Social media ‘powerful force’ for internal comms says McKinsey

A new study by McKinsey has found that the power of social media can deliver wider employee participation and increased productivity providing a series of key steps are undertaken.

Setting out four ways to drive change, McKinsey calls for the creation of digital “hives” – which it describes as electronic hubs “bristling with collective activity and designed to solve a particular problem or set of problems, to drive new habits, and to encourage organisational change”.

The recommendations come in a report entitled Digital hives: Creating a surge around change which says that online communities “are helping companies engage with employees to accelerate change”.

Companies should develop digital tools to facilitate networking and collaboration propel what it describes as “horizontal” cascades. “At best can weave new patterns of engagement across geographic and other organizational boundaries. In this way, they make it possible to have new conversations around problem solving, unlock previously tacit knowledge, and speed up execution,” says the report’s authors.

“Digital hives involve large numbers of previously ‘disenfranchised’ employees in setting strategy, company-wide transformations, and customer-outreach initiatives. Creating these hives requires a delicate balancing act – not least a willingness by top managers to let go. Managers should not be afraid to commit themselves explicitly to acting on the results of these initiatives and should encourage unrestrained participation, however unpredictable the consequences,” says the report.

While social media can be a game-changing force, McKinsey finds that “many companies struggle to maintain the momentum of initiatives to encourage broad- and digitally based employee involvement”.

“Clearly, there’s more to success than just investing heavily in the latest Enterprise 2.0 technology platforms. Large-scale engagement of the workforce requires, first and foremost, a firm grasp of organizational culture and its social dynamics, a psychological understanding of what triggers new behavior, a determination by management to loosen if not relinquish its traditional top-down approach, and an ability to demonstrate how digital activities complement offline or other real-world events,” says the report.

The study says that some initiatives fail to “mobilize the masses” to any significant degree. This the authors concluded is “dissipating energy and effort as the message gets stuck in middle management”. “Others get going but never reach the organisation’s perimeter, thereby missing an opportunity to collect valuable feedback and ideas from the front line,” they add.

For the full report click here.