Internet technologies have helped SME’s generate operational efficiencies once enjoyed only by large organisations. But social networking can also bring similar benefits to staff engagement and retention.
Internet technologies have helped SME’s generate operational efficiencies once enjoyed only by large organisations. Vincent Belliveau, EMEA general manager of Cornerstone OnDemand, explains how social networking is bringing similar benefits to staff engagement and retention.
To date, most organisations have failed to take a truly strategic approach to social networking. Some ban access to all social networking sites; others tolerate them for helping employees to make internal and external connections.
Yet social networking can be used to engage and retain employees in a highly effective way if you think in terms of the technology, not the familiar brand names. In a fast-moving, information-driven global economy, social collaboration tools can help people to make connections, build networks, communicate and share knowledge. We expect employees to do this in person – why not online?
Social technology works
As organisations become flatter, internal corporate social networks can make it easier for colleagues to connect across geographical and functional locations – with people they already know and those they have yet to meet.
Corporate wikis and bulletin boards also enable employees to share knowledge, with three main advantages. First, they help employees increase their knowledge and capabilities outside the “formal” training environment.
Ordinarily, employees will post a question or search for an answer when they need the knowledge and because they apply that new knowledge immediately, they are more likely to retain it.
Secondly, it helps the organisation to identify subject matter expects and lynchpins in the corporate social network. These people might not be senior managers, but they are key personnel who must be rewarded and developed so they stay within the organisation.
Third, when employees showcase their skills, expertise or networking ability it confers a degree of prestige within the organisation that in turn can be highly motivating. Much of this can be considered informal learning, mentoring or coaching.
So it makes sense to integrate social collaboration tools with more formal processes and systems for performance, learning and development. Social functionality provides more formal tools with a higher degree of “stickability”, with employees accessing them on a daily rather than, say, quarterly basis.
In turn, employees receive feedback on an ongoing basis, which they can use to help improve their performance. This integration can increase engagement with learning and development as a whole, so employees want and need further opportunities to acquire new skills and hone the ones they already possess.
Individual engagement, organisational benefits
So how does this assist in engaging and retaining staff? Social collaboration empowers employees to openly share their knowledge, contribute to the organisation and freely interact with colleagues, giving them a sense of autonomy and purpose.
This greater sense of self-actualisation and worth makes employees more “engaged”, caring about their work, their organisation, their co-workers and their customers. Greater communication and collaboration also has a positive impact on transparency, helping employees feel more closely aligned with and aware of corporate objectives.
It helps to embed a culture of sharing and teamwork, which together with more competent, aware employees can help to deliver better corporate results. Empowered, engaged employees in a successful organisation, where they have further opportunities to develop, are less likely to move elsewhere, so it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of success.
Before the advent of web technologies, it would have been much harder and more expensive for medium sized organisations to adopt many of these strategies on a company-wide basis. Now there is a clear, affordable path to improving employee engagement and retention – and it is social.