion, for example Twitter can be used to relay information such as a client win or key new hire.

Alternatively, a Facebook page can update employees and customers simultaneously. Public recognition is a strong motivator and social networking is the perfect tool to develop this.

4. Interact with customers

Utilise employees’ enthusiasm for social media to encourage them to engage and interact with clients. Promoting this activity will drive customer service and employees will be engaging with the world outside the work place.

5. Set clear rules and boundaries

Ensure employees know from the beginning what is expected from them by setting a social media code of conduct. Giving them clear boundaries means they can learn the impact social networking has on companies. Remember, when an employee is using social networking out of the working hours this can still reflect on the company!

To utilise the opportunities social media presents, companies must embrace the tools across their communication channels, especially with employees.

If employees aren’t aware of what’s available to them then it doesn’t matter how great a company’s benefit scheme is. Social media should be central in communicating benefits to employees, especially as it’s a channel that many prefer to use.

Undoubtedly, there will be challenges along the way but the positive outcomes of a more open and trusting environment may just surprise you.

Lisa Gregory is the CEO of Stormchild Ventures, one of the UKs newest Loyalty & Reward platform providers. The company offers a market leading proposition for companies, enabling them to engage with their employees through the Stormchild platform, ‘I.C.E’ (which stands for Inspire, Communicate and Engage). I.C.E operates as a loyalty platform for customers, as well as an Employee Benefits intranet site and enables users to access discounts, tax efficient salary sacrifice schemes and reward & recognition programmes.

For more information, please visit: www.stormchildventures.co.uk