The value of good employees in the age of social business

The value of good employees in the age of social business

Summary: Mitch Lieberman: 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.

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TOPICS: CXO
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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).

Topic: CXO

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  • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

    Mitch, I remember writing that two years ago and I'm not sure how much has changed since then. Employers have been lulled into a status-quo, recessionist mentality where their brand as an employer isn't taken seriously. But as businesses climb out and into better economic health, I wager they'll rue their decision to rest.

    We need to add employee satisfaction as a vital metric to any customer experience dashboard. Ignoring the importance of this key element in the overall customer relationship ecosystem (very much like this concept you describe above) will come back to bite companies in the butt.
    baileyworkplay
    • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

      Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it.

      I agree, but I think a couple things have changed, on the outside, hopefully they will make it to the inside. The way in which customers share and the relationships that have formed are with people, as much companies and brands. yes, it is both, but people like talking to people. I am hopeful the companies will realize that.

      Mitch
      mjayliebs
      • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

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  • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

    It's a little upsetting, albeit not all that surprising, that companies don't care much about retaining their employees. In my experience, it's been rare when a past employer asked me how I was actually feeling about the experience of working with them, and any talk of retention was started only when I was quitting.

    I think companies are starting to realize how important voice of customer is. However, most still fail to realize that voice of employee is just as important. In social media where everything is on display, you can't afford to have employees who are anything but super pumped and passionate about being there. Putting red tape in employees' way, making them feel stifled and unappreciated will definitely not result in any kind of passion or excitement.

    Great post Mitch! I'm yet to say "bad post" to anything you write. I doubt that's possible :)

    Maria Ogneva, @themaria
    Who works at @attensity
    themaria
  • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

    Another thoughtful post Mitch.

    Unfortunately, far too many employers consider their employees to be disposable. How many times have we heard that "our people are what make us great" and the next day be told "consider yourself lucky to have a job, I can replace you anytime".

    A large part of this can be attributed to the lack of respect that we've been discussing elsewhere over the last few days.

    But there's also the false feeling of power. Some middle managers and executives like the feeling of power and being able to flaunt it and it destroys teams and relationships.

    It takes mature adults to lead and true leadership isn't always where it's most needed.

    Cheers
    Eric
    @ericjacques
    EJacques
  • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

    @Maria - Thanks for the comments. Hang around me long enough, and I am sure you will be able to watch me open my mouth and insert my foot! In this case, I do believe that companies will be put in a position of needing to respect their employees a bit more than in the past.

    @Eric - Thanks (again) I appreciate the comments. I hope more employers alter their thought processes and try not to think about their employees as disposable. That is just such a not nice word!
    mjayliebs
  • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

    The points you make Mitch are all well and good... but how do you get managers to become enablers and not gatekeepers in this new social business world? We all talk about innovation, bottom up, fostering champions and taking chances... but I have to chuckle as the number one requested feature by executives for our social business platform... wait for it... yes.. moderation.

    I agree with almost all of the points you Mitch, but from what I can see - huge operational and cultural changes will have to be made by most organizations in order to really benefit from what social software has to offer.

    I enjoyed the read.
    dlatendre
    • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

      Fair point - one that is a tough nut to crack. All I can offer is something from Charlene Li's new book, "Open Leadership" which I have just started, so I am at the 'little knowledge is a dangerous thing' stage. But, I do agree with this sentiment.

      "...the biggest indicator of success has been an open mindset - the ability of leaders to let go of control at the right time in the right place, and and in the right amount."

      Further on in the text, Charlene makes an interesting point that control is a bit of a fallacy anyway, and the more you empower, the more real control you actually have because you have built trust within the organization.

      Again, I hear your point it is valid, and this is not going to happen overnight - thanks for the comment
      mjayliebs
  • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

    Great post Mitch.

    Companies that will truly profit from social media are those that build and link their external social media strategy with their internal one. Socially connecting your employees is essential for improving customer engagement.

    And your point that it's about people and not about tools is spot on (check out http://www.slideshare.net/DavidChris/be-ne-lux-sms-mar-2010 which I took based on a real scenario in my enterprise).

    Focusing on the change in mindset of creating a Social Workforce has to be addressed in any enterprise and should not be under-estimated.
    DavidChris
  • RE: The value of good employees in the age of social business

    David,

    I appreciate the kind words. I agree that the connection between external and internal is crucial. Thank you for sharing your presentation, I found it funny and true.

    I have some good friends writing on the connection you discussed. Mark Tamis has a post which really starts to get to the heart of the matter - http://bit.ly/aryCdz - and paints a picture of where we are going.

    Thanks - Mitch
    mjayliebs