Five Unbreakable Rules For Using Social Media to Communicate With Employees

Social media, a tool most of us use in our personal lives, has gained speed as a successful communication technology for engaging employees. UnionProof is a sincere believer in using social media to enhance conversations between management and employees and across the organization. Staying union-free is based on how engaged your employees are, and using social media to communicate with employees can play a central role. It facilitates socialization, knowledge sharing, collaboration, and training and development. Social media is also an efficient way to strengthen transparency and company values and purpose and empower employees with an additional two-way communication channel. 

In other words, enterprise-wide social media is a powerful engagement tool that can serve a broad spectrum of purposes, from staying union-free to building a committed workforce. The key is to utilize social media in a way that promotes these goals by connecting efficiently, transparently, and factually with employees and encouraging the same between employees. Following are five unbreakable rules for unleashing social media as an employee engagement tool to help your company stay union-free.

Researchers Ewing, Men, and O’Neil decided to investigate how experienced internal communication practitioners engaged employees using internal social media. In-depth interviews with the experts found that engaged employees feel connected to the company’s purpose and are attentive to the company’s activities. Employees feel empowered by and attached to their organizations when they can generate content and voice opinions.

Here, we’ve got five great tips for using social media to communicate with employees:

1. Encourage employees to share 

What should employees share? You should encourage employees to share their perspectives, ideas, work, personal accomplishments, recognition of co-worker achievements, suggestions for organizational improvements, inputs into decision-making, and experiences. Giving employees a voice is empowering. The back and forth conversations that naturally occur when you’re using social media to communicate with employees accomplish these goals:

  • Promotes collaboration
  • Promotes innovation that will inevitably flow from sharing novel ideas
  • Informs managers about employee efforts, accomplishments and innovation
  • Increases employee engagement
cost of unionization

Accenture research on including persons with disabilities (and everyone else) found that companies can foster an inclusive culture through various means, and one is promoting grassroots-led efforts like employee resource groups (ERGs). Social media offers a communication path for all, not just some, employees to participate in the internal conversation. It is a powerful tool for ERGs to share their knowledge and experience and uniquely lived experiences and perspectives. Employees don’t have to turn to unions to talk to when they can talk to each other and leadership.

2. Actively listen and respond to employee comments as an inclusion strategy

Inclusion is a word that gets used a lot today, and as just mentioned, internal social media can play an important role. Deloitte has done a lot of research work on inclusion and found that inclusion is essential for engaging and retaining today’s employees. More than 1,300 employees were surveyed from across various organizations and industries. The results are clear: Inclusion is a key element of employee engagement. 

People were asked what is most important in an inclusive culture, and the top three elements were authenticity, flexibility, and purpose. People want to bring their whole selves to work, have flexibility in how work gets done, and know they are making an impact on the organization and have an understanding of how their work fits into the big picture. The survey found that 71% of respondents valued working for an organization with leadership that consistently demonstrates inclusive behaviors.

One of the unbreakable rules of using social media to communicate with employees is for leaders to actively listen to posts on social media and respond to employee comments. Giving regular feedback and participating in conversations are inclusive leadership behaviors. The more diversity in the people who utilize social media, the better for the workforce and the business.

3. Foster workforce bonding by allowing conversations not directly related to the business or work

It is tempting to severely restrict social media use to only work matters, but that approach limits collaboration and building bonds in the modern workforce. People are used to using social media as a means of connecting on a more personal level, and that is precisely what you want. Employee engagement is mostly about feelings about the company, co-workers, and managers. It’s nearly impossible anymore to separate work and personal lives because of technology. 

Leaders are learning that allowing employees to talk about their favorite charity or a significant event in their lives humanizes the organization. A human-centered focus promotes bonding among people, and a strongly bonded workforce is more likely to feel satisfied.

