Fear Factor: Transparency, Communication and Engagement in the Workplace

Yesterday on my way home, we got the signals from our fellow motorists on the North bound lane of the highway. The blinking lights that could only indicate one thing - the po-po were on the loose, roadblock and the inevitable traffic tickets ahead. I saw some dark tinted vehicles, and other highway miscreants making the requisite "cut through the back" turns in true mafia style. Had it been one motorist flashing his/her lights from the other side, I would simply have thought they were flashing the driver ahead of them, or a friend on the other side. But the collaborative efforts of about 30 or so other drivers ensured that we got the message - put on your seatbelt, hide the beer, make sure you have your insurance, dispose of any illegal substances or just simply get on the back road cause the police are ahead.

I told you all....communication is everywhere!

I had my session with new employees yesterday, basically to tell them about the team and what we do yadda yadda. It was also a great opportunity to make a plug for social media and getting them on board from the get-go. It was great talking to them and getting their reactions, feedback and feeling a bit of enthusiasm on their part. And like the highway brotherhood, it is essential that staff buy in to the social media programme especially since the majority of them use social media in one form or another. Whether they consciously recognise it or not, they are agents of the brand and how they engage in social media, be it on their own time or as part of the corporate strategy is important. It's important because they can lend tremendously to not only growing our customer base, but also by bringing that conversational element that traditional marketing tends to lack.

There is always the talk from senior management level in companies across the world about using social media and there is always that fear that too much information will get out - confidential information, etc, or that staff will waste the day away chatting or tweeting. There is that fear factor and maybe not mistrust, if you don't want to call it that, but a definite hesitation to give employees free reign on the web. But I remember hearing somewhere that if you put a phone on an employee's desk and tell him/her that it can be used - to talk to customers who may call or be called - then, hey...why can't they use Twitter? If you trust them enough to let them talk to your customers on your behalf, all day, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, then why can't they answer a question from a friend on Facebook? If you trust them to not sit and talk to their friends all day long, then why can't they blog?

Of course, as with anything, there will be structure as to how this is done. Hey, we tell them how we would prefer they answer their phones when representing the organisation. I think it's pretty plausible and important to offer some structure to how they use social media as well. There is no rush to just throw them into the deep without a lifejacket!

  • Social Media Guide - Yep. I took some time and did one of these which will be part of the training for staff. It basically is a guide, and not really a policy, because policy sounds like you're putting a gun to their heads and saying DO THIS, LIKE THIS! But it offers employees some suggestions and direction for when they blog or tweet or interact with people on Facebook, while representing the brand.

  • Training - During my session yesterday, I asked how many people use social media, and most Trinis know about Facebook but that's kinda where it ends for some. And then they use it strictly for personal reasons. Asking them now to get on the social media bus when they are not quite aware of what's out there and how different tools can be used, is a bit much. So, in comes interactive sessions on social media, which I hope will give them a greater appreciation for just how extensive it is, how it can be and is used for business, and how widely used it is in business. And...how they can get on the bus.

  • Engage and Reward - I tweeted this morning about my cluttered desktop and it being a reflection of an often frazzled mind, because I have so many other things to do during any 24 hour period. So creativity often bites the dust as far as coming up with ideas for engaging customers or staff are concerned. But with my brand new social media army, who needs to think hard?? Hopefully with enough training and engagement and finding those who are really excited about being part of the show, the ideas and suggestions would come to me. I know there are many people in the team who have great suggestions. It's really just tapping into them and getting them to understand that they are indeed appreciated.

And in any event, it cannot just be about me or the team, it has to be about the organisation. In much the same way we enlist customers as our global research/product development/PR/marketing/customer service team, employees just cannot be left out. There will always be the "canned" messages going out to the public, those PR messages that some people call BS messages (I know you do it!) but the employee perspective and conversations are the ones which customers trust more. As I mentioned in another post, a company's website can ring all the bells and have all the trimmings and streamers, but I always look to someone who works there to give me the 411. So, can I leave my colleagues out of the loop? Especially when now I know they are interested? What would that say about our levels of engagement?

We usually fear what we do not know or understand. It's still a tough road, but we will get there. But the aim is to get them talking about it, asking questions, making suggestions and being brand ambassadors/networkers online. But it should be a collaborative effort, flashing lights style.


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