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Bottoms up! Let's get social

Bottoms up! Let’s get social

Social media – like love in that cheesy Four Weddings and a Funeral song - "is all around us..." Twitter, LinkedIn, Ecademy and the Godfather of them all Facebook. As a company boss, you ignore them at your peril. Not only is social media here to stay, it has a power that can be harnessed to help successfully introduce and sustain an effective system of bottom-up communications

What we do at home we bring to work

The way people make decisions on what they do, buy and consume is changing profoundly and that is replicated at work. In society at large, trust is moving away from institutions, government and the leadership levels in corporations with messaging shifting from ‘top down’ towards ‘collective intelligence’ – friends , social networks and internet-based information and advice. People are searching for new sources of authority, no longer blindly following or believing what they are told because the “boss” said it.

People are not prepared to be silent anymore and they are prepared to stand up and find a way to be heard. And we can use this shift to good effect for bottom-up communications.

We can see examples of these at work in society at large via sites like mySociety or FixMyStreet. These are civic engagement websites, which promote good governance and accountability among elected representatives. They are a form of bottom-up communication, which also enable peer-to-peer and group-to-group or lateral communication.

A recent white paper by the Performance Improvement Council highlights the correlation of social networking and recognition to a ‘digital water cooler’. Applying a virtual approach allows employees to share experiences and news while maintaining a greater sense of involvement.

The fact is, newer generations of employees are used to instant communication via Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger, SMS Texts and Twitter as much, if not more than, face-to-face contact. When people come into organisations they want to continue to use those channels both for work-related conversations and personal ones.

And businesses are becoming aware of this. The idea of employee enrichment seems to be gaining momentum. As companies are finding a greater need for employee engagement, so they are driving behaviour through the social media that each employee can relate to.

Use of social media in work won’t just assist with bottom-up communications. It can also enable lateral communication, which involves the spreading of messages from individuals across the base of a pyramid.

In his text Organizational Communication, Michael J. Papa defines horizontal communication as “the flow of messages across functional areas at a given level of an organisation”. It means, people at the same level communicate directly without going through several levels of organisation – and social networking facilitates this.

Social networking as a form of communication within the office gives colleagues more flexibility for “problem solving, information sharing across different work groups and task coordination between departments or project teams”. The use of lateral or horizontal communication in the workplace can also enhance morale and afford a means for resolving conflicts.

I don’t, of course, mean that managers should let their staff have free rein on the likes of Facebook at work. I am talking about bringing in a social intranet using tools like Yammer and we shall explore such ideas more later, as well as how to do this, in a future blog when I look at different solutions for bottom-up communications, of which social media is just one...

If you have found this blog useful – or even not useful – and would like to talk to me further about bottom-up communications, please get in touch.

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