How to Truly Engage Employees in a Social World

Do your employees feel like they are 'friends' of your organization? Are they followers or fans of your firm in their off hours? Do they feel a sense of belonging – like they do with their family and loved ones? All of these are good questions to ask given most people tend to spend more time at work then they do with their family and loved ones. In a recent study by TowersWatson, an international HR consulting firm, fewer than 21% of employees described themselves as "highly engaged," down from 31% in 2009. Eight percent admitted to being fully disengaged. The study also states that having only one-fifth of your employees highly engaged is not the hallmark of a "winning business." Nor does it bode well for helping your organization grow its top and bottom line, let alone innovate, or serve its customers like they matter. Surely, you wouldn't be happy if only 21% of your friends and family members thought of themselves as highly engaged.

Engagement (especially social and personal) matters even more today as employees now have their own Twitter and Facebook accounts and spend time connecting with their friends and colleagues using social media. To regain your people's hearts and minds so they act like friends of your organization, its time for a change. At Mzinga we use six guiding principles to build great working relationships:

  1. Respect: Every voice deserves an audience
  2. Teamwork: Involve the rest, so you can be the best
  3. Integrity: Make every interaction a proud moment
  4. Communication: Say it out loud, openly and authentically
  5. Customer Focus: Keep it simple and make it easy to use
  6. Passion: Make it matter. Make it social

Mark Herbert, a consultant focused on engagement, says: "Engagement lives and dies on the front line of your business." Experience says that as more and more companies realize the value of building online communities of customers and employees, authentic engagement that converts employees into friends and fans will be the difference between good and great companies.

Changing the view of employees is the first step in our collective journey towards a more open and productive workplace. Developing social competencies among our leaders is the second. The third is implementing social intelligence tools to measure leader and employee engagement. I would love to hear your thoughts on how businesses and leaders can change the way they think about their employees so we can all achieve our full potential. Based on the recent report by TowersWatson, we can only improve from here.

Cailin Darcy