Employee contribution Part 1: we cant go on together with suspicious minds

Because their inherent company culture is built on distrust and compliance - rather than trust and contribution - many managers are struggling with the potential of social media to harness and connect the talents and passion of their people to collaborate for good. As Elvis, that great and wise management guru sang, "we can’t get on together with suspicious minds". Do you approach your social media policy through the lens of compliance and stopping bad things happening, such as cyber bullying, or do you approach your social media policy from the lens of what is possible? In this series of 3 posts (see Part 2 and Part 3) we explore how connecting people in open, authentic conversations together on social media will do more far more good than harm.

Seeing social media through the lens of possibility

Here is a question I recently posed on Twitter – as a manager or leader, do you spend more time on that which you want to avoid or that which you wish to accomplish?

In my experience, many organisations in Australia are approaching social media with the first lens, not the second. They are looking to stop the bad things happening on social media - to the extent that the possibilities and opportunities that social media provides for collaboration, understanding and innovation for social good are being missed because the focus is on compliance and the firewall.

In my work with organisations across diverse sectors in Australia I am coming to realise that the advent of social media is a real challenge for many organisations. Indeed, some are deciding to ban the use of social media altogether rather than to seize the opportunity that the digital technology affords us to build collaborative workforces and to engage them in innovation and co-creation as a living ecosystem for joint good.

Some far-sighted leaders in Australian organisations get it. They are seeing social media through the lens of possibility, not as a problem but through the lens of Contribution not Compliance.

Compliance culture is killing growth

We are living at a time when there has never been more compliance and regulation in organisational life and it is killing the joy, adventure, wonder and passion in our work. Everywhere I go, I hear from people that they want to spend more time on the bigger, life issue for working - which is to contribute something meaningful. This means spending less time on the ‘paperwork’ and compliance aspects their work.

People are crying out to be engaged in more meaning, more contribution and less compliance.

Please don't get me wrong; I am not saying that we don't need checks and balances in our organisations to ensure that we are 'safe' and secure across the board; what I am saying is that we need to restore the balance and change the order of the questions.

Rather than safety first, let’s put adventure first. Rather than compliance first, let’s look at how we can experience more contribution and meaning.

The current focus by managers on compliance is not a problem limited to Australia. Dov Seidman in Forbes Magazine writes "Most companies today are committing a fundamental mistake: they are 'doing' compliance –the U.S. spent $29.8 billion on compliance activities in 2010 according to a study from AMR Research – but they are not 'getting' more compliance. The frequency of compliance violations is increasing rather than diminishing and the impacts of non-compliance in a more interconnected and interdependent world are much more dramatic.

Organizations are implementing new frameworks, software, training and other control infrastructure at a pace that calls to mind the enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation era of the late 1990s. Much of this mass adoption is a direct result of increased regulatory mandates and external auditor expectations."

Seidman, goes on to say that we need to experience a shift in organisations from one of compliance and risk to a new focus on fostering a positive culture which emphasis ethical behaviours and innovation, not compliance.

"There is a limit to what 'compliance programs' can achieve in this regard—a limit that many companies have reached. Beyond a certain point, compliance activities can actually harm the organization, imposing unnecessary costs, undermining proper conduct and restricting creativity and innovation.

We've made similar mistakes in other areas. Companies spend millions on 'doing' employee-engagement programs, yet engagement remains at an all-time low. The companies with the best retention 'get' employee loyalty as an outcome of being a highly innovative company, having a superior organizational culture or fostering inspirational leadership. To be truly effective in shifting behavior, and moving an organization forward, leadership must move from a 'governance, risk and compliance' to a 'governance, culture and leadership' mindset. Focusing on actions that will build and maintain a values-based system of 'governance, culture and leadership' will mean less compliance activity, less cost, and more compliance as a result of real, tangible and sustainable behavior change."

That shift and the role of social media will be discussed in Part 2 of this 3-part series. In particular how social media provides the opportunity to engage people and have them contribute.

About Jeremy

Jeremy Scrivens is a Guest Blogger, Work Futurist, and Principal of The Emotional Economy At Work whose work involves mentoring business leaders to engage more of their people emotionally on a shared journey of contribution, resulting in sustainable profits, achievement of vision, business goals and happy staff because they are engaged from who they are to be all they could be. Contact Jeremy @jeremyscrivens Linkedin: /jeremyscrivens

Hear Jeremy speak on this topic at our Business Leaders Luncheon February 27th, in Melbourne. Free, by invitation only.

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