I’ve been following with interest the situation with HMV and the job losses announced live on Twitter. It highlights some of the issues companies and employees face when becoming more of an open, transparent or social organisation.
The press is filled with stories of industrial relation being conducted via social media channels. As organisations begin to ask more of employees to collaborate, share knowledge and generally become a louder voice within the workplace it also requires the organisation to accept that the channels used for collaboration and knowledge sharing can also be used for employees to discuss the decisions and actions that effect their family and livelihood.
How companies, or maybe that should be individuals within companies, handle the situation reflects a great deal on how much they understand or fear the power of technology that enables employees becoming more engaged or vocal within open, transparent and social businesses. In some ways it shows how far an organisation has come in bridging the digital divide that exists within many companies.
A few years ago I worked for an organisation that trumpeted to clients the value and expertise of its staff. We had developed an active knowledge and collaboration programme, based around communities and the value of collectively working towards solutions for our clients. Our intranet platform was full of articles of people related initiatives involving collective innovation. The firm then announced there were to be redundancies. It happens and this article is not discussing the merits or dilemma of redundancies but how digital savvy companies deal with it. Rather than continue the open, community based approached being developed the response from leadership was to remove ‘people related’ and ‘success’ stories from the intranet and close down any form of online discussion around the events. I appreciate there are certain legal requirements and obligations that need to be met but to completely ignore this channel was paramount to dismissing this as an essential source of news and discussion. So we had the situation where staff could read about events on external news and social sites but could find nothing within the intranet environment. For a channel that was being promoted as a source for company news, collaboration and knowledge sharing the effect was dramatic. Over the next few months we saw contributions and engagement on our communities drop dramatically. I fear it will be many years before this organisation understands the possibility that these types of collaborative workplace technologies can provide in changing the way people work.
Moving this on a few years I had the fortune to work for a global organisation that is really trying to change the way they work. They had suffered from poor industrial relations but are determine to build relationships, engagement and communities within their workforce by using collaborative technologies, realising that embracing the open nature that technologies provide is one of the ways to prosper in the changing work of work. Rather than bury their head in the sand they are actively building and supporting internal communities, putting in place appropriate stewardship, governance, advocates and nurturing collateral to make sure this works. It won’t happen overnight and there will be hurdles along the way. But being open and transparent will ensure they have a greater chance of bridging the digital divide.
All organisations will go through good and bad times. But the consistency of relationships with their employees will ensure the continued development of collaboration and knowledge sharing. This is a significant step in creating a more open and democratic working organisation that the digital age is delivering.