Employee Social Networks

Executive Engagement: The Ticket to Success for Your Employee Community

You’ve launched an employee community – like Yammer or Workplace by Facebook – at your organization. Initial engagement is strong, and employees are enjoying this new format for company communication. But as the excitement wears off, employees are starting to wonder – if this employee community is so important, then where are the senior leaders? Why do they still default to All-Company and All-Division emails to connect with me? Employees want to feel that their participation is not only supported – but also justified – by leaders at their company.

As someone who works closely with senior leaders, it’s up to you to convince them that they, too, must participate in the community. How do you motivate leaders to participate based on valuable results vs. just adding to an already lengthy list of to-dos? It can seem daunting.

How Your Leaders Support Your Community Tells a Story

More than half of executives (63 percent) are supportive of their employee community, according to the 2019 State of Community Management. Yet the report also finds they lack an understanding of what is required for success.

Verbal and financial support are two different things. In order to gain executive financial buy-in for your employee network, you need to build a strategy that aligns with overall business objectives. Executives need to know why they’re being asked to participate, both in person and when budget time rolls around.

Among survey respondents with advanced community strategies:

  • 73 percent have the support of their organization’s executives
  • 47 percent have budget allocated

That said, there’s another level of engagement by leaders that we want to aspire to – beyond just recognition and financial support. We want leaders to invest because they truly care.

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” —Simon Sinek

At Talk Social to Me, we work with many large enterprises to advocate for a deeper level of engagement that Sinek’s quote speaks to: senior leaders and executives who are compelled to participate. When a leader can experience the power of a vibrant community, that’s where the magic begins. To get to this point, you’ll need a map, and the pot of gold at the end is tied to strategy.

What it Takes

Employee recognition is a great place to start. SWOOP Analytics found that community interaction activity grew by 28% after a CEO had recognized particular employees in the platform. Also, those recognized users added 60% more community connections after recognition occurred.

The CEO must have spent a lot of time in the community to make that happen, right? Actually, no. It doesn’t take much strategically planned activity from executives and senior leaders to create a wave of engagement in your employee community. Even small amounts of their participation are critical to success. SWOOP instead found that on average, the leader’s activity came down to making time for just 4 interactions per day. He used the strategy of a communications group to help curate the most strategic (least effort/highest impact) discussions to participate in. In addition, most of his activity was replying, @mentioning and reading notifications, which averaged out to just 5 – 10 minutes per day; the work of posting new content averaged just 2 posts every 3 weeks.

Small, Consistent, Strategic Actions

Executives are always on the go, in search of assured ROI, and they need data to help them understand why their personal participation is so important. The key is tailoring what your executive is doing in the community to specific, high-impact activities. Communicators can do much of the heavy lifting, but it’s important to avoid the following:

  • Ghostwriting and/or posting to the network on the executive’s behalf (employees see the lack of authenticity a mile away)
  • Duplicating content published in an All-Employee or All-Division email
  • Maintaining a “power distance” with employees by not involving them in the decision-making process

These can be hard workflows to break, especially if your company has a rich history. But it’s 2019; employees expect transparency, authentic voice, and meaningful communication. Curate and help structure your executive’s participation, but don’t leave out occasional time for him or her to simply observe the organic conversations among their employees.

MORE: Find good ideas and turn them into actions for senior leaders

Leadership Coaching for the Win

A coaching session with your leader is necessary to ensure their participation in the platform is strategic.

According to a survey by the Center for Creative Leadership’s Cultural Transformation Survey 2017 Report, 81% rated “leadership coaching and mentoring” as highly-to-somewhat effective in implementing cultural transformation; 84% also rated “leadership and staff training” as highly to-somewhat-effective.

Among TSTM customers, companies implement communities, but they are often also in the midst of deep, transformational change. Some do actually see and use the community as a tool to aid those programs and activities, but others do not. We often find them happening in parallel elsewhere in the business.

To ensure your leader’s actions in the community are strategic, schedule a 30-60 minute coaching session with them. You’ll have to do some homework, like examining his or her previous activities on the platform, as well as their external social media presence. Bring examples of what’s working for other leaders on the platform. Your goal should be to excite them, and to follow up with a plan for their commitment and a content cadence.

For TSTM’s tried and true leadership coaching process, watch our on-demand webinar, How to Coach and Activate Senior Leaders. You will learn our step-by-step process to help you prepare and organize for leadership coaching sessions at your organization.

Employee communities can be a great equalizer between senior leaders and employees – if leaders are participating, listening and following up strategically. It’s not enough for a leader to just create an account or upload a profile photo. Their participation in your employee community is not only an opportunity to enforce company values, but to humanize them to frontline workers who feel disconnected from headquarters. Don’t miss this opportunity.

MORE: How Enterprise Social Networks are Changing the Role of the CEO

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