We focused on how a company can listen to, talk to, and energize their customers in all of our previous posts but in chapter 12, we learn that it is equally important for a company to connect with their employees. Employees around the world in different organizations are “connecting on internal social networks, collaborating on wikis, and contributing to idea exchanges” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 234).
Strategies for Nurturing the Internal Groundswell
The internal groundswell is “all about creating new ways for people to connect and work together” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 244). In order to get the most from your internal groundswell and to help build strong relationships between employees, their company should (1) promote a listening culture from the top down, (2) ease and encourage participation with incentives, and (3) find and empower the rebels in your organizations (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 245).
Listening and Participating
The internal groundswell can be successfully leveraged if the overall organizational culture permits it. Moreover, it requires trust between employers and employee– since employees cannot anonymously participate in internal social applications it’s important for them to know their managers “will listen to their openly contributed opinions, rather than punishing dissenters” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 245). Managers also need to actively participate or else their efforts would render useless. They can participate by recognizing employee’s efforts (i.e mentioning blog posts by an employee) and incorporating material from these social applications into their own communications.
Strategies to Increase Participation
Even if a company implements some sound internal social applications and the managers are participating, it does not guarantee they will get the critical level of participation require for success. There are a variety of ways to increase participation but coercion is not one of them. Instead, companies should “create easy ‘on-ramps'” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 247). Once employees are more productive and are participating then it’s more likely you will “gain the participation of even those legendary curmudgeons” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 247).
Find & Encourage the Rebels
Within every company, there will be individuals who are constantly asking for changes to be made to nearly anything and everything. Managers should leverage this energy productivity and help their rebels with “political and technical resources… help them figure out where in the organization change can happen most quickly–and where it will be resisted…help them learn from mistakes” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 248). In addition, managers should implement processes, controls, and guidelines. These rules would help guide the rebels within the company and show them “how big of a box the have to play in” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 248).
Not All About Technology
At the end of the day, it is important to remember engaging the internal groundswell is not about technology but rather learning how to manage and change the way the organization works and works together. While a part of engaging the internal groundswell requires the implementation of technologies, “it’s nearly impossible to force social technologies on organizations from the top down… because these technologies require the participation of your [sic] employees” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 248).
Since ELLE is a magazine publication, every issue they release requires the collaborative work of individuals in different departments. There is a lot of engagement within the brand but there is little that is published online about the exact details of how they engage internally. However, ELLE’s employees also actively participate in their private online community the ELLE Inner Circle — this private community has been mentioned multiple times now but it really has become an important part of ELLE in recent years. Initially, it was for ELLE’s die hard fans/readers to get exclusive content in return for their opinions and feedback (R&D) but it’s essentially become the meeting grounds for ELLE employees and ELLE readers to communicate with one another and have conversations about fashion and beauty.
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, USA: Forrester Research Inc.