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Enter The Intranet.

Companies and organizations don’t want every ounce of their information out there online for public consumption. An intranet isn’t a misspelling of the word Internet; it’s a private network for companies to provide an online source of specific information specifically for their employees.

Intranet content along with the amount and types of information available varies by company. Some information, such as financial data, may be considered sensitive, but is acceptable for sharing on the intranet. Additionally, some networks may allow for employees to share more personal data such as their names and photos from company events, while others may serve for the purpose of corporate news gathering. The article “Bringing the internet indoors: socialising your intranet” by Geoff Scaplehorn outlines specific features that can be included on an intranet site. He mentioned that document sharing, discussion boards, blogs, microblogging, comments, ratings, and profile pages can be available on a company or organization’s intranet.

Benefits of having an intranet include providing another way to communicate along with allowing for employees to connect and/or collaborate with both the company and their colleagues, thus increasing their level of engagement. Some intranets provide for e-mail communication, and information available can be accessed at any time with an employee log-in. From another perspective, consistent access to accurate information by employees can improve customer service. Intranets can help employees of multi-national companies communicate from their geographically-dispersed locations.

Communication should be a main focus in business practices. Connecting with a company’s various publics is important and essential for any company or organization to thrive. Any avenue, such as an Intranet, that allows for communication can be used advantageously.

-Laura

Through these blog posts, there’s been a focus on the positive outcomes of employee engagement, but what actually motivates employees to be happy at their jobs and be engaged with the company or organization? Of course, the answer to that question depends on the job, management style, personality, and individual preferences.

2009 research poll by the Opinion Research Corporation proves that communication is absolutely essential and the main component of the value of employee engagement. According to the survey, employees are twice as likely to work harder and four times as likely to recommend their company or organization to others if open and honest communication is present from the management.

Jessica Levco’s article analyzes and discusses the main points of the survey. Genuine, factual communication is especially crucial in times of crisis and challenging decisions; employees don’t want to feel betrayed by their employers. The recent economic hardships faced by virtually all industries and companies have led to lay-offs, budget cuts, and policy alterations. Forty-four percent of the participants in the survey mentioned that their company had to communicate in response to the economic realities, but just 49% said that their companies had effectively communicated in this instance.

According to Terry McKenzie’s article, “New challenges for engagement” from the May/June 2010 edition of Communication World, engaged employees are highly beneficial to a company or organization.  A company should strive to provide other incentives other than the essential basics of money and job security. Find out what motivates employees, because engaged employees are more committed and tend to be more creative. Additionally, the article provides some pointers for facilitating employee engagement. Treat all employees in the same manner. Be willing to help employees understand their tasks and other information. Listen to their needs, suggestions, and ideas while remaining transparent. Finally, instead of hiding from struggles, be upfront and honest.

Social media tools have revolutionized the world around us, and as covered in the bulk of this blog, and can be used to increase employee engagement. Go online to find out what employees are saying, or try starting an online community for involvement. All in all, if employees feel appreciated and valued, then they are likely to appreciate and value their employer.

-Laura

Thanks to an internship abroad in London, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has a special place in my mind. I had the privilege of working at the National Autistic Society (NAS) this past summer under the title of Corporate Partnerships Intern, and gained valuable real-world experience by interacting with companies. The NAS is the United Kingdom’s leading charity dedicated to helping people with autism and Asperberger’s syndrome by providing a wide range of services for both the individuals affected along with their families.

One of my main responsibilities was calling companies from various industries in the United Kingdom to ask about their Corporate Social Responsibility policy and if they would be interested in collaborating with the NAS through project sponsorship, employee volunteering, or through a Charity of the Year scheme. In the UK, it is more common and expected for companies and organizations to have CSR tied into their goals and objectives.

CSR relates to the tactics a company or organization uses to engage the community it serves, but often times also has objectives pertaining to protecting the environment, increasing sustainability, performing philanthropic efforts, and maintaining ethical business practices.

Ingrid Selene’s article mentioned several potential benefits that can be achieved using CSR actions, including company and product promotion, increased brand image and values, a better environment for business, better relationships with local communities, along with the potential to attract and keep employees. Additionally, for CSR objectives to be met, they need to be advertised both internally and externally so employees and community members are aware of the efforts. Keeping communications transparent and open when it comes to CSR is essential.

McDonald’s, the global fast food chain, has a team of seven people dedicated to the company’s CSR strategy. Michael Sebastian’s article details McDonald’s stances on CSR; additionally, company has topped Fortune magazine’s list in CSR for “most admired food service companies.” Also, with over one million employees across the globe, the idea that the more that employees know, the more motivated they will be, so internal communication is a priority. McDonald’s CSR department has four roles that focus on CSR Outreach/Communication, Environment, Issues Management and Supply Chain. Additionally, Bob Langert, the Vice President of McDonald’s CSR authors a blog entitled “Open For Discussion,” which covers a wide array of topics and is updated about once per week.

