Social Media as Suggestion Box


I started thinking about the subject of this article after reading an article in the recent issue of Incentive Magazine. In the article, the author recommends that companies use social media as a means to increase employee performance. While I do not agree with everything that the author suggests, he got me to thinking.

Social media is not going away anytime soon. People and companies will only be expanding the number of ways that they use social media. One of the best stories I ever read about how prevalent social media has become was by Seth Fiegerman on Mashable. He compared it to how his grandfather was reluctant to get a credit card when they originally became available. However, over time, his grandfather got one.

Even without converting people that refuse to use social media, keep in mind that more than half of the world’s population has only lived in a world with the internet. That number is only getting bigger until it eventually reaches 100%.

Then came Chelsea Hickey’s article on SMC, where she correctly writes, “A happy employee is much more likely to be more productive than their counterparts.”

Do you dispute that concept? Her article makes some great points and has some good content to it, so when you’re done reading this article, read hers next.

One of the ways that you can make employees happier is to get them engaged. I think back at jobs where I was happy and they were with companies that made me feel engaged in what I was doing and where my opinion mattered. Jobs that I hated the most were where usually when there was a disconnect between what the company was saying about employee engagement and what was really happening.

At the company where I work now, the previous CEO walked the building every day, asking for people’s advice. When I started there over 20 years ago as a temp, he made sure to learn my name and make me feel welcome. He was a great man who passed away a few years ago at the age of 95. He was one of a kind.

I started thinking about how to combine social media with employee engagement. Here’s what I came up with for you:

Required Steps

  1. Have a social media policy in place (you have this already, right?)

  2. Decide which platform(s) are best suited to your situation

  3. Provide feedback to ideas made on the sites

  4. Be prepared to act on suggestions made by your employees

You should have a social media policy in place already, but if you don’t, you need to get one ASAP. It’s the only way to not only protect the company, but it will also provide guidance that will help keep your team on track. Yes, it allows the company to discipline anyone that does not follow the policy, but it does more than just that. It helps provide a framework so that employees know what is expected of them and can also steer them in the right direction.

One thing that I like about Coke’s Facebook page is that they publish their social media policy for guests on their page as their “House Rules”. This helps people realize not only what is and is not acceptable, but can give examples of what Coke wants to know from their fans. If you haven’t already created a social media policy for your employees, or even if you have, there is no better place to learn about the topic than from Chris Boudreaux’s Social Media Governance site.

As far as choosing the correct platform, I recommend Facebook or Linkedin. Of the two of them, I prefer Facebook because it’s more likely to be used by people from all levels of your organization. However, LinkedIn may be the perfect choice for your organization or even, just your own department within an organization.

Within Facebook, I would use a Closed Group, which would help prevent non-members from seeing what is happening within the group. Notice that I said “help” prevent others from seeing what’s happening. After all, if Edward Snowden can leak the NSA’s secrets, then what makes you think that your content is 100% safe?

Just as you would with customers, you need to get your employees engaged. Create content that is likely to catch their interest and get them participating. Unlike a traditional suggestion box, you can link to stories from the internet to stimulate their minds. Maybe you saw a story about what another company did and you want to know how it could be put into place at your company. In that case, share the link and specifically ask people to share their opinions.

Also, encourage them to start a topic. Don’t wait for them to start it up without being encouraged a bit. Expect hesitation and be prepared to handle it. Suggest that if people don’t want to put their idea out there for public scrutiny that they send you a private message. If that’s still not sitting right with your employees, encourage them to write it up and slip it under your door anonymously. I’d put that idea in your version of the House Rules!

Once you start getting your employees to participate, you need to get engaged yourself. Provide feedback to them. Ask questions to make sure you completely understand what they’re suggesting. Ask others to sound off on the idea – three heads are better than two! If you have several questions, invite the employee to your office to discuss it in person.

All of those steps will show your employees that you are serious about what they think. Remember, they are the people that are getting the job done for you. They know more about how to do the daily operations than you ever will!

A video shows a speech that Colin Powell made at Colgate University. I use this video in my Leadership Theory class and the students always respond favorably to it.

Colin says:

Take care of the troops. Take care of the followers. They will get the job done for you… You will not only talk the talk, you will walk the walk with them.

That says it all.

Before that, he recommends getting your people the tools that they need to get their jobs done. They know what’s working and what’s not working, so they can probably find ways to make things better – you just need to find a way to get them to share their knowledge and experience with you.

When someone’s idea is clearly not a good one, make sure to let them down easy. Do not ridicule or criticize them in public – you will lose any future ideas from them and perhaps from other employees.

Finally, be prepared to act upon the suggestions you receive. I’m not saying you need to implement them, but you need to act upon them in some way. Perhaps that means creating an advisory committee or doing what they recommend for a trial basis. Whatever you do, be sure to share your findings/conclusions on the group’s site. That shows everyone that “you mean what you say and you do what you say.”

Benefits

The benefits you will receive will be tangible and more than you might expect. Certainly, the ideas that you adopt from your employees should improve those specific operations. Additionally, you can expect performance in other areas to improve as a result of improved employee morale.

Joe Yeager is a marketing analyst and social media administrator for a leading B2B manufacturer in the professional dental market. He
is also a freelance writer and adjunct faculty member. Please follow him at @JosephMYeager.