Human Capital magazine recently published an interesting article about the role of social media in the modern world of business. At the heart of the article is the argument that leaders must embrace social media or miss the powerful opportunity it presents to more effectively connect and engage with people.
The article references research by CIPD that suggests a lack of social media understanding among senior leaders is stifling innovation and transparency in organisations. In the report titled Social media and employee voice: the current landscape, employers are urged to recognize the opportunity social media provides to drive collaboration and influence transparency.
The argument presented is that those who fail to embrace social media in the workplace will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. The report warns that many senior managers are too focused on the dangers of social media and need to do more to leverage its benefits. In contrast they suggest the benefits of traditional systems such as email are overrated.
A strong case in favor of using social media is presented, however here’s the part of the article that started my alarm bells ringing:
“If a CEO sends out an email message, how do you know who read it? How do you know who hit delete? How do you get feedback? You don’t; you send it out to the ether and hope for the best … a few town hall meetings and newsletter blasts are not enough.”
And here is the punch line:
“Social media is a way to engage and inform a valued audience: the workforce. This is a completely different way of communicating and engaging with your people.”
While the article makes some valid points in support of leveraging social media, it fails to recognize its place in the grand scheme of effective communication and engagement. No matter how sophisticated the technology used, communicating well and engaging deeply will always take more than simply broadcasting information. Sending out an email and ‘hoping for the best’ has never been enough. A ‘few town hall meetings and newsletters’ have never worked in isolation.
It’s ludicrous to suggest that failing to leverage social media will stifle innovation and transparency. A strong culture of creativity and honesty is what really matters; social media is just a tool that if used well can enable these objectives. Social media alone won’t encourage people to think outside the square, challenge the status quo or honestly share insight. Just as problematic is the notion of social media as a driver of collaboration. Honest, open, interactive and respectful communication is what enables innovation, allows transparency and influences collaboration.
There is no doubt social media can be a powerful tool to connect to and engage with your team. Getting a message across or tapping into your teams insights however will always take multiple communication channels – social media is just one. Technology can never take the place of coming together to talk and listen. Town hall, one to one and team meetings still have an important role to play. Don’t be too quick to dismiss so called ‘outdated’ modes of communication; even the humble staff newsletters and notice board can be powerful tools in your toolkit.
Embrace the role social media can play but don’t expect it to be the king of communication and engagement.