UK organisations are failing to harness the potential of social media for more effective engagement with employees, with the result that the communications disconnect between senior management and junior staff is widening, according to new research by hyphen, the recruitment process outsourcing specialist.
The survey of over 1,500 UK employees – conducted as part of wider research by hyphen into the use of social media in the workplace – shows that the general appetite among employees to engage with their superiors via social media channels is surprisingly high. But management are failing to take the opportunity to engage with their people in this way or look in to creating in-house social media platforms that are more in the vein of Twitter and Facebook, rather than intranets and newsletters.
Over two fifths (42.3%) would be happy to converse directly with their line manager or team lead via Facebook and a fifth would even be content tweeting the head of department (20.0%) and CEO (19.4%). Likewise, nearly two fifths (39.2%) of managers would be happy to reciprocate via channels such as Facebook.
With the right parameters in place, the research highlights the growing potential for employers to engage with their employees online.
However, the findings also show organisations are failing to capitalise on this relatively new channel of workforce communication. Many employees in the UK are still restricted from using social media at all during work hours and less than a fifth (17.4%) of employees are aware of any attempts by their organisation to use social media to reach out to them directly.
This delayed adoption by organisations is likely to risk disenfranchising younger workers, who are digital natives conducting much of their lives online, regardless of work policies. Nearly seven out of 10 (69.1%) entry level employees and three fifths (62.6%) of junior managers already hold social media accounts for personal use, suggesting that the forums are a way of life for the majority. Many young people are so accustomed to engaging with their friends and brands online that, done well, employers have a new avenue to reach out and engage with employees.
If such channels are to be maximised, employers will need to issue a certain amount of guidance to ensure boundaries for social media use at work are established and respected. Early, successful adopters of social media for employee engagement include IBM and Nokia. They have created their own social in-house platforms, Blue Twit and Social Blue, and Socialcast, which are all based around the concepts of Facebook and Twitter.
Zain Wadee, Managing Director at hyphen, commented:
“These findings indicate the long way organisations have to go if they are to implement an impactful social media strategy that engages and communicates with employees. While many organisations are focussing their social media efforts on external audiences they are neglecting to see the potential such channels offer for effective internal communications, brand building and advocacy within their own organisations. With the younger generation coming to employment with an already strong understanding of social media, a company’s strong engagement on social media platforms will only ever go towards attracting and retaining the best talent.
“It is of course important to establish when social media presents the right forum for employee communications. Sensitive issues should be taken offline through correct HR channels and data privacy always observed. However, used well, social media can be a highly effective internal engagement tool. Instead of an extension of the intranet for department updates, social media can be used to foster idea generation and knowledge sharing across an organisation’s departments and levels.
“Entry level employees and junior managers must become key advocates for this practice and organisations need to act quickly to understand how they’re using their own social media channels and how willing they would be to adapt their practice to make an internal social media strategy work.”