Point: Using Social Media for Employee Engagement

Crew team

by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

Want to Encourage Innovation? Implement Internal Social Networks.

Innovation, a critical differentiator for pharmaceutical companies, is dependent on effective internal collaboration. A study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) suggests that to optimize R&D investments and create more sustainable value, pharmaceutical companies should focus on improving internal collaboration within the organization.

With fewer products in the pipeline, less diversification, patent expiry and generic pressure, pharmaceutical companies need to focus on human capital and manage innovation effectively in order to succeed. That means reducing a top-down communication approach and fostering innovation from the bottom-up. At the same time, they also need to boost enthusiasm and creativity in the workforce and strengthen collaboration among team members.

Many pharmaceutical companies are looking to external social networks to improve communication with customers, but internal social networks can help pharmaceutical companies harness their culture, drive innovation and experience better business outcomes. A custom portal or tool like Yammer has a low cost of entry and can be used for elearning, socializing, and document sharing giving employees a secure, searchable knowledge database and communication platform.

Why should you consider social networking for your organization?

Everybodys doing it. Ok, thats usually not a good enough reason for doing something, but 500 million Facebook users cant be wrong. Social media is fun, familiar, and with employees versed in the convenience and reward of social applications, getting them to participate will require minimal training or support.

Shatter geographic or divisional boundaries. Are team members in Singapore, London, and New York City? Working in different divisional silos? No problem! Employees can talk to colleagues in real-time and access information at lightning speed. Business happens fast; social networks help participants get the answers they need when they need them.

Change the top-down directive. Does your company have an open door policy where anyone can walk into a member of the senior managements office and start talking? If not, social media can foster better communication and help employees get their voice heard. For example, scheduling Yammer Time on Friday afternoons, where the executive team takes questions from anyone in the company, can provide insight into what people are passionate about, what theyre working on and any concerns they may have. By talking to employees, organizations benefit from a wider range of perspectives and demonstrate they value employee contributions.

Create a culture where dissent is valued. Too much consensus isnt a good thing, but thats what happens when people are afraid to speak up. In authentic communities, people disagree. But in the workplace, many people hold less popular or contrarian ideas close to the vest. Social research indicates that people are less likely to communicate in groups if they are not comfortable even more so when they have a differing opinion. Social networking increases peoples comfort level with communicating ideas, resulting in a greater sharing and collaborative exchange.

Eliminate knowledge hoarding. When information is stored in silos, nobody wins. Employees have a harder time doing their job and organizations cannot optimize the knowledge inventory in the company. Social networking provides a platform for sharing and competitive advantage. It encourages broader thinking, makes information transparent and enables people to share in decision-making.

Internal collaboration should be a priority for pharmaceutical companies striving to remain competitive. You may think you dont want to require employees to have to check yet another social network, but while youre not doing it, one of your competitors is already tapping into the power of its people by providing an environment that encourages new ideas, drives change, and strengthens the company from inside out.

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3 Responses to Point: Using Social Media for Employee Engagement

  1. Kudos says:

    Changing the top-down directive is a really big one.
    Transparency (or at very least the appearance of transparency from management) and an open, collaborative process where everyone feels they can be heard are both huge catalysts to employee engagement. I’d liken it to Twitter in a way – I can tweet directly at celebrities I like, sometimes they respond. If I can “tweet” an idea or feedback to a superior? That’s sort of empowering!

  2. Thanks so much for the comment!
    It’s interesting to see how different companies adopt and adapt to internal social networks.
    I’ve had conversations with people who see them coming from the bottom up – where the employees are yearning for the collaboration and have the freedom to start them themselves – and others have only had luck instituting them when they are mandated from the top down. I wonder if it depends on the type of company …
    Anyone have any thoughts?

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