For those of “a certain age,” the thought of allowing any employee in the organization to post opinion pieces to a company intranet is madness – the first step toward the end of civilization – or at least the first step toward the end of a certain approach to civilization. In an ancient communications civilization, where only senior leaders got “air time” and their take on the company was the only take on the company, an employee blog was a scary concept indeed. Happily, times – and the world of communications – are changing.
Communication is changing rapidly outside company walls. The company that recognizes this – and uses these changes to its advantage – is the company that will succeed.
HubSpot provides a great case study. HubSpot is a Boston-based social media company, ranked for two straight years as the #1 Best Place to Work by the Boston Business Journal. HubSpot allows all 300 of its employees to post entries to the company blog – not just the intranet – the external company blog. HubSpot’s approach to business is team-oriented, and its management team believes that this collective approach to blogging underscores the team spirit that makes the company successful. Further, by allowing all employees to participate, the company blog always has fresh copy – as many as three to five new posts each day.
“They’re a social media company,” you say. “What works there would never work for us.”
Why not? There are a number of good reasons why you might consider asking your employees to contribute to a company blog, and there are only a few precautions that you need be concerned about if you’re going to do it.
First, the pros:
When I come to work in a new organization, I always imagine that other employees know much more about the company than I do. Time and again, I discover this assumption is incorrect. Employees know a great deal about their jobs – their role within the company; but many don’t have a clue about what other employees are doing or – worse – about what the company does or how it makes a profit. An employee blog gives employees the opportunity not only to describe how they contribute, but also to learn how others contribute.
“So,” you ask, “if we start an employee blog, will employees just miraculously start making posts about what they do and how it contributes?”
Probably not. That’s why you need a moderator. Effective blogs ask questions and allow comments. A good moderator knows the type of question that will lead to a robust discussion. When the discussion starts to lag, the moderator steps in with a new question.
This approach can be especially effective in dialogues about company strategy. Most companies refine or reinvent organizational strategy from year to year. Asking employees how they will contribute helps them develop a “line of sight” – a sense of how what they contribute individually supports the greater good. Further, reading what other teams are doing may inspire your own team.
And, perhaps the best reason to launch an employee blog: employee engagement. When you let people know that you care about what they think, you take a big step toward building greater trust. When employees know their opinion matters, they’ll take more care in expressing their opinions in ways that will benefit the company.
“But what about the naysayers – the prophets of gloom and doom – who simply want a greater forum for airing their complaints? Won’t they try to take over?”
This is where good editorial guidelines and a good moderator come into play. Following agreed-upon guidelines for posting is critical. The guidelines can be relatively simple but should outline that the blog is for business-related information only, that it is not an outlet for complaints and that any inappropriate material will not be published. State at the beginning that posts will be reviewed by the moderator before publishing. Reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity. When you choose a moderator, choose someone who is also a good editor – someone who can diplomatically re-articulate the guidelines when necessary.
The art and process of communication is changing rapidly outside the company walls. People post to Facebook, write blogs, tweet updates and comment on the work of others. The company that recognizes this – and uses these changes to its advantage – is the company that will succeed.
Will your company launch an employee blog?