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Social Media: The Opportunity to Engage People to Contribute

In this Part 2 of this 3-part series we explore the role of social media in engaging employees in positive conversations about contribution (in Part 1 we explored the need to see social media through the Lens of Possibility, Part 3 is a case study). Contributors are worth six times more to the bottom line of their organisations than their non-engaged or Compliant colleagues according to the Gallup Group's recently released comprehensive State of the Workplace survey of employee engagement across 140 countries.  The Contributors are the group who readily embrace change, who do the right thing on social media but who are also authentic, open and highly collaborative. They look to grow the organisation with their colleagues; to explore, to take risks in the interests of discovery and to work for the greater good. Leaders who use social media to focus the conversion on contribution grow their share of Contributors in the workplace and reap further benefits. 

Gallup concludes that only 13% of people are engaged at work - the group that we call the Contributors. Imagine the benefits if this number could be doubled or tripled or quadrupled, surely not impossible targets.

Employee engagement crisis opportunity

Interestingly, Gallup’s research showed that the Contributors almost variably work for organisations which foster a positive or kind culture; where there is an emphasis on the positive, on extending strengths, not weaknesses and on possibilities, not problems. Conversely, the Compliant work for organisations which foster a culture of compliance and control, not contribution.

Another way of putting this is to say that those organisations which focus on a compliance culture are spending time on managing survival; whereas organisations focusing on Contribution are looking to grow and make more of an impact and difference in the world. They are two different conversations coming from two different cultures.

Personal motivations for using social media

When you outside of work, people flock to social media because it engages them in ways that work currently does not, unless they are lucky enough to be in the 13% who work in a positive or kind culture. 

Social Media commentators Peter Kollock and Marc Smith have found four principal reasons why contributing to online social networks is so popular outside of work. If we take the liberty to overlay these reasons with the Gallup Group’s hierarchy of engagement some interesting patterns emerge.

Four Dimensions of Employee Engagement Gallup
  1. Anticipated Reciprocity – a person provides valuable information to others in the expectation that they will get helpful information in return - what do I get?
  2. Increased Recognition –people want to be known for their expertise. Many people online want recognition for their contribution - do I belong & how do I give?
  3. Sense of Efficacy – people may contribute because they feel that by doing so they are making a difference, having some kind of effect - leaving a legacy by learning and growing together - what do I give & do I belong?
  4. Communion – people are social beings and by commenting on a like, it encourages others to reply to them, creating a social interaction - feeling part of a community - how do we grow?
This then begs the question: how can use the personal motivators to increase contribution in the workplace? Part of the answer lies in treating people as individual people.

Focusing on Contribution also delivers Compliance

Contributors work for leaders who take the time to engage them as unique individuals, not as cogs in the factory machine or "human resource" register. They ask their people - how can I help you be more of who you are at work so that you can contribute your best - which means helping people to give and be kind and generous to others, both colleagues and customers.

The Compliant are engaged rationally by their managers and the conversation is usually around "what do I get" and it often becomes adversarial, rarely rising above the subject of money, working conditions, performance outputs, compliance, efficiency improvement or the negative consequences for poor performance.

We live in an age when it is supposed to be all about me and my success. Yet the research is showing that people, including Gen Y and the Millennials, want to be engaged from the heart around something bigger than them and they want to give and be kind to others.

Blessing White’s International 2011 Employee Engagement Survey concluded that the best leaders "create a culture and work flow where people are inspired to give more than they get". Many people are quitting jobs because they worked for leaders and enterprises who do not show them sufficient kindness.

Many of these people do not have other jobs to go to; they have simply had enough. This trend will get worse for those leaders who do not manage by a code of kindness. The Millennials won't put up with unkindness at work and they will tweet or post on Facebook about their experiences.

An important insight is that those leaders who first focus the conversation with their people on Contribution get not only Contribution but they also get Compliance without focusing on it.

Positive Enterprises - A Culture of Kindness

The best workplaces, defined as those that achieve exceptional contribution from their people, develop a Culture of Kindness which they nurture, develop and sustain over time, even when cash-flow and economic times are tough.

We can call these Positive Enterprises and they focus on creating an abundance of good and positive things, as distinct from the mainstream business practice for 300 years which focuses on preventing bad things from happening, on fixing problems & eradicating errors, on narrowing the deficit gap rather than building the Abundance Bridge.

In building and nurturing the Abundance Bridge, Kind Leaders:
  1. Take the time to discover and extend their unique strengths, as a company, as teams and as individuals through collaborative whole group approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry;
  2. Rather than spend time preventing bad things happening, Kind Leaders spend time looking for good in their enterprises and how to extend good in order to grow. So rather than trying to prevent cyber bullying, instead they look for peak examples of when social media has been used experience kindness - the opposite of bullying - and they work with their people to co-create a Culture of Kindness by discovering and extending what works or what is good;
  3. The Abundance Bridge
  4. Take time to engage their people from the heart, which means taking them off the dance floor regularly to discuss matters which are deeply important to them. Kind Leaders involve their people in shaping the future of the enterprise, starting with questions such as who are we, what do we care about and what is our destiny together and they use social media to shape and tell the story;
  5. Kind leaders treat every person as a unique human being and they help each person to be more of who they uniquely are at work and yet manage to align these talent differences around authentic relationships and high trust team work. Kind Leaders build and sustain caring, compassionate community at the core of the enterprise.
Your challenge - to take these actions and to start to build the Culture of Kindness, and an organisation of Contributors.

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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