Guest editorial by Mitch Lieberman
Traditionally, businesses treat communications in one of two ways, there are internal communications, and external communications. If the Social Web has not made it to your neck of the woods yet, it soon will and that boundary will not be so easy to delineate. Businesses, who are trying to become Social Businesses are working hard to collaborate, be transparent, and connect with their employees, customers, partners and suppliers. You might see terms like Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 and SRM (next generation Public Relations), which seek to describe this new way of communicating, relating and embracing the Social Web. Because of an overly zealous focus on the new shiny object, technology or tools, businesses tend to forget that the success of any Business (Social or not) is about the people, not the tools.
In doing some research recently regarding employee enablement and empowerment, I came upon something surprising, and a bit disturbing:
"The interesting trend is that recruitment continues to outpace retention when it comes to attention and innovation. But then, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Getting something (or someone) new has always been sexier than trying to keep them." (Chris Bailey)
Really, HR is having the same shiny object problem as the rest of the organization? I did not expect that. I thought, given the cost of on-boarding and training, employers would not have this particular issue, that they would be smarter than that. But, I was wrong, and the issues are almost identical to the ones I hear when discussing Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0. Just like the many companies who become enamored with the latest and greatest tools and technology, and choose to swap out technology, they seem willing to swap out people as well. This is disappointing. Given the nature of Social Business, relationships within the ecosystem; customers, partners and suppliers are critical to the success of the business, now more than ever!
Innovation, the Kissing Cousin of Initiative One path to solving this is to make, foster and push people to shine. Innovation is directly related to initiative, and you have everything right there in front of you. If you encourage and empower individuals, or small teams, the results can and will surprise you. Taking it a step further, to sponsor people within your organization, specifically to get closer to the customer through Social means, the value to each side of the equation will amaze you. The return on initiative will pay dividends well into the future, for both you, the employee and the customer.
How to get it done:
Tackling the hard problems Ask people within the organization to focus on their role in the customer experience, they have one, it might be obvious, or a stretch to figure it out. How can they improve that experience? What do they find frustrating? By taking initiative, focusing on, or even directly helping customers, employees will elevate their visibility, and gain personal satisfaction as well.
Taking a chance Do not make it taboo to take risks, calculated risks of course. Do not punish for initiative, or even failure. A Social Business needs passionate employees, ones who do not always wait for their boss. Yes, they must be willing to be accountable for their actions, and have sound business logic behind their ideas.
Voice of the Customer The hope is that as many people as possible are talking to customers as frequently as possible. Within an organization, you are always knowledgeable about your products and services. Add this knowledge along with something you learned about your customer and tell someone, become an advocate for the customer!
Create a Company of Entrepreneurs The best employees are self-starters. Giving them the freedom to do what it takes to get the job done. Using their best judgment in all situations enables them to express their individual creativity. By encouraging and supporting a culture of freedom and trust, employees will naturally assume a feeling of ownership - ownership in delivering a remarkable customer experience.
All initiatives need to be supported by a business case. It is possible to measure return by more than dollars, but cost has only one measure - or does it? As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. If employees are allowed to put a little bit of passion into their own work, the payback is going to be very powerful. They will become the new shiny object.
Mitch Lieberman is recognized by his peers as a thought leader in Social CRM. He is always on the forefront of ideas, strategies, and technologies, focusing on people and process first. Mitch shares his thoughts on his syndicated blog A title would limit my thoughts. You can also follow him on Twitter (@mjayliebs).