Social and Employee Relationships

an interview with
Jason Breed Global Lead Social Media Practice, Accenture

Just in case you needed further evidence that social goes well beyond the walls of marketing, here is my interview with Jason Breed, Global Lead Social Media Practice at Accenture who shared his thoughts on how social is complicating HR and employee relationships.  Jason offers insights into how companies including Accenture are adapting to this new reality.  Thanks Jason.

Drew:  Can you explain how social has made employee relationships so complicated?
First, thanks for the opportunity to talk a bit about this topic that is vexing companies of all sizes and social media maturity levels.  To answer your question, I think employee relationships are already somewhat complex and social adds a few new wrinkles to work through.  From what I see, the new wrinkles include: technology (BYOD allowing access to sometimes restricted sites and information security risks), Brand Advocacy (now every employee is an advocate not just the media trained execs) and further blurring the lines of work vs. personal (when co-workers are a part of your social stream)

Drew:  At lot of companies like to control and centralize social engagement which cuts most employees out of the loop.   What are the disadvantages of this approach?
Good question and I don’t want to further the impression that this is always bad.  In certain regulatory/compliance and other environments centralization is needed.  I’ve noticed that when many companies restrict social inside the organization, it is simply due to a lack of understanding or a lack of perceived business value.  If a company is “doing social” simply to check a box and have not put the required business process and strategy behind it, then it may be better to centralize to help them get comfortable and develop value propositions accordingly.  If a company understands the value of their employee networks, partner networks, etc then centralization and control are less likely.

Drew:  Some companies like IBM are particularly good at unleashing their army of advocates (employees).  What do you see as the benefits of this approach?
Empowering your networks is a strategic advantage at this point.  The Insurance industry is a good example.  Agents have been using social to connect with their customers for a while.  Companies who empower this at the enterprise level can harness the value of every Agent’s network collectively which can create more overall value for everyone involved (Company, Agent and Customer).

Drew:  Is Accenture allowing and or encouraging all of its employees to be active on social channels and if so, how is it working?  
Accenture has been a leader in empowering employees for a while and some of the awards and positive press we receive validates this.  For example, Accenture has received many industry accolades for its work in socially infusing our talent and hiring programs and continues to work side-by-side with leading social networks in developing the next generations of how we recruit, hire, train and retain employees by using personal social connections throughout that journey.

Drew: Forrester recently announced that social media drives less than 1% of sales which could encourage some brands to curtail their social activities.  Is trying to tie social activities to sales the wrong metric given all the other things that social can do for a business including employee retention?
Social activities have to tie back to business value otherwise, why do them?  That said, social provides the opportunity to re-think the way that businesses do business.  Social as “yet-another-sales-channel” is hard to make successful.  There is greater value in reconsidering the sales process (shove out messaging so people will click to buy) so you consider enabling the ability to people to buy (providing product reviews that are relevant to the individual can greatly increase conversions, the same with offering click-to features where customers can get quick answers to special needs.  We work with a company who measures the purchase path and have found that customers who get to a product page from one of their communities is almost 80% more likely to purchase than people who come directly to the product page.  Just that alone contributes 1% of their overall sales, not counting everything else they do.  In social sales, every prospect is not just another nail to the traditional sales process hammer.

Drew:  Do you have any examples of companies that are doing a particularly good job motivating employees through their social media policy? 
I’m not sure that a policy is going to motivate any employees.  Culture certainly has the most to do with motivating employees.  Dell is a great example of empowering employees, training them and managing skills over time as anyone I have seen.  This is done programmatically though where their policies are a small part.

Drew: Given the role that social can play in both recruiting and retaining employees, do you think it is problematic that most companies put social media responsibilities in their marketing  departments?  
Only if the company wants more value out of social than just marketing.  Once again, many companies have set up their social camps where it made sense at the time.  The good news is that companies are deriving additional value out of social and therefore many are in the process of re-designing that function and where it resides within the organization.

Drew:  Finally, let’s talk about netiquette.  Should a boss accept a friend invitation on Facebook from their direct reports?  Should an employee accept a friend request from his or her boss?  Or just speak to the complications of the intermingling of personal and professional lives.  
This is more a question of culture as it relates to each department within a company.  I know departments that participate in activities like an after-hours softball league, etc.  to me, that is acceptable but is different for each individual.  For employees looking to “monitor” their staff, there are other ways to legally do that.

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