Companies most ready for social business don’t block employees from social media, have fewer crises

Posted on August 31, 2011 2:25 pm by | Crisis Communication | Internal | Social Media

Cross-posted from Stop Blocking.

There are great companies, and there are all the rest.

The great companies are places where people want to work, and hence make the list of the top 100 companies to work for. Great companies also tend to be forward-looking. At the Altimeter Group—the analyst firm founded by Groundswell co-author Charlene Li—“Advanced” companies are at far end of the spectrum of efforts to weave social media into their business structures and processes.

Of 144 businesses surveyed for Altimeter’s latest report—Social Business Readiness—only 18 qualified as “Advanced.” The criteria for these organizations include governance models for policies to ensure responsible engagement in social channels, enterprise-wide response processes to ensure timely interactions with customers and other stakeholders, ongoing education and best-practice sharing, and the adoption of a central hub as a part of the organizational structure, often called a “Center of Excellence.”

It’s also worth noting that, like the best companies to work for, companies Altimeter deems “Advanced” don’t block employee access to social media. Or, as the report puts it, “Of the 144 companies we surveyed, all 18 Advanced companies allow rank-and-file employees to use social media professionally.”

Advanced Companies Allow Employees to Use Social Media

This openness isn’t undertaken lightly, though. These organizations also educate and provide guardrails so employees understand how to participate safely and consistently. Detailed results include the following:

  • All 18 Advanced companies have social media policies in place and encourage employees to participate in social media as brand representatives. Among the 18, five require formal approval, seven have pre-defined guidelines and six actively encourage participation among all staff. None discourage staff social media use.
  • Thirteen of the 18 Advanced companies have introduced baseline processes to reinforce and update the policy and to train newly hired staff. Among all companies, only 26% have such processes.
  • 72% of Advanced companies organize ongoing education opportunities for those employees engaged on behalf of the company in social channels. These include brown bag lunches, speaker series and internal conferences. Across the less (or non) Advanced companies, only 34% maintain ongoing education.
  • 72% of Advanced companies have processes that allow employees to share best practices, compared to 35% of all organizations.

One key result of these preparations is a dramatically reduced likelihood of getting caught up in a social media crisis (or limited impact if a crisis does occur). That’s ironic, since one reason the less advanced companies block employee access is fear that employees online will instigate crises.

Will the less advanced companies get the message and take the steps required to weave social media into their business processes? Some will—eventually—and others never will, but there are underlying reasons why they aren’t the best places to work or the most advanced organizations. With their competitors getting on board, you have to wonder how long the least advanced companies with the least desirable work environments will last long.

Note: I’ve posted a summary of the full report and another post highlighting the crisis dimensions of the report.

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