“McDonald’s Corporate Social Responsibility- Making Progress”

In your own company or organization, provide opportunities for employees to volunteer with local charities or at events in the community. Help people in need by setting aside money to be donated to charity. Try using less paper and recycle in your company. Host a fundraiser to benefit others.

Corporate Social Responsibility not only engages the employees of an organization or company, but benefits the community. Also, through the efforts of CSR, the company looks better in the public eye for giving back time, energy, and resources.

-Laura

The power of the Blue Shirts.


Best Buy, the giant electronic and entertainment product retailer, allows for visitors to their main website to connect to their various social networking sites by clicking links on the bottom of the home page. However, for the employees of Best Buy, they have a different place to connect using social media tools.

Patrick Thibodeau’s blog post discussing the establishment of the Blue Shirt Nation provides some backstory material about how the website came into reality as the brainchild of two employees, who have since been promoted to senior managers of social networking for Best Buy. The website was created when two employees, a creative director and an account executive, realized that Best Buy staff members were generally disengaged from the company after their work day. With the ideas of Gary Koelling and Steve Bendt, Best Buy helped launch a website appropriately named The Blue Shirt Nation due to its prominent retail color scheme and uniform. Although it was initially established to brainstorm advertising ideas in 2006, the site evolved into a tool for communicating, sharing ideas, and offering suggestions between employees across the company.

According to Dan Haugen’s blog post, “Welcome to Blue Shirt Nation,” the website is a model that can be used for other companies on ways to engage employees. By encouraging discussion, sharing experiences, and offering suggestions with employees directly across the company, Best Buy has been able to gain trust and loyalty with their workforce. Additionally, information discussed on the website can help the company be better and sell more products.

Employee participation on The Blue Shirt Nation is optional, but over 25,000 employees have joined the site, which includes specific e-mail addresses for the users.

-Laura

Turmoil in recent years affecting Dell, the well-known computer manufacturer and direct retailer, has resulted in changes to the ways the company runs business. In June 2005, Influential blogger Jeff Jarvis, who has written for numerous publications including People, Entertainment Weekly, and TV Guide helped initiate a downfall for Dell when he received lacking customer service for a computer issue. He blogged over three weeks about his frustrations, and comments on the posts from his readers listed similar negative experiences with Dell. Jarvis’s posts progressively led to thousands of comments, blogs, and forums.

At the time, Dell’s marketing team had a policy of monitoring, but not responding to customer conversation online. The fact that Dell chose not to interact with their displeased customers gave the impression that the company did not care or understand the problem at hand. Additionally, Dell’s reputation as a company was destroyed, mainly due to customer feedback and complaints using social media tools.

Although Dell was not quick to react to their reputation and negative problems, several websites have been launched to connect with consumers, handle customer service issues, and engage employees. Direct2Dell is the company’s official corporate blog, and IdeaStorm is a website for customers to provide ideas for future products, services, and how to make the company better.

A version of IdeaStorm, but for Dell’s internal audience, EmployeeStorm, allows for employees to become engaged and provide ideas and suggestions for the company.  Numerous topics from future product ideas to workplace requests have been discussed on the site. Joel Postman, author of SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate described IdeaStorm as beneficial and effective because it actively engages consumers, and some ideas become realities for Dell (Postman, 161). EmployeeStorm uses the same system and concepts as IdeaStorm; it’s simply for employees of the company instead of customers.

In Elizabeth Lupfer’s blog post on The Social Workplace, she mentions that EmployeeStorm has allowed for over 80,000 Dell employees to connect online and voice their ideas. Additionally, she points out that Dell Communication and leadership staff members are able to join the conversation with the other employees. Over 3,000 ideas were submitted within two months after the website’s debut. This effort by Dell has been able to add a new dimension to employee engagement within their company, giving their customers an online outlet to have their voices and concerns heard.

Dell is just one example of a company that got itself into trouble by not using social media to engage with its publics. They learned from their mistakes, and now have created opportunities to reach out to their audiences.

-Laura

Why engage employees?

With the advent of social media tools, companies and organizations have had the capability to connect with not only their consumers and other businesses, but their employees as well. Now, through the magic of the World Wide Web and social networks, employee engagement can be facilitated through technology tools.

That being said, what are characteristics engaged employee? An individual is who dedicated, highly involved in their duties, and enthusiastic about their job is tend to be thought of as engaged.

An article from The Gallup Management Journal describes employee engagement as a top factor in financial success. Also, according to research by Gallup and others, engaged employees are more productive, safer, profitable, less likely to quit the job and more focused on the customer. Gallup Consulting has published a brochure that highlights the benefits of having highly engaged employees.

Gamal Aziz, the CEO of the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV mentioned that high employee engagement can provide a company with the competitive edge in this BusinessWeek article. He acknowledged that engaged employees tend to be more willing to work and do their best when they feel appreciated by their employers, especially when the economy is in a state of despair like it has been recently. Their attitudes, actions, and decisions are effected by how they are treated by the company they work for. If each employee is willing to work harder, then they will outshine the competition which has less engaged employees.

I am looking forward to investigating how social media tools are used to facilitate employee engagement, and these concepts will be covered in future posts.

-Laura