The Impact of Social Media on Leadership

Social media and leadership aren't always two words that you would think to put in a sentence together. But today, we're talking four ways that using social media can make you a better leader.

Engaging Employees With the Power of Social Media

Imagine sending a tweet to employees with this question: What one thing could we do to improve employee engagement? It's a question traditional leaders aren't likely to ask because they rely on antiquated employee communication systems. This involves tiers of managers submitting information via emails and formal reporting procedures. These make getting unfiltered employee feedback impossible. It's a communication system perfectly designed to drive millennials and Gen Z talent away.

Social Media and the Power of Inclusion

Social managers, on the other hand, understand how important active communication is to employee engagement. This is a concept that could be called the power of inclusion. Development Dimensions International (DDI) conducted a fascinating study on leadership that included research on executive social media use. Compared to the non-social leader, the social CEO is 89 percent stronger at empowering other people. They're 52 percent stronger at delivering compelling communication and 36 percent stronger at cultivating networks. There are earlier studies producing similar results, like the HootSuite and LinkedIn research project. It found a 40 percent increase in employee engagement in companies headed by social CEOs.

Given the leadership advantages social media offers, it's surprising the DDI statistics show a mere 20 percent of current CEOs employ social media. In contrast, 51 percent of upcoming CEOs utilize social media. This is a better number that still leaves plenty of room for improvement. One of the most effective employee engagement strategies that leaders at all levels can employ is gathering direct employee feedback on working conditions, the company's direction, barriers to workplace inclusion and innovative work, and suggestions for doing things more efficiently or effectively. Employees who have a direct communication line to organizational leaders are more engaged. They're more productive and able to make the connection between their work and its impact on company success.

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Honest Employee-Employer Dialogue

In addition, a critical strategy for union proofing a business is developing strong employee engagement. That requires active, honest employee-employer dialogue. Ask employees, "What one thing could our managers do to improve employee engagement?" and get ready to discover a myriad of ideas. Employees may respond with a variety of different suggestions. for example, "offer more training," "add an ERG for Asian employees," "change the grievance procedure" or "revise scheduling policies."

With one question, the social leader uncovers multiple ways to improve employee engagement. These kinds of responses should generate a deep dive to investigate training gaps. They should identify groups of employees feeling excluded and pinpoint Human Resources issues.

Communicate With Employees in Their Social Media Space

Managers have a choice of six major social media sites, although most just use LinkedIn. Question: Do your employees regularly use LinkedIn? Probably not, but they are likely active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and any internal social media system your organization has in place. Social media communication systems also include company blogs, websites, intranets, mobile communication programs and interactive eLearning.

The most social of leaders use an expansive set of internal and external social media tools. They also develop appropriate skills to ensure the cyber-dialogue is as effective as possible. These skills include creating compelling multimedia content, like tweets and video blogs that encourage feedback. They also should be building a leadership network that encourages employee participation in the social media system.

Having a dialogue with employees, locally or in remote locations, is critical to creating an engaged workforce. The most successful leaders understand they need a means for communicating and networking with all employees in an engaging manner. That is precisely what social media offers. Social leaders use social media to make the business more attractive for current employees while doing a better job of attracting highly desired job candidates. It enables leaders to gain insights they would otherwise miss.

Using Social Media to Improve Employee Engagement

Powerful Tool for Powerful Engagement

Social media dialogue is also used to motivate teams, channel strategic workforce efforts and share information. It can create company advocates, recognize employees, build morale, inspire productivity and generate positive employee relations. Social media is a powerful employee engagement tool. The managers who can harness that power will become better leaders in a networked world.

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Director of IRI's Digital Workplace Solutions Group, and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.