Social Media: The Next Frontier in Employee Communication

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<strong>Washington &mdash; March 11</strong><br />Social media has begun to improve companies&rsquo; ability to enhance employee communication, say experts at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a global consulting firm.<br /><br />&ldquo;When properly rolled out, social media and Enterprise 2.0 tools can help companies meet their No. 1 internal communication goal: engaging employees,&rdquo; said Michael Rudnick, global intranet and portal leader at Watson Wyatt. &ldquo;Instead of simply mass e-mailing information or posting to an intranet in hopes employees will see it, social media tools help employees actively participate in creating and sharing information. This shift to employee-generated content has resulted in employees&rsquo; becoming more engaged online.&rdquo;<br /><br />However, at the moment, many companies are focused on the risks of social media. Executives often express concern about giving employees the ability to create content, and many information technology departments are blocking employee access to the most popular external social media tools.<br /><br />Rudnick says these concerns are reminiscent of the productivity fears raised, and subsequently disproved, when the Internet was introduced into the workplace in the mid-1990s. The way for employers to address these concerns is to do just as they did 10 years ago &mdash; setting clear guidelines for acceptable use while adopting social media for a productive, internal purpose.<br /><br />&ldquo;Companies need a plan to introduce these new technologies into the workforce. Simply deploying the technology is not enough, and can even be counterproductive,&rdquo; Rudnick said. &ldquo;However, employers that avoid social media altogether are missing an important opportunity and running the risk of alienating Generation Xers and Millennials. Embracing the technology with proper planning, guidelines and change management for its use are effective approaches to ensuring success.&rdquo;<br /><br />A good example of how employers can adopt social media internally is to enhance their static intranet with more dynamic Web 2.0 technology. On most intranets, news is posted primarily by a limited number of communicators. A social media-driven intranet allows most, if not all, employees to create information and participate in a company-wide dialogue. Content can be contributed in a variety of ways, including blogs, blog feedback, wikis, vlogs, podcasts and other Web 2.0 tools. This more collaborative approach provides for relevant and up-to-date content on intranets without dramatically increasing the burden on a company&rsquo;s communications function.<br /><br />However, guidelines, training and change management about appropriate use, along with strong firewalls, are needed to ensure social media is used productively and sensitive information is not inappropriately or inadvertently disseminated, Rudnick said.<br />

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