Social recognition

Social media can create transparent culture for employees to connect with organization, be recognized
By Diana Arbutina
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/04/2012

It’s no secret decreased employee engagement can lead to declining business performance.

As the baby boomers begin their exodus from the working world into retirement, the workforce is being infiltrated by a new, more digital-savvy generation. As a result, it’s critical for employers to understand how to engage this evolving workforce.

With the Canadian population pegged at 34.5 million, according to Statistics Canada, about one-quarter of them (25.9 per cent) are between the ages of 10 and 29. And this generation is unlike any that has preceded it.

They are often described as “digital natives” because they came of age — or are coming of age — in a wired world. Many have lived their entire lives online.

Their idea of engagement often occurs in 140 characters or less. As such, when they seek to be engaged by employers, their notion of recognition and communication is shaped by their inclination to online and mobile interactions.

As they lead the charge in social interactions, they shape the way the rest of society connects as well. Employees of all ages now look beyond the traditional commendation or pat on the back and want to be engaged in the way they choose to communicate.

Social media tools are pervasive and impacting how companies interact with employees and vice versa. Some organizations have embraced these channels and others look at them with fear.

The biggest impact areas for social media are around mobile, social portals (such as closed Facebook communities), innovation, and training and development. The explosion of social media in these avenues is continuing and it’s changing and shaping the communication landscape for workers, especially younger ones.

Many companies are looking at social media as an engagement tool, and why not? Hundreds of millions of people are active around on the world on social media, including Facebook (900 million active users), LinkedIn (150 million) and Twitter (140 million).

But first you need to ensure you are listening and responding to employees and engaging in conversations with them. Look at what drives employee engagement. Is it senior leaders who care? Frequent and authentic communication? Learning and growth opportunities?

Or does it have to do with a manager’s feedback or dialogue and the quality of relationships? Effective recognition and appreciation is about taking the time and making an effort to appreciate employees.

In a time when there is transition, instability and uncertainty in the world, thanking employees is a low-cost strategy and social media can play an increasingly beneficial role in that.

Recognition and engagement through social media help executives reach employees in a way that is more personal and comfortable to them. It also encourages peer-to-peer recognition and acknowledgement, while allowing employees to share.

Best ways to use social media

What are the best ways for your company to recognize and use social media?

The first way to encourage engagement online is a peer-to-peer social media tool. Use an internal social management platform that enables managers and employees to constantly recognize and reward one another for great work in a unified forum.

Using well-recognized social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, provides an easy and effective forum to give a shout-out to top-performing employees.

Commending them using these methods increases the sense of gratification, as this kind of recognition can be shared with others both within the organization as well as outside with friends and family. With a good set of social media guidelines, an organization can create an invaluable forum for employees to not only be recognized but share and promote accomplishments. It creates a transparent culture where employees can feel proud about how they are connecting with the organization and its people.

A company blog is also a great way to highlight the successes of an individual or outstanding teams. You can provide detailed information and pictures and encourage employees to comment. Allowing them to share the posts on social media platforms of their choice will add to the element of engagement — again, with internal and external peers — creating a positive brand reputation for the organization.

One company that has done a great job using social media to engage employees is Best Buy. Its “Learning Lounge” encourages social learning, allowing employees to rank or rate training modules, submit content for training and share experiences. This program experienced a quick adoption, with more than 100 employees submitting ideas for training in the first 60 days.

Canada Goose also uses social media and social recognition in an exemplary fashion. It shares news about what’s happening at the organization and openly recognizes top employees using Facebook and Twitter. Through this, the company has managed to create a culture that shows great pride in its brand, both online and in the workplace.

Social recognition is a new way to recognize employees, especially younger workers, and can serve as a great addition to an organization’s existing employee engagement strategy. Every employee is different and it’s important to ensure there are many options available to engage them. Ensure your organization is ready and then move forward.

Diana Arbutina is a principal consultant at Aimia in Toronto. She can be reached at Diana.arbutina@aimia.com.

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