Here is the English language version of the „Möhren“-article (Carrot-posting) I did publish and which got quite interesting feedback. Another version – a little bit shorter – went live on CMSwire. Hopefully enjoy the reading and I am keen to here your opinion.
The MIT and Capgemini as well as my employer IBM – to be precise, the IBM Institute for Business Value – have published two new studies. The MIT/Capgemini study is focusing on the digital transformation. For the IBM study 4,000 C-level executives have been asked about their current agenda. The respondents said that their companies have to be much more open towards their customers and that they have to communicate more closely with them in order to stay competitive and profitable. Digital transformation and being a company that is organized around the customers’ needs are very similar goals. You need digital transformation as well as digital and social channels in order to actively engage with your customers. And above all, you need engaged employees to support and drive this transformation. But how do you get these employees? How do I motivate my employees to engage both internally as well as externally with their customers?
In my summary of the MIT/Capgemini study I have demanded a new way of leadership which I call the engaged employee or the Employee 2.0. And I agreed with the results of the study saying that these employees need to get rewarded for their engagement. I got involved in discussions with others about the need for rewards. Some didn’t like a rewarding/punishing system because the Generation Y will be driving change anyway, others were questioning the media skills of the Generation Y and agree with me on establishing some kind of rewarding system. I am also having discussions internally about the best way to motivate colleagues to be “social” internally and, more importantly, externally and we are controversially discussing the aspect of rewarding systems. In short: Do I have to show them the carrot to make them jump?
My answer is clear: Yes, we do need the carrot, in fact very tasteful first class organic carrots. The digital transformation, they way to a Social Business, is happening internally, inside the firewall, as well as externally through an on-going dialogue with a company’s stakeholders in the social web. The internal concerns to be more social are there but less virulent because it’s mainly “only” about new ways of working and collaborate with each other in a different, more social way. But when it’s about going out there in the stormy social web, there are more uncertainties and concerns. However, the boundaries between internal and external are disappearing on the way to being a company that is more open for their customers.
Let’s focus for now on the more difficult area: Employees who are active as brand ambassadors in external social media. Back in the gold old times, people were proud to work for their company, they called themselves „XYZer“ and talked about it with their friends and family. But the times have changed: In my experience, people don’t identify themselves with their employer that strongly anymore, and that’s especially the case for companies and industries that are facing a change, that need to cut costs and have to let people go. That heavily affected the employees’ moral. And, more importantly, people won’t talk about their working problems only in their private circles anymore. In the times of social media, the so-called “private circle” has become bigger, more transparent and more dangerous. Who wants to be held responsible for something their employer has done wrong? And who wants to be held responsible for saying something bad about their company? Previously, only a few people have been listening, for example in a bar or at home. But the internet won’t forget …
Of course, I am painting things black. The social web isn’t that bad but we have to take the motivations, ambitions and worries of the potential Employee 2.0 seriously. Why should someone act as a brand ambassador in public? Of course, there are different reasons. There are employees who think they are raising their personal brand when they are active as experts regarding certain topics in forums and communities or through their own blog. And this doesn’t have to do with looking for a new employer or making yourself attractive for headhunters. These people aren’t necessarily looking for a new job. More often, they want to be more visible within their organization. And there are employees with a sense of mission or who are just enjoying being part of a public conversation. And last but not least, there are people who are looking to drive change internally.
These aren’t always the young members of the Generation Y. There are of course also older employees who are active because of the reasons mentioned above. But regardless of age, they are the ones who should be supported to become ambassadors for their brand because they can serve as role models to recruit more brand ambassadors. And they are the ones that companies want to keep and encourage in what they are doing.
But let’s be realistic: There aren’t a lot of these “self-motivated” employees. A lot more people are wondering why they should do something like that. There are several reasons for not to engage in social media, some are difficult to address, other can be refuted easily in my opinion. If someone would like to separate their private and business life or if they are opposed social media in general, then one would have to accept and respect this. Other doubts can be addressed though, for example:
“When should I do this additional workload?”
“My engagement isn’t recognized within the company.”
“I don’t know what I am allowed to do as a brand ambassador.”
A company can address the uncertainty through social media guidelines and on-going training. And please don’t underestimate this! I have seen long-time and well established employees who were totally tense when it came to being active in social media: “Am I allowed to express my own opinion?”, “What am I allowed to talk about or to comment on?”, “Can I damage my own reputation?” The only thing that’s helping here is to talk, to exchange experience and to recognize good performance. Which brings us back to the carrot. There has to be a rewarding system to motivate as many employees as possible. And companies need to make clear that being active in social media is part of their job and not something in addition to the things that they have to do anyway.
Sounds reasonable? That’s what it is but it’s also often hard to accomplish. A lot of Managers 1.0 aren’t aware of the things that the Employees 2.0 are doing in these social channels. These managers only live by their own value and measurement systems and don’t understand the need for blogging or being active on Twitter and Facebook. That means the carrot isn’t the only thing that’s needed. The top management has to support social engagement and it has to be established within the middle management. Otherwise it won’t be successful.
But what’s the carrot anyway? What are these recognitions that work? It’s not only the money. Both progress in the individual career as well as the recognitions mentioned before are important. These recognitions can be manifold: An employee portrait in the Intranet, an appreciation by the boss during a department meeting, an “official” brand ambassador title or other immaterial things can be and should be used. The goal should be to establish engagement in social channels, both internal and external, as a natural part of the job just like email or telephone calls with the client.
What are Pros and Cons for becoming an Employee 2.0? I have started the following list and am happy about any additions:
Reasons for becoming an Employee 2.0
Raise the individual brand and reputation
Enjoy being active and part of the conversation
- Wish for change and progress
Being proud to represent a company and its products and services
Appreciation both monetary and immaterial
Reasons for not becoming an Employee 2.0
- Missing recognition for „social“ engagement
- Missing identification with the company
Wish for privacy and anonymity
No additional workload “on top”
Uncertainty about what is allowed being a brand ambassador