Working for the BC Public Service over the last two and a half years, I’ve seen firsthand how a cultural shift towards the use of social media has improved employee engagement. Social media is a communication channel that allows an employee’s voice be heard across traditional organizational and hierarchical boundaries. When an employee’s voice and effort is freed from the confines of an org chart (i.e., their structured working unit) they widen their circle of influence and increase their effectiveness.
One of the great examples I have on how social media increases employee engagement comes from a discussion forum on our main intranet site. An analyst posted a story about how people in organization can become resistant to change and often do things only because that is the way they’ve always done it. The post was great, but what I appreciated even more was that the head of the public sector was the first person to comment on it. He supported her story and suggested what we could learn from it. When employees see that kind of support from senior leadership, they know they are listened to and they can make a difference.
Social media enables collaboration that reaches across traditional boundaries within the public service. From asking simple questions to starting a movement, technologies such as blogging and microblogging enable communities of people to come together to resolve problems and share knowledge. Employees announce they are starting a new project and ask others for help or contribute their energy or area of expertise. Sometimes we find those projects have already been completed in other areas of government. Why re-invent the wheel! Social media enables lightning-fast problem solving and reduces duplication of effort by connecting 30,000 problem solvers into one pool. Social media increases transparency, knowledge sharing and effective communication across working groups, branches, divisions and ministries.
An engaged workforce is force to be reckoned with. When people are contributing to what they think is important with people who support them, transformation takes place, seas are crossed, and mountains are moved.