Change Mgmt and Social Media

I’m a bit late in posting a summary of last week’s internal communications/social media chat on Twitter – #icchat.

Last week we discussed how to use social media with change management communications. The group agreed that in theory, employees should be allowed to give feedback before change happens. The example I put forth, however, focused on the fact that change was going to happen; the decision had been made and the positive messages were already being developed.

In short, Mick Gregory nailed this example: “Real change management should ask for input before the decision was made. So this would be internal PR, fence mending.”

Yet the discussion around using social media in this example and with change management in general was a good one. For the most part, social media was voted a positive tool to use in change management communications. The reality is that from an internal standpoint, it is the most likely way to encourage questions and discussion as close to real-time as possible. Employees are scattered around the world, and this should be a two-way conversation.

Jeremy Schultz educated me on utilizing a web jam, first developed and used by IBM. IBM created the “jam” to nurture good ideas by holding online threaded discussions on set issues. Basically, jams last for 72 hours, during which attendees can log on at any time to check out and contribute/debate threads. Since they are online and held over three days, time zones, etc., don’t matter. People can contribute at their convenience.

While a jam would be best used at the beginning of a change management project, I do think it could be useful in spreading and inviting conversation around the project as messages are distributed and questions are asked.

Blogs would also be useful in this type of communication project.  While traditional vehicles like town halls, e-mails and conference calls will be utilized, social media has a place in the plan as well. The key is to identify the correct tool(s) and implement them wisely. And, two valid points were made:

  • Mick Gregory stated, “You use all the internal media options, a blog can be one. But don’t use the phrase we value your feedback”.
  • Becky Ericson stated, “ SM helps smooth rough spots and ID red flags in Ldrshp’s CM plan. Done well, increases ee ownership”.

Back to asking employees for feedback before implementing change, my favorite question came from Becky Ericson. I’d love to hear your answers to it:

Great question re SM, ChM. If you enable emplyees to control message & they don’t want the change, does change happen?”

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Susan Cellura is a marketing communications professional with over 20 years of experience. She is a dynamic communications professional and enthusiastic team-builder, with a progressive history of success in designing and implementing communications programs for global organizations. A strategic thinker with the ability to understand the needs of multiple audiences and deliver solutions, Susan is a results-oriented problem-solver with exceptional interpersonal and negotiation abilities. Having worked in a variety of global industries, she has grown business communications in her current position via a strong mixture of strategic resources, including social media.

8 thoughts on “Change Mgmt and Social Media”

  1. This is a great post because it reinforces two truths about social media that often get overlooked in all the hype surrounding them:
    * Social media comprise one tool in the communicator’s arsenal; they should be used in concert with other, more traditional media.
    * Social media should be used to their strength of engaging stakeholder groups in conversation; such a dialogue can help changes happen more smoothly.

    As to the question posed at the end of your post, I disagree with the premise that providing social media give employees — or anyone else, for that matter — “control” of the message. Social media are not about controlling the message. They are about communicating with (not to) people. They’re about conversation. Part of that conversation should be the management of people’s expectations of what will happen with their input.

  2. Robert, thank you and good point. I guess I interpret the question along the lines of “are employees heard and what is done if they make a strong case for no or different change?”

    Would leadership really take employees’ opinions into account?

  3. Interesting discussion! Jumping in with my two cents:

    It’s a lot easier for leadership to listen to employees when the aggregate voice mirrors that of leadership. It’s more interesting when – and more common that – the employee voice is different… negatively predisposed to change.

    Thinking through 1) leadership caring and 2) having a real discussion with employees leads me back to traditional methods too, Robert.

    How you choose to apply social media tools for change management must rely heavily on employee willingness for change, organizational culture and nature of the change. It’s the strategy piece in front of the implementation – think we’re all in agreement on this.

    I’ll stick to my premise but elaborate… While change may happen, what additional damage is done when employees are active (via social media tools) but not entertained? (Thinking about morale issues, possible knowledge management challenges, productivity drain and the list goes on.)

    Also agree: managing employee expectations around social media tools and being realistic about employee ownership opportunities will be key.

    My prediction: the integration of social tools into the workforce will make it more difficult to have a “successful” change management plan if the employee contingent collectively denounces the change. Social media is not the great equalizer, but just might be the great squeaky wheel that influences even the most disinterested leader to consider the sentiments of the frontline (I hope). Exciting opportunities on the horizon for “Change Management 2.0!”

    (Fair disclosure. Because we’re talking business, I feel it’s important to note that these are my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Just had to take a moment out of my day to join your discussion, Susan!)

  4. It seems that people still think that social media can be kept out of the workplace, when it is already in every workplace. Usually in employees pockets – they sometimes use it to phone each other but just as likely to tweet or update Facebook.

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