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What Facebook can teach us about what matters to employees

June 30, 2009

One of the beauties of Facebook – and one of the reasons many deride it – is the ability for anyone to share enthusiasm for anything with others online who care about the same things. From sleeping and walks on the beach to political candidates and major brands, there are Facebook groups and fan pages dedicated to just about every cause, company, and idea you can imagine.

Fans and group members may be customers, aficionados, or, in many cases, employees and alumni. Delving into these organic communities – particularly those started and managed by company employees and former employees – and observing the online interaction that goes on outside of official communications channels can offer some valuable insights into meaningful ways to create community and foster conversation within our organizations.

I recently had a meeting with a senior HR executive at a global brand. The topic of discussion was the value proposition they are developing and preparing to communicate worldwide. They have invested eight months and significant research to arrive at pretty much the same conclusions I got to after spending a few hours on Facebook analyzing what their employees and former employees are saying and sharing around the world.

It’s about the people.
Reducing turnover is a high value proposition for large companies, potentially netting multi-million-dollar savings with just a small percentage reduction. So figuring out and fostering what makes employees stick around is something worth doing.

Looking at the interactions on employee-generated Facebook groups and fan pages, one thing immediately becomes clear. Those employees who spend years with a company, often doing repetitive tasks at lower levels, aren’t in it for the work; they’re in it for the people.

Overwhelmingly, they reminisce on Facebook not about the day-to-day activities on the job but about the camaraderie. They’re sharing photos that, with better lighting and improved technique, would be perfect shots of smiling groups of employees having fun at work, ripe for recruitment ads. They’re commenting on colleagues they knew and loved and praising favorite managers for creating great places to be eight hours a day.

It may not be all positive, but most of it is useful.
Perusing Facebook groups and fan pages set up by employees is a great way to find out what they’re really thinking. More than any focus group, these authentic online environments get them talking about what they really think and how they’d like to see things change. Many times we don’t want to hear what they have to say. Here, though, we can listen without our outsider presence interrupting or our wincing interfering. If we want to know how to improve operations and employee morale, here’s a great place to start.

Once again, social media tools amplify the conversation that’s going on around and about us, and, if we dare, allow us to learn from and even join it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 30, 2009 10:04 pm

    You raise some very good points, Facebook and other social media are great way to get a read on how colleagues, employees and partners are feeling about what’s happening in their personal and professional lives. At the same time, their awareness that you’re watching could censor them from speaking out on their true feelings.

    Either way you’re on the mark here, because this definitely happens and social media is a great resource for this type of info

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