Source | Hema Ravichandar (The Mint)
Organizations are constantly scouting for ways to e-connect. A perfect option is to rope in the New Age employee who can help build the brand through social networking
If you lay your hands on any crystal-ball-gazing kind of presentation prepared in the 1990s or even the early 2000s, it would almost invariably predict the future organization as being, apart from other things, a networked one. This in turn would be followed by a profiling of the employee who would inhabit this mythical organization. And topping the list of survival competencies would be, but of course, networking. The future has since come and been and the networked organization and its networked inhabitant are now a reality.
Networked of his own accord, and not because any manager told him to be, the New Age employee is constantly scouting for ways to e-connect. He is all atwitter about updating his status on Twitter. He measures his achievements by the number of friends he has on Facebook. And is crestfallen if the “Likes” to his latest post are not eyeball-popping or, as my son gravely informs me, if as many people don’t laugh out loud when he publishes his meme. Connected almost 24×7 to networking sites through his Android or iPad , his frenzied race even during bio-breaks to log on to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn would put an Usain Bolt to shame. And if the organization is sanguine enough to allow him access to the Big Bad Web during working hours, his social media pages would be found just an Alt+Tab away. Welcome to the world of the e-employee.
So now you have this “network in his DNA” persona on your team. For most bosses he comes tagged as “handle with care”, a hot potato needing skilful managing. A misstep and your wrong move could get blasted on the Internet. But pause a moment and evaluate the flip. You have never had such a versatile employee on your team. Smart managers realizing this are leveraging them, and how…
Building contacts: Get your social-media savvy employees blogging on the Web on their areas of strength.
First, the direct approach. Solicit your employee’s help to build the organizational brand, and your personal brand too. A happy e-camper, armed with corporate news of the positive kind, is any organization’s dream. Feed him data, massage his ego and soft-sell him into hard-selling the workplace. Bask in the afterglow of all the great posts and ensure your boss espies them too, in time for your promotion discussions.
Unleash these Net saviours on to e-groups and watch them navigate their way, delivering the corporate message subtly but effectively. They come especially recommended in times like these, to stem the tirades on the Net of irate campus recruits whose job offers have been deferred yet again by a nervous organization.
Caution: The Internet, though, hath no fury like an employee spurned. Watch out for your erstwhile Net ambassadors turning into peeved Net Nightmares out to malign the corporation.
You could also pick the indirect brand-building route. Get your social-media savvy internal stars and domain experts blogging on the Web on their areas of strength. Subtext their blogs with the organization’s name along with “the views expressed are the blogger’s own” line. And as their e-follower count soars and cult statuses form, watch the unaided recall of your organizational brand improve. Case in point: Die-hard followers of a regular mythology columnist give you great unaided recall of the organization he belongs to as Chief Belief Officer. Reflected glory, here we come!
But beware. Today’s icon may be tomorrow’s fallen idol. Watch out for collateral damage to the firm should that happen.
Much like his famous counterpart of Hamelin, your Networked Hero could whistle his tune and play the Employee get Employee March. He can be a great source of good talent, and many organizations get the employee to leverage his Net reach to bring in the heads. They scout, they post and they trawl alum e-groups and professional and social networking sites to get you the best. Much like recruiters who flaunt the extent of their LinkedIn connections on CVs, the networked employee wears his e-connection epaulettes with pride for the smart manager to pick up the cue.
Don’t forget, though, that your employee will also job-shop. And when peeved, like his famous namesake, could also take away all those prized candidates he had wooed in, with nary a backward glance. It’s important also to watch out for any tell-tale signs indicative of the formation of an alum mafia…a closed group protecting only each other’s interests, be it new openings or information flows.
Terrain trackers and market makers
Track your competitors’ moves using this e-seeing hero. Many a corporate secret may hang out to dry on a social network washing line. Track openings in other companies giving you vital clues into product strategy and new business initiatives. And nudging you to go the extra mile to retain those who could well become potential hiring targets.
Watch them market your products or initiatives for you, spreading the word through networks—sharing videos, ads, cartoons, pictures, whipping up quite an e-frenzy for a new product or cause. Or use them to float a topic and gather live feedback, soliciting responses in a survey mode or simply through postings on social sites and repeated clicks of the Forward button. Remember Kolaveri di.
The Net presents a great tipping point and your e-worker is a great guide to get you there.
The flip: Watch out for the quid pro quo syndrome. Data received usually needs some data given to whet the flow. Beware of home information leaks.
Encourage the networked employee to create an e-support system for himself. Especially useful are self-help groups (SHGs) targeted at certain demographics. I came across a neat SHG designed for the South Asian feminine diaspora in foreign lands toying with evergreen issues like work-life balance or fitting into new cultural milieus. Strong employee e-networks internally can also be leveraged through intranet hangers-on to assimilate new hires and help them settle down. A great way, we hear, to address the vexing issue of corporate infant mortality.
Common interest groups on the Net e-discuss, e-brainstorm and e-generate many useful new ideas on a variety of topics.
The network is also teeming with coaching resources for your employees. Encourage them to tap into these and get liberal doses of free coaching interventions. The peer-to-peer variety, especially, is very popular and eminently feasible through the Net.
Coaching, though, could turn into poaching, and that’s a risk you run But as you put these e-networks to work, remember that in the real world, there are other networks as well, useful both professionally and in life. Some of us former workplace colleagues have one, rather irreverently named the Exfoscion Group. It has a charm all its own, and is a definite “Go To” in times good and bad.
And finally, personally, it was from my college alum network that I found a mentor in my very first corporate job. A different matter that I took mentorship to heart and married said mentor!
Writer’s note: This column may refer to the masculine gender, but the author has no intention of excluding the feminine. One truly embraces the other.
Hema Ravichandar is a strategic Human Resources Consultant and a HR Thought Leader. She is a renowned Leadership Coach and serves as an independent director and an advisory board member for several organizations. She was formerly the global head of HR for Infosys Ltd.
First published in The Mint.