This is not saying that anything goes. There should be rules in place that clearly define what is allowed and not allowed as you use social media to communicate with employees. Of course, you can’t allow hateful, demeaning, or biased comments. (More on this topic found in number five.) You can encourage people to share their passions and interests, from the environment to favorite charities.

Peter Drucker, the famous business consultant, once said, “To improve communications, work not on the utter, but the recipient.” Personal interests are an important source of passionate effort and engagement because they promote a sense of ownership. Communication is a two-way street, and social media can strengthen the listening side as well as the uttering side.

4. Utilize social media for the transmission and reinforcement of company benefits, policies, mission, values, and goals

We frequently discuss the importance of regularly reinforcing your organization’s mission, values, and positive aspects. Social media is an ideal forum for your leaders to:

  • Highlight employees who uphold the values
  • Promote utilization of company benefits
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of the management open-door policy
  • Share organizational achievements 
  • Share links to updated policies
  • Reinforce the corporate mission
  • Encourage networking

Think of using social media to communicate with employees as a leadership public relations strategy. If marketing your company externally, you would showcase innovative product designs, demonstrate your company meets the needs of customers, share the company’s mission, and perform a host of other activities. The same marketing principles hold true for internal social media.

5. Provide clear social media policies, so employees understand expectations

After promoting free conversation via internal social media, it seems a bit discouraging to now lay out the rules. However, you shouldn’t think of a social media policy as a negative. Rather, a policy can act as a way to promote social media use. You aren’t telling them not to use social media. You are encouraging them to use it as a team member who is important to organizational success. 

Yes, it’s a risk minimization strategy and can help protect employees from unintended consequences, such as delivering or experiencing bias, bigotry, hatred, and exclusion. But instead of viewing the policy as a barrier of sorts, look at it as a means of helping employees have a voice and feel valued. Just as importantly, social media policies are behavioral guidelines for promoting employee success.

There are already tens of thousands of social media policies in place in place across industries, and no two policies are the same. Some obvious elements belong in every policy, like keeping posts professional, not revealing anything related to the business that is not meant for general knowledge, and adhering to the law.

But there are often overlooked positive elements, and these are the ones that promote social media use for employee engagement purposes. They include:

  • Promoting the use of social media by all employees (and not an elite few)
  • Encouraging creative perspectives that may lead to innovation
  • Promoting employee trust and collaboration
  • Promoting employees as ambassadors of the company’s brand
  • Reminding employees to be honest about who they are 
  • Strengthening the open-door policy by encouraging employees to ask when in doubt about a post

What About Unions?

In the spirit of honesty and transparency, it is important to let employees know upfront that managers and supervisors will be joining the conversations and monitoring posts. The point is not to “catch” people talking about unionization or work conflicts. In fact, it will ensure management catches things like creative ideas and promotes collaboration. It is all part and parcel for creating a UnionProof culture.

Should unions get mentioned, leaders should know how to respond. It’s a delicate situation, but with proper training, managers will know what to do. They can direct the employees to the union-free website where they can learn about their rights and ask anonymous questions. One of the advantages of having an active internal social media program in place, should union organizing activities begin, is that employers can use it to give them a louder voice and drive them to various places for more information, like the union-free website.

Use Social Media to Engage Everyone

Internal social media can highlight organizational issues, deliver insights and solutions, build collaborative relationships, and promote positive morale. Best of all, it gives all employees a forum for expression. The people who may not participate in vigorous department debates concerning work or are shy about sharing their ideas are more likely to post comments on social media. The people you had trouble engaging are now included in the conversation. Simply put, that can only be good for employee engagement and productivity.

A Better Leader offers in-depth leadership training on connecting with employees and creating a positive workplace culture. UnionProof provides the tools and support organizations need to keep unions out. Together, in combination with Projections, Inc’s award-winning custom video, web, and eLearning solutions, you can develop the highest level of employee engagement. There simply are no negatives to investing in training your leaders to effectively communicate via all communication channels.

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About the Author

Walter Orechwa

Walter is Projections’ CEO and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.