10 tips for getting your employees on board with social

Heidi Ambler, director of IBM Social Business, offers these tips to help your organization devise a successful social media strategy.

By Heidi Ambler, Director, IBM Social Business

Incorporating social networking technologies into core business processes has been shown to create real, sustainable business value—from higher customer and employee engagement to increased productivity, sales and much more. But, many organizations are still finding the transition to become a social business challenging. Here are ten tips to help organizations get beyond the early adopters to help all employees on board with social and truly transform the way they work.

1. Integrate social into business processes

The first key to getting employees on board with social is to integrate social tools into daily work processes. By building communities, storing information and sharing expertise on the internal social network, employees are driven to using social tools in order to accomplish tasks and move projects forward. At IBM, we're integrating social into employees' daily work, transforming traditional one to one conversations into social, dynamic discussions across teams and lines of business to drive competitive value. We've also created The Digital IBMer Hub, a resource for IBMers where they can learn about social initiatives taking place internally while enabling them to participate and live the IBM values in the social world. By making these types of tools and information available, we're changing how the IBMer approaches social and changing our business culture.

2. Get mobile

It's important to implement and integrate social tools that are easy to adopt and accessible from multiple platforms, such as mobile devices. Today's workforce is on the go, and they need to be able to get work done from anywhere at any time on a variety of devices. When evaluating a social platform, organizations should look for user-friendly, multi-platform features that provide employees with a single point of access to the combination of business applications, social networks, email, calendars, feeds, blogs, wikis, communities, instant messaging, video and online meetings that meets the needs of an organization, and they should be able to access all these on their mobile device of choice.

3. Drive culture with governance

Many organizations that attempt to become more social fail because they haven’t laid the cultural groundwork. An organization must foster a culture focused on sharing, trust and transparency among all employees from senior leadership to those in the field for social tools to have a lasting impact. IBM empowers IBMers to take advantage of the tools at their disposal to get work done. Our Social Computing Guidelines encourage employees to go forth and be social in ways that are comfortable for them and their daily work while providing them with general guidance and expectations. This allows them to use social computing tools to foster collaboration, disseminate and consume news, develop networks, forge closer relationships, and build their digital eminence inside and outside the organization.

4. Hire social job roles

Organizations can stay ahead of social trends, effectively utilize social data and make the most of social tools by hiring social-specific job roles. This can include titles like a community strategist or community manager to direct and manage internal and external communities; a social analytics manager to gather social data and develop actionable goals; a social reputation and risk manager to keep abreast of and mitigate any potential social-related risks; a social customer support manager to direct customer service efforts taking place over social channels; and a social innovation manager to drive innovation and continue evolving the overall social business strategy.  

5. Follow the leader

In order for social to become ingrained into the culture of a company, never underestimate the value of seeing executives “walk the walk.” Executives should start using social tools to communicate with employees, for example, by replacing email newsletters with a video blog, or announcing new successes in their status updates. It encourages employees to emulate the behavior.

6. Evangelize and enable

Sharing the what, why and how of your social business plan with employees is a key component to gaining support and providing context to why social is important to the success of the organization. Providing employees with things like an Executive Social Handbook, Conversation Guide and Executive FAQs to facilitate the social business transformation can be helpful with adoption. Elements of these materials include the business value of social, why the company is making the transformation, a social business roadmap, questions (and answers) that have been asked by employees, and which social tools are appropriate to use in specific scenarios.  

7. Motivate and engage

According to a 2012 survey by Salary.com, 69 percent of employers believe employees are engaged, while only 34 percent of employees claim to be. The good news is social tools help foster engagement by giving employees better access to the entire business and enabling them to participate more deeply in the decision-making process. Rewarding and recognizing successful social users helps promote usage and inspires others to take part. Many organizations may also include gamification features within their social network, which are shown to be as effective, if not more so, than traditional compensation-based awards.

8. Reverse mentor your leaders

Educate business leaders and raise the profile of high-potential employees by initiating a reverse-mentor program. The experienced executive who tends to engage with more traditional communication tools can learn from the front-line power user, and vice versa. Business leaders can help front-line employees answer questions like, “How can I more effectively help change the way we work?” Front-line workers can help business leaders answer such questions as, “Should I use a wiki, blog or community for this situation?”

9. Raise an internal brand army

At IBM, we actively remove traditional barriers to innovation while providing business value to our customers by capturing thought leadership from throughout the organization and sharing it with our larger community. For example, we recently launched Voices, a real-time data service that showcases live social feeds of IBMers who are experts across a variety of areas, whether it’s big data, mobile, social business, cloud or cognitive computing. Voices marries personal feeds with official brand feeds, such as @IBM, @SmarterPlanet, @IBMResearch, etc. Voices personifies IBM’s values-led culture and massive social media footprint.

10. Show metrics and value

It’s important to gather employee feedback during the transition to becoming a social business, especially because a social transformation upends traditional hierarchy business models. There will be sources of unexpected improvements from all levels, and being open to listening to those ideas will have the added benefit of establishing additional trust and comfort with the entire concept of social. Leveraging qualitative feedback against quantitative metrics and analytics will build a robust source of information from which to transform employee engagement.

By having a plan around how to incorporate social, as well as the actual implementation, organizations can stay ahead of any barriers they may face. But it doesn't end there. Businesses that really want to embark on this journey must be prepared to drive a cultural change and have executives committed to leading by example if they are looking to reach the ultimate goal of becoming a holistic social business.

Is your company ready to get social?