Viewpoint: Sheila Parry, education and accreditation director, The Institute of Internal Communication

  • Learn how brands can boost productivity by bringing together their employees in our feature, here
  • Find out how easyJet inspired customers and staff alike in a case study, here
  • Read a case study on how My Wellbeing app has helped raise staff morale, here

A recent student survey conducted for the institute sought to uncover whether social media is increasing within businesses and in which ways. The findings show that there is still a reluctance in senior teams to use social networking and they’re still concerned that it’s ’more social than media’.

Companies that are using it are seeing the benefits in terms of creating a sense of transparency and trust, easing isolation for remote workers and providing channels that suit how and when employees want to communicate. Internal social media also helps to remove the silence between departments because more is being communicated online rather than in people’s inboxes.

The survey finds that 53.3% of senior leaders embrace social media but still rely on email and newsletters to communicate, 20% fully embrace it and 20% see it as a waste of time. That last 20% is reducing but there’s still a body of people who don’t see that these are ways of communicating that employees prefer, so they will get far more involved than they will with channels that are top down or one way.

People still rely on email and newsletters to communicate because there’s still a top-down culture. The resistance to democratic channels, with broader user-generated content, stems from the fact that a business has to relinquish control over the kind of messages available to employees.

The residual hurdle is some companies still want to hold control. But it is control versus trust. In businesses where the culture is more trusting, these channels are more prevalent.

Can social media change a culture from competitive to collaborative? No way. But social media is an accelerator of that change. So companies that are already collaborative have embraced social media because it helps firms to collaborate and departments to share jobs and projects.

Those companies that don’t foster a spirit of collaboration don’t jump on the bandwagon of social media and are quite fearful of it. Then there’s a mass in the middle that have moved, and they are the key target market.

We’re seeing a lot of companies bolting social networks on to their intranets, which still enables the employer to publish what they want, but with the addition of social media elements, through video, blogs or moderating comments.

These are really effective solutions and companies that use them are also allowing discussion and debate, which fosters a much more healthy working environment.

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