Thursday, September 8, 2011

Technology doesn't engage people, people do

I recently rolled out a social media platform for a client to improve internal communications and, among other things, further engage employees with senior leadership and the company overall.

After a couple weeks of limited responses from employees, one leader asked me, "Why aren't our people getting more involved in the blogs?"

I quickly responded, "Because blogs don't engage people, people do."

After weeks of pushing and prodding these leaders to post to the new blogs and initiating discussion threads, it became clear to me that I had overlooked a critical misperception by leadership - that the technology alone would be sufficient to get their employees "engaged".

Furthermore, when pushed to leverage these new tools, many of my clients (the very leaders wondering why employees weren't participating) passively resisted with responses like "we can't say that", or worse, "can't you draft it for me first?"

As the author of this blog, I'm obviously a huge proponent of leveraging new technology to improve internal communications. Yet the slickest tech on earth isn't going to do much if leaders aren't actively using and advocating it. Their participation is critical, not only to show their support for the new media, but also to demonstrate through example that they sincerely want to engage with employees.

Technology is a useful tool through which leaders can connect with their people, but it's not a magic bullet. It can't do the work for them. Business leaders who are serious about engaging employees will put forth the effort necessary to do so.

That means taking risks by being more honest than they've ever been before. It means allowing employees to disagree with leadership in a public forum, and allowing those disagreements to stand in black and white. It may even mean changing course due to valid opinions expressed by those who disagree.

But this is also the advantage of the technology. If leaders are willing to take those risks, they can reap the benefits of the collective knowledge and thinking of their employees, and that is truly engaging.

Anything less, and you might as well not bother.

Have you faced these or similar challenges in your work? And if so, what do you think are the major roadblocks preventing leaders from trusting your advice and participating actively?

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree. If you're going to roll something like this out, go big or go home. I've seen tools like this crash and burn too many times because they're treated like the formal living room - it's fancy to have one but nobody really ever sits in it.

    In my opinion, you need two things in order for forums like this to work; trust-worthy management and secure employees. Let's face it, there can be some pretty large egos and employees are scared (even in strong economic times) to raise a hand in what could be viewed as disagreement.

    A company I previously worked for has a tool employees access to either suggest process improvements or report activity that falls outside the standards. This particular tool is completely annonymous and employees are STILL uncomfortable using it. In order for blogs like these to be effective, managers need to promote them, use them, and be receptive to what they may read on them.