I said that I'd share with you various stories as we learn to use our social media capabilities in new and interesting ways.
Well, one of those situations are upon us now. And, truth be told, we're handling it pretty well.
You see, we're using our internal platform to help communicate less-than-positive news internally.
Like any other company, we're tightening up the belt a bit as we head into a most decidedly unpredictable economic environment.
But, this time around, we've got our internal platform EMC|ONE. And we're using it in some pretty interesting ways to share the news, discuss it, and -- hopefully -- get back to business sooner than later.
Spontaneous Vs. Planned
The first memo came out in a traditional way -- there was a minor change to our vacation policy to keep the amount of carryover vacation down to a manageable number. Not a big deal in the broader scheme of things, at least the way I think about these things.
But a couple of spontaneous discussions emerged on the internal platform, right out there for everyone to see. A few people were (ahem) rather pointed in their thoughts about this particular change in vacation policy.
Some people were quite upset regarding the inconvenience involved -- they had made plans far in advance, which were now impacted. Others had particular work-related situations that didn't make it easy to burn off enough vacation in time -- they were concerned about losing a valuable benefit. Still others felt free to spout off a bit -- ill-advised in any public setting, but there you had it.
All very valid concerns.
Before too long, we had over 10,000 views on the threads, and hundreds of comments. Over time, though, more moderate voices joined the discussion, and softly rebuked some of the more vocal participants.
These more moderate people said that the economy was getting tough, and the company needed to look at every reasonable avenue for lowering expenses. If this meant a small change in the vacation policy, fine -- better than some of the alternatives.
Fine, came back the collective response -- then the communication should have been worded with this in mind. Be open and transparent, they said -- don't try to whitewash the situation. The executives in charge of the policy (formation and communciation) got to see this all unfold in realtime before their eyes -- warts and all.
Very useful feedback, I might offer ...
A Moment Of Truth
You know, this sort of experience can be thought of as a "moment of truth" in any social media journey.
You wanted an open discussion -- well, you've got one! Now, what are you going to do about it?
Seriously, though, the company's management would have been well within their rights to yank the whole discussion right then and there. But -- no -- we all found this extremely fascinating.
And the discussion turned to "how do we use this platform to help communicate going forward?"
The Business Driver(s)
Look, any time you have to share disruptive news with your workforce, there's an inherent disruption.
People want to ask questions, discuss among themselves, share perspectives. It's a natural human reaction -- you have to process things a bit before you can get back to work.
Well, using the online platform, we seem to be getting through that introspection phase far faster than before. Anyone can see the memo, and what everyone else has already said about it. Anyone can leave their thoughts and concerns as well -- all in about 3 minutes flat.
No need to wander around the building, finding people to talk to. Or getting on the phone to discuss this with your friends. Or to immediately schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss pronto.
Sure, there are people who are going to want to do some of this traditional processing, but -- as of today -- the online platform is where people appear to be doing the majority of this "processing" -- and it's all there for everyone to see -- including our executive management.
Finally, executive communications is not a precise art. Getting realtime feedback on how you did in crafting the message is valuable feedback for any executive. And you can find out pretty quickly just how well you did, and how to do better next time.
If you want to, that is :-)
So, based on that spontaneous experience, we're going to be trying a few new things in the future. We'd like to integrate the use of the platform into the broader communication experience.
First, we're going to proactively "start the discussion". When a potentially controversial memo comes out, we're going to post in on the platform, and explicitly invite people to discuss.
Second, we're going to be as tolerant as we can be when people feel like venting a bit -- and then gently reminding them privately if they're being a bit too, well, passionate :-)
Third, we're going to spend a little time and summarize the more interesting themes back to exec management -- here's what people are saying that we think is valid, go to this link if you want to see it all unfiltered.
The Bottom Line
It's funny -- having a social platform ingrained in your company culture is changing how we do things. I can remember a time not too long ago where this sort of thing would be entirely out of the question.
But now it seems like the most natural thing to do -- invite people into the discussion.
This stuff isn't about technology, it's about changing the way you do business.
And this seems like a perfect example to me.