What is social empowerment; why is it so important; and what new skills will be required. Those are the questions I set out to answer in this blog post. It is a task that is far by easy since the concepts of empowerment touches on so many areas of the business, as well as each and every one of us. But with a little help from some real experts on the subject, here is the beginning: Part 1 of the Grundfos Social Empowerment Story. Enjoy!
What is Social Empowerment?
Social Empowerment is about humanizing the way an organization speaks, engages, and listens to the market, by empowering all of its employees to become part of the brand. People don’t engage with a “brand”, they engage with the people around it – be that employees of the company, happy or not happy customers, and other influencers.
Why so important?
To a large extent it comes down to Trust and Credibility. We know for instance from the Nielsen Global Trust study (2011) that 92% of the surveyed people trust recommendations from “People I know” but only 47% trust ads in magazines. Equally the Edelman Trust Barometer (2013) shows that messages from “Academics and Experts” (69%) as well as “Technical experts in the company” (67%) are much more credible then those from “Regular employees” (50%) and “CEO” (43%).
Customer/Market context – Numerous other studies show that empowered and engaging employees can result in increased brand awareness and sales, as well as decreased marketing spending and improved customer service. Furthermore it can support influencer management, creating a voice of industry, and improve the client experience.
Organizational/Knowledge context – But the total business value of empowerment is far bigger than the external facing context of customers and the market. In an organizational and knowledge activation context, socially empowered employees can quicker gain access to market insights and intelligence, which more effectively can be channeled in to the organization for further usage – especially in a globally networked, connected, and learning organization.
Employee/HR context – And at its core, we have the employee perspective of course. Empowered employees – online or offline – are more happy and satisfied. And creating an exciting, interesting, and continues learning environment is an ever important battle in the war for talent. Not only will social empowerment potentially excel Employer Branding to attract the right employees, it can also become a strong component in developing new experts (Expert-in-the-Making) and retaining talent.
New skills and leading?
Scaling empowerment to the entire organization will require changes on many levels, like processes, roles, measurement – and new skills. As Susan F. Emerick and Chris Boudreaux writes in their new book “The Most Powerful Brand on Earth” (2013):
“Social media requires your people to engage in real-time conversations online, and often in public view. But most of your people are not professional communicators. So they will need new skills… Scaling this kind of program will require that you embed social media skills into the employee development and evaluation process of your organization. Eventually, you will need to add social skills to your organizational skills taxonomy.”
But it is not only the skills of our empowered employees that need to be considered. Managers need to learn new ways of leading:
“Managers of sales and customer service teams do not preapprove everything the employees say to every customer and prospect; that kind of approach would never scale. Instead, the managers provide training, coaching, content, and periodic spot checks.
The same is true when empowering employees in social media. The difference is that more of your employees will have more interactions with more external audiences, online and in public. So your people will need new skills, education and training, guidance, and ongoing support on how to effectively engage with their intended audience. And that is what managers are supposed to do.”
And how many managers can today identify them self with this?
The change is coming, slowly yet steady. And to an extent it is actually driven by the “safe ways” of social collaboration within the enterprise. The good thing with that is the strong correlation between the enablement and usage of social techniques internally vs. externally:
This ends Part 1 of the “Grundfos Social Empowerment Story”. Stay tuned to Part 2, also that one delivered by a Socially Empowered employee.