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03/14/2012

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Thanks to @sylivacambie for flagging up this case study from Simply Communicate:
http://www.simply-communicate.com/news/detecting-value-unicredit%E2%80%99s-internal-social-networking-experience

Hi Liam,

The reason why internal social media is slow to develop is because the focus has been on the technology, rather than the readiness of the organisation to be more "social" in communicating.

It holds the potential to give employees more of a voice, but that is only going to happen if managers are open enough to listen hard and consider what people have to say.

Kevin

Thanks for your comment.

I'm not sure I agree with the argument that the problem is that managers lack the necessary openness to create the right environment for social media.

I think I know quite a few organisations that are very open to free-ranging discussions and go out of their way to promote communicative leadership. I can't think of a leadership conference that I've attended in recent years when the need to build conversations and engagement wasn't top of the agenda.

True, some organisations want to practice Soviet-era message control but it's far from a universal drive.

In fact, the employee as an empowered problem solver, has been a strong theme in management writing for quite a few years.

And can we dismiss the quality of the tools as a reason for limited uptake?

I'm looking at some recent research from the Corporate Leadership Council in which they see the challenges as being:
- Technology and feedback options that just don't attract responses
- Diluting participation across multiple platforms
- Social tools that don't connect to the platforms for professional collaboration - Not investing enough resource in sustaining participation (flavour of the month syndrome).

And they say that successful approaches (they only cite one example) depend heavily on the ease of use and the types of tools on offer.

Taken to its logical extreme this view suggests that all we need for a successful outcome is the perfect tool - not an argument that rings true either.

Which I think why so many comms leaders have adopted a wait and see approach from what I can tell. But does that chime with your experience Kevin? - I know you spend a lot of time talking to people about this stuff.

Liam

It's easy to make sweeping statements about openness (or the lack of it) and I know there are always pockets of great practice where managers actively encourage critical feedback as part of the way things are done. However, whenever I discuss this with students it is clear that openness is still more the exception than the rule.

In their text book, Auditing Organisational Communication, leading internal comms academics Owen Hargie and Dennis Tourish also highlight the general reluctance of managers to encourage upward feedback.

This is a key reason why levels of employee engagement are stagnating.

When we cover internal social media in the CIPR Internal Communication Certificate and Diploma classes, it is also very clear that the culture of the organisation is a significant barrier to successful take up of social media tools.

Tracy Playle and I have developed a cultural readiness map that helps organisations to assess their level of readiness for introducing internal social media which we believe is an essential step in the process.

Just introducing an internal blog and expecting a lot of people to post on it does not automatically work.

Best wishes.

kevin

I've lent my copy of Hargie and Tourish to one of your students! I'll have to wait for her to bring it back to look at your reference.

However, as far as I can see the book was published in 2000 (I can't see a more recent edition) and even though they published a follow-up study in 2002 their writing is now over a decade old. Further, I could be mistaken, but I think the section you are referring to is a review of even older literature - much of which is based on small scale studies (please correct my poor memory and do accept my apologies if I am just plain wrong!).

My suspicion is that management practice has developed considerably in the last few years.

I am undoubtedly being selective in the examples I give of organisations that have a positive attitude towards communicative leadership. But I am not sure that the reflections of your students are a much stronger force in the debate.

I would expect them to be largely at an early stage in their careers and yet to develop the influencing skills that more experienced operators have. If this is the case one would expect their perception to be that managers are less receptive to their views.

I think I have three points:
1) I think we should be careful of saying anything that implies that the increasingly skilled and influential body of senior practitioners lacks the ability to shift organisational communications culture. And practice examples show that change is indeed happening in more and more organisations.
2) The world is moving quite fast when it comes to management thinking - attitudes to communications are very different today to what they were just five years ago.
3) Communications leaders are very aware that introducing an internal blog and hoping for the best doesn't work...which is why so may seem to be adopting a wait and see attitude and concentrating on the improvements in leadership communications that they can influence.

I'd love to know how far employee engagement levels are stagnating though - what data do you have on that?

Hi Liam,

There is a second edition of "Auditing Organisational Communication". It was published in 2009 and is the core text book for the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma http://www.pracademy.co.uk/study-with-us/internal-communication-diploma/

The argument made in the book and by others is that upward feedback or employee voice is something that many organisations could encourage more. This is about all employees having a say and I believe it is the role of internal communicators to facilitate this. Indeed, in the "Communicating for Engagement" report that I produced (with Sean Trainor) last year for CIPR, internal communicators clearly stated that this is something that they want to do more. The report is available free to download at: http://www.pracademy.co.uk/internal-communication-research/

I agree that management practice is improving, though I'd love to see some data to support this. My point simply is that there is still much more that can be done.

There's a lot of information on levels of employee engagement, both from consultancies and academics. The specific numbers can vary and I think that's probably because different aspects of engagement are being measured.

Evidence for stagnation comes from research conducted by CIPD in 2006 that showed that 35 per cent of people were actively engaged. More recently in 2011,a Blessing White report showed that the percentage in Europe was actually lower, at only 30 per cent.

I'd love to believe that levels of engagement are starting to improve. If Bell Pottinger has any data on that it would be great to see it.

Best wishes.

Kevin

Thanks for posting a link to my article, Liam. Here is a post I wrote about why I believe Yammer will make it into the corporate mainstream after all: http://www.silviacambie.com/rip-email/
Have a great Easter!

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