Get Social! Using Social Tools to Engage Employees


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Temkin Group research shows that engaged employees truly are valuable assets. Compared to disengaged employees, highly engaged employees are 3 times as likely to do something good for the company even if it is not expected of them, 2.5 times more likely to stay late at work if something needs to be done, and twice as likely to help someone they work with even if they don’t ask for help. In addition, 57% of highly engaged employees are likely to make a recommendation for improvement at their company, compared to only 17% of their disengaged peers.

To reap these benefits, many organizations pursue a variety of strategies to raise employee engagement across what we call the Five I’s of Employee Engagement: Inform, Inspire, Instruct, Involve, and Incent. As social media becomes a normal component of everyday life, organizations are beginning to incorporate these activities into their employee engagement efforts. Social tools offer a variety of capabilities, from blogs and microblogs that support communication and the sharing of information, to employee profiles and discussion boards that help employees find expertise and connect with coworkers anywhere in the organization. When applied across the Five I’s, social tools can enhance employee engagement efforts in a variety of ways:

Inform: Companies shift from delivering one-way, controlled messages to enabling multi-directional conversations that can originate anywhere in the organization.

Inspire: Companies are able to reinforce their mission and values by closing the distance between executives and employees and sharing richer stories across the organization.

Instruct: Employees gain the opportunity to explore topics of interest and connect with expertise beyond the boundaries of formal training programs.

Involve: Companies benefit from an “always on” listening post to solicit targeted insights and capture employee-initiated feedback to drive results.

Incent: Companies share success stories and individual recognition—from leaders or peers—to celebrate accomplishments and to encourage similar desired behaviors in all employees.

When organizations introduce social tools effectively, the look and feel of employee engagement efforts change.


Our research shows that social tools are having an impact on employee engagement:

Employee engagement leaders are more social. Companies with high employee engagement use all types of social tools more than companies with low employee engagement. Employee engagement leaders outpace laggards the most when it comes to using collaboration sites, video-sharing tools, and discussion boards.
Social tools are helping to engage employees. Of companies using social tools, 43% of employee engagement leaders have experienced a medium or large positive impact from social tools in helping engage employees, compared to only 9% of companies with low employee engagement.
Social tools help most with internal communication. When examining the helpfulness of social tools for specific employee engagement activities, 66% of companies report that they at least moderately help with internal communications and 61% believe the tools help reinforce company values.

Introducing Social Tools Successfully

As companies start down the road of implementing social tools, they should begin by considering their existing culture, their desired business objectives, and what it will take to build employee participation, and deliver value to the organization. With that information in hand, here are some recommendations for companies when deploying their employee-facing social tools:

Start small and grow. Schneider Electric used a phased approach to deploy its new social collaboration tool, starting with a set of cross-function teams with strong influence across the organization. After the first six months, which included getting feedback and then tweaking the system based on that feedback, the company introduced the platform to the rest of the organization.
Execute a launch campaign. While creating an identity for its new platform, SanDisk got employees’ attention by holding rallies and giving away buttons and t-shirts. The team also set up computers at live events so employees could experience how easy it is to send an internal thank-you or to complete another task. Coaches stayed nearby to lend support.
Help leaders be successful. To help some of its leaders overcome their lack of familiarity with social tools, Thomson Reuters employs coaches to teach them how to blog within the company’s online community. Coaches work with leaders to develop a writing style that matches their work style and to help them understand how that style looks in the social environment.
Set clear expectations. Harris + Hoole realized that as their social network gained traction, people began struggling to balance their time between monitoring posts, which helped them feel on top of things, and getting their regular work done. Harris + Hoole evaluated how the adoption was going and then reset expectations to ensure that everyone in the organization was on the same page about in-store access, usage levels, response times, and more.
Promote key information. Not everyone will immediately immerse himself or herself in a social environment. To help employees stay in the loop, even when they’re not inside the platform, TELUS distributes a weekly email highlighting the Top 5 stories across the company and uses banners on the company’s default intranet home page to emphasize the big story of the day or the week.
Have a plan for keeping content fresh and relevant. Omicron Canada Inc. created a 12-month editorial calendar to manage the cross-section of information that is shared via its social network, including client profiles, notes from the field, project updates, and a CEO update. Champions from HR and Marketing jointly manage the editorial calendar and ensure that it is directed towards the company’s objectives of building a community that allows them to deliver a better experience to their clients and their employees.
Assign accountability for consistency and completeness. SanDisk’s CX team, which manages its employee social network, works with its centralized communication team to ensure that key news stories on the company’s central communication platform or in email newsletters get linked on the social site. A member of the CX team also moderates the community to catch and react to missed posts that need acknowledgement or an answer. And, until it becomes a corporate habit, the team member also makes sure that the right updates and content from across the organization make their way online.
Give leaders visibility to key discussions and feedback. At the end of each month, SunTrust Bank’s social team reviews the activity around all of the topics in its social network and creates an executive summary for the CEO and his direct reports. This summary covers high-frequency topics, both company-led and employee-initiated, as well as those sponsored by a specific department, giving executives a view to what’s top-of-mind for employees throughout the year.

Aimee Lucas
I am a customer experience and employee engagement researcher, advisor, speaker, and trainer. I focus my work on guiding clients on how to optimize their employee and customer experience management programs, identifying and publishing EX and CX best practices, and shaping the future of experience management (XM). I have over 16 years of experience improving service delivery and transforming the customer experience through people development and process improvement initiatives.


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