Can You Hear Me Now? The Impact of Social Media on Your Workforce

Can you hear me now?

That ubiquitous phrase made famous by Verizon became quite apropos at the end of 2011. After the most embarrassing debacle in history of marketing/pricing, Verizon was forced to backtrack, put their tail between their legs, and somberly walk away from what they thought would be another revenue steam.

Netflix was faced with the same situation in mid-2011.

What was the major connector to both of these events? What was the determining factor that drove them to make an immediate u-turn? The answer: social media.

Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2011 was the protester. What drove the protest throughout the world that drove their movement? Again, social media was the key.

Two of the most driving forces going into 2012 are social media (and the power of it), and the employee, regardless of the level of engagement.

The pendulum has swung

Organizations can no longer ignore the social media aspect of any initiative, whether it is short/long term strategy or internal change issues. Social media has changed the dynamics. Employees, whether you are ready for it or not, are going to be engaged and there is absolutely nothing an organization can do to swing the pendulum back in their favor.

As an enthusiastic participant in all things social, each one has the opportunity as a platform that will drive change within the organization. It is not only just some silly fad, as I have heard it described.

Corporate culture meets social media

In this era of uncertainty, layoffs, and overworked employees, it is a huge challenge aligning and engaging your teams .

Culture defines an organization, and to maintain that level of connectiveness requires communication and constant reinforcement. Social media offers the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with and among employees, former employees, customers (both new and former) and other key connecting points to the organization.

Each platform — whether it be Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin — offers value. But others can still offer opportunity and should be brought into the stable. Sites like Glassdoor and Vault give an unvarnished opinion of the organization. Yammer could serve as the company’s “water cooler,” providing a virtual platform for open discussion. UpMo, which is a new entry, offers promising opportunity for managing talent

There must be a strategic thought process underlying the individual approach. This process should enable the enterprise to manage its culture, enrich its culture, and as much as possible, protect its culture. In today’s climate, you can’t leave any stone unturned,. You not only need to connect but also be aware of all the implications of not being connected.

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It’s not just for marketing

Social media has taken the world by storm. This should not be about limiting and controlling the social media aspect of your organization because you can’t control it. I had a conversation a few years back with a CIO who proudly explained how he had “locked down” his organization “against the intrusion of this social media crap.”

Gen Y/Millennials, and to a lesser extent Gen X, is not going to consider you for employment if you adopt a locked down approach to this phenomenon. Not only that, but as you hunt for new talent that may have come from a company that encouraged social media, you will find that you are not going to be the employer of choice.

We should start asking how we can make social media bigger in our organization by considering how social media platforms can help achieve business objectives beyond marketing.

Harnessing the power

Here’s how to harness the power of the social media beast:

  • Allow it to shape and manage your company’s culture.
  • Allow it to help you strengthen change management initiatives.
  • Allow it to help you improve execution of corporate strategy.
  • Allow it to let you better facilitate corporate communication.
  • Allow it to let you better manage and increase employee engagement.

It is all about the people, folks. It is about the culture of your organization. It is about building relationships, cooperation, change, openness, and individuality. Social media offers an opportunity that has the ability to drive so much change within the enterprise.

Ignore it at your own peril.

In the same way the assembly line changed manufacturing at the turn of the last century, and more recently, how the Internet changed the way businesses operate, social media is changing the way consumers think and employees work and connect to each other.

Hear Ron Thomas as he leads the first-ever TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX this coming Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.