Last night I went up to London in the sweltering heat for the second of the Chartered Institute of Public Relation's Social Summer series that I have been able to attend. The topic was 'Employee engagement and social media' and it was held by the lovely Rachel Miller, literally an expert in all things IC herself, and owner of All Things IC , a website packed full of wonderful IC info. Rachel started by talking about the popular employee engagement movement, Engage For Success, and I was surprised that not that many had heard about it. She explained the benefit of it being a government supported rather than led community which means that the professionals involved can make decisions themselves and quickly. We watched the great #E4S video from which come great quotes like 'I am not a human resource, I am a human being' and 'engagement isn't something extra, it's what you do and the way you do it'. What's so great about Engage for Success is that it shows the evidence that employee engagement matters. We were given a tool kit last night and inside it were great facts like:

  • Marks and Spencer stores with improving engagement had, on average, delivered £62 million more sales than stores with declining engagement.
  • Sainsbury's found that colleague engagement contributed up to 15 per cent of a store's year-on-year growth.
  • Dorothy Perkins stores with high levels of engagement produced 12% higher growth in sales - the equivalent of £445,000 extra revenue.

With facts like these, the importance of employee engagement can't be ignored, surely!

Rachel talked about the ever-shifting expectations of employees. Employees want real-time information now, they want to know everything that's going on and be involved in the decision-making. Employees also need to feel they're making a difference. But even with new generations of employees joining the workforce, Rachel thinks the four unchanging ingredients for employee engagement success are: a strong strategic narrative, employee voice, engaging managers and integrity - and I quite agree. With all four of these you'd certainly cook up a storm! If only it were as simple as buying the ingredients down the road!

We then went on to talk about where social media fits in to all of this. 2010 Melcrum research into using social media to solve internal communication issues found that the most effective use of social media in Global organisations was  'getting employees to talk, share info and collaborate' (54.3%). When companies use social media internally, messages become content and this can be extremely useful and inspiring. Rachel added that she believes we should look at social media as something that we do 'for' and 'with' our employees rather than 'to', and that 'organisations should create flexibility within boundaries for their employees'.

What repeatedly came out of the evening was the importance of involving your employees: trusting their opinions and show-casing their talents. Ask them what they think about something and you'll certainly get an honest answer, probably one you may not have considered too.  After all, what is a company without its employees?

As well as employee expectations, language is constantly changing. Rachel had previously said 'it's important not to always use the 'c' word (communication)' and that there may be a better word for your employees. She said that she would look in to what different companies are calling 'social' nowadays as that too doesn't always fit with a company culture. Rachel - I look forward to hearing about that, it would be a very interesting bit of research I reckon.

I came away from the evening wondering about 'social' and whether it's something that will continue to make so much noise. With so much buzz around words like  'cloud companies' and 'big data' I wonder what direction social media will take in the future and what it will mean to be 'social' then, in an internal communications capacity.

Be sure to check out Rachel's own blog and a storify of the event.