Lately, I’ve been asking communicators, “Do you feel responsible for enabling peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge and ideas across your organization?” Most respond with a resounding, “Yes, we do.” For those of you who’ve been in the function for some time, you might agree that, had I asked this question even just five years ago, the response would have been markedly different. First of all, in 2006, most communicators would have responded with a puzzled request for clarification of the question. Enabling? Peer Sharing? Hmm, isn’t that what Napster did? Then, the communicator would have responded, “Our primary mission is to ensure that our employees are informed and aware of company strategy, news, and general information.”
It’s quite a momentous shift, then, for the large majority of communicators I speak with to claim ownership for individual employee-to-employee communication. (Strengthen employee-to-employee communication by visiting our site.) The function once known for its ability to craft the perfectly punchy CEO speech or churn out press releases is taking up a new charge–one of enabling good communication throughout the organization among employees at all levels.
When I probe further for an example of how Communications facilitates these interactions, 99.9% of the time, the first case-in-point sounds something like, “We have a CEO blog that employees are allowed to comment on; this has really helped to shift the company’s mindset from having one-way, top-down monologues to two-way dialogues.”
Hmm. Is having a CEO Blog with a comment feature really the hallmark of effective two-way dialogue?
Communicators themselves admit that this is not the case. In our recent member poll, we asked, “How satisfied are you with current employee reading and/or commenting on senior leader blogs?” Just 18% of respondents said they were satisfied with employee participation. Despite the enthusiasm for internal social media tools like CEO blogs, very few success stories have emerged from my conversations with communicators. In fact, 59% of communicators believe that employees lack the time or interest in using social tools to get their work done.
If internal social media is all the rage—indeed, 74% of organizations plan to increase their social media spend this year, according to a CLC survey of HR heads—then why do communicators consistently report disappointment with their utilization and impact? What separates good internal social media from bad or distracting internal social media? In past research, we’ve found that communicators who link internal social media investments to the company strategy and employee’s information needs prioritize the right tools to adopt.
While no one can deny that the way we work and collaborate is evolving thanks to new technology and even management philosophies, should we believe that every company must have an in-house core capability in social technology usage and management?
And so I pose a few questions to all of you:
- Ultimately, what is the role and responsibility of the Communications function to enable employees to connect with and share information with their peers?
- Does the answer lie in the careful creation and maintenance of social technology with a clear business intent?
- Or are you feeling a strong pull to return to the roots of good communication—face-to-face interactions that are open, honest, and, well, more human?
CEC Related Resources:
- Implement Internal Social Media Topic Center
- Employee-to-Employee Communication
- Virtual Peer-to-Peer Communication Menu
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