Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
August 10, 2011

Social Media Opens New Frontier For Employee Idea Sharing

Remember the bulky, boring employee suggestion boxes that used to gather dust in the corridor corners?

Many of them are gone. But thanks to the introduction of new social media tools, the suggestion box concept has been rejuvenated online – enjoying a busy and productive new life on intranets – making idea sharing exciting, conversational, beneficial and rewarding for employees and organizations alike.

The good news is that employee communicators are leading the charge, leveraging digital technologies to make a difference for their organizations, accelerating employee involvement, cultural change and business improvement in ways that didn’t exist a decade ago.

Here’s a glance at two success stories:

EmployeeStorm takes Dell by storm
On a typical day, about 45% of the computer maker’s workforce participates in EmployeeStorm, Dell’s web-based employee idea program. “EmployeeStorm has become well integrated into Dell operations and culture,” says Christa Semko, internal communications advisor. “Employees value the site because it gives them an outlet for speaking candidly about ideas for improving the business and work environment.”

EmployeeStorm gives the Dell workforce the opportunity to post and discuss ideas on topics that range from product upgrades and customer service to company policies and culture.  Hundreds of ideas have been implemented over the past two years. Dell also uses EmployeeStorm’s “Lightning Rod” feature to get fast input from employees on hot problems that need quick resolution.

Says Semko: “In today’s fast paced world of business, social media gives us the chance to read and react to change faster, and that translates into competitive advantage.”

Inspire Wire accelerates cultural change at Orlando Health
In 2010, Florida health care giant Orlando Health took a bold step when it launched Inspire Wire on its intranet. “This was our initial move into internal social media and so far it has been very successful notes,” Bree Balchunus, internal communications, who manages the project. “Good ideas adopted through the program are helping to reduce cost, enhance revenue growth and improve patient quality and service.”

Ideas inspired by your imagination is the tag line for the program. “Our employees who are out there doing the work every day see opportunities for innovation, change and improvement that others simply aren’t positioned to see,” observes Balchunus. “We want to tap into all that brain power to make Orlando Health a more effective, innovative organization.”

Orlando Health laid the groundwork for success by thoroughly researching and planning Inspire Wire and pilot testing it at a local member hospital. A key element is a cohesive, joint corporate-local site committee structure that acts to screen submissions and flesh out good ideas that work.  Meanwhile, a senior VP “champions” the project and helps ensure ongoing commitment and visibility.

Acknowledgement is both public and high level.  Senior VPs write a letter of appreciation to each individual in their organization whose idea is acted upon. They also invite them to their office for a “meet and greet.” Concludes Balchunus: “It takes a team effort to make Inspire Wire work. For me, personally, it has been very rewarding to see the direct impact that Inspire Wire has had on our organization.”

Ronald S. Hess is the founder and president of Motiv8 Communications, a full-service employee communications firm based in Port Orange, Florida. His firm’s website lists things to think about when starting up an idea site online, as well as other employee communication quick tips.

To learn more about the Orlando Health Inspire Wire story, join Ronald S. Hess, Susan Havill and Bree Balchunas for Social Media as a Catalyst for Engaging Employees Workshop, one of the employee communications workshops at the 2011 PRSA International Conference in Orlando, Fla. Oct. 15-18. This workshop is sponsored by the Employee Communications Section.

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