Considered Social Media as a Change Management Channel yet?

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Most of us can identify with the chaos change can create in an organization. While often in the best long-term interest of an organization, it can overwhelm and frustrate its people in the near term.

It is safe to say that it is challenging to manage change and more often than not, it is managed in a mechanistic & forced way, badly, or frankly not at all.

Research conducted by Weber Shandwick in partnership with KRC Research, indicate that employees think that social media can aid change efforts! 55% of respondents who participated in the research and who recently have gone through a change event, indicated that they wished their employer offered more digital and social engagement, in contrast to 42% that said they wanted more face-to-face communication.

This provides Leaders, Human Capital Managers and Change Managers with an opportunity to deploy social media platforms as a change management channel that can facilitate and improve the change efforts of the organization. Whilst nothing will replace the effectiveness of in-person interactions, the nearly three hours a day, people spend on social media platforms will come in handy the next time you have to manage change in your organization.

It may no longer be an option to not incorporate Social Media when managing change, the potential benefits are too important to ignore! There is also no need to get overly technical. By leveraging your existing platforms and by getting creative with platforms like Slack, WhatApp, Instagram, YouTube or whatever is appropriate to your organization and the particular change project, you can breathe new life into the way you manage change.

How social media can aide your change efforts

It can bridge a pivotal communication gap and drive transparent dialogue across levels

The Weber Shandwick and KRC Research showed that:

  • only 17% of employees who have experienced a change at the time of the research, rated communications from their top leader highly,
  • 73% of them said that CEO social participation gave them an opportunity to communicate directly with the CEO,
  • 72% said social engagement helped the CEO understand what was happening inside the company.

The crux is that employees felt more “heard” and as a result felt committed to play a role in the change.

It makes employees active participants as opposed to passive spectators

An internal social network enables us to get our employees involved at the early stages of change. Employees who are part of a “go-forward” plan feel empowered and more in charge of their personal and internal change processes. The use of a social platform acts as an input channel to drive out smart ideas that can support the change journey.

It creates space to process uncertainty and offers solidarity

Social media is a space where people go to chat, co-create, collaborate and share experiences. Creating a space for your employees where they can do exactly that, will support your change efforts. It is easy enough to identify change champions and early adopters of change who that can take the lead on conversations or share experiences that will set a positive tone or serve as examples of how change is progressing. It will of course also create space for the nay-sayers but it puts you in a position to respond thoughtfully and bring them along on the journey.

It helps drive behavior change

By deploying social media channels as part of your change plan, you are able to show case progress, connect early adopters across the organization with each others, site examples of how change is being embraced at various levels, and recognize and applause efforts. There are few things as impactful as good examples and it is an effective way to remove barriers and resistance.

How do I do it?

Do not overcomplicate things. Use what you have and what your employees are familiar with. If you are not a socially-enabled organization, look at simple and stand-alone tools you can integrate and use. Tools like Google Hangout, WebEx, UberConference, Skype, Slack (the list goes on and on) are cloud based and can be installed and used with relative ease and will create spaces to communicate and share.

Bring your leaders with! Follow the path of least resistance by asking your socially minded executives to get involved and take the lead. Identify social employee influencers at all levels and enlist their help with building awareness and momentum. It will soon enough create discussion threads and chat vines. Make sure you are ready to respond to real time engagement opportunities by empowering your leaders and social employee influencers with key messages and information pivotal to your project.

Guaranteed success?

Using social media as a change management channel is not a warranty to success, nor does it mean you are guaranteed greater employee engagement but it is fast becoming an essential channel to your change efforts. We already know that people spend up to 3 hours a day on various types of social media, coupled with the research done by Weber Shandwick & KRC Research’s findings that 88% of employees use at least one social media site at home and that many want a similar experience at work, it will be illogical to not incorporate some type of social media into your change plans.

A word of caution…

Engaging with employees over social media does attract a set of risks and unintended consequences. Think through your risks, consider your legal context and have a plan in place to manage them, but do not let it put you off from putting social media to good use when managing change in your organization.

You can read more about social media and change in the article: Change Management Meets Social Media, by Sarah Clayton, Harvard Business Review. Sarah sites a number of good examples in her article that is helpful when considering social media as an aide to change management efforts. You are also able to click through to the Weber Shandwick, in partnership with KRC Research, “Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism” report.


By Susan Fouché

Source: Change Management Meets Social Media, by Sarah Clayton, Harvard Business Review

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