Following on from the last edition, which looked at having a strategy for encouraging and managing discussion when you launch a new social platform, this week I want to focus on the idea of setting examples around robust internal discussion.
Why do you need to do this?
In many organizations, when faced with the opportunity, employees can often be hesitant about commenting or putting their head up above the parapet (also called "tall poppy syndrome") - especially when it comes to talking to the leadership team. The fear of saying the wrong thing and committing career suicide - particularly at a time when layoffs are almost everyday occurrences - may prove a huge barrier to participation.
Live blogging or chat sessions with senior leadership can be fantastic solutions to this problem, and can prove effective catalysts to firing internal dialogue.
I've previously featured two examples of this ilk, the first being with former BT CEO Ben Verwayen, who used to log on via video and instant messaging tools to answer questions from BT employees all over the world (typos included).
The second example was live blog sessions at the Department of Families and Communities in Adelaide, South Australia, where the CEO picked topics of interest and gradually built up great discussion sessions that were held once a month.
At an event this week I was reminded of a third example - British Airways - who used live sessions with senior leaders to establish the status quo around their Crew Community Forums (itself one of 2008's standout examples of internal social media - Video)
The key elements in all of these examples were:
- The commitment of senior leadership to show they were serious about talking directly with employees.
- The need to demonstrate to employees that their views were valuable (and wanted).
- The need demonstrate that commenting and raising your head above that parapet would not result in instant dismissal.
As an approach to encouraging online internal discussions, this method is tried and tested.
The other aspect that makes live blog sessions stand out is the actual content. When you're looking to start a new forum, leadership blog or similar with the purpose of improving dialogue, the content should reflect the online platform and that underlying ambition. As such, simply transferring your old e-newsletter or ghost-written CEO column is not recommended. You only need ask how much feedback was received on the last column to get an idea of how much feedback you'll get just because it's on a new (and largely invisible) software platform.
Live sessions eliminate this problem entirely. If the executive is there, online, in view of everyone, and begins to type and/or talk on a topic of their choice, it's an immensely powerful way to begin interacting with staff. Done correctly, the comments will begin to pour in.