Social media vital in creating 'employee voice'

Lack of understanding and a resistance to embracing social media is preventing greater employee communication and holding businesses back, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has claimed.

According to its research, trust amongst the work force and a culture of openness, collaboration and innovation are all suffering as a result of employers' fearing social media.

The CIPD is urging employers to recognise the importance of social media or risk losing out to competitors.

The research highlights that social media can:

  • help employers engage with staff
  • help shape the future direction on the organisation
  • create an open channel for employee views to be shared upwards
  • create innovation.

The claim follows additional research from the HR body, which found deterioration in the 'employee voice' - the ability for staff to feed their views upwards in the workplace.

It argues that traditional employee surveys actually distract employers from listening to staff concerns and views, and have little relevance in a modern workplace.

It cited the biggest barriers to embracing social media as:

  • a lack of understanding of how social media works 
  • a lack of awareness of the data it can generate
  • a fear of a more open approach.

Jonny Gifford, research adviser at the CIPD, said: "For organisations to thrive, employees must be given the opportunity to discuss how their organisations can innovate and feed their views upwards, as well as having the freedom to blow the whistle about genuine issues at work."

"Social media won't always be the most appropriate channel for discussing issues, but employers must wake up to the fact that they can't ignore it. Employee voice expressed through social media is much more influential because it is more likely to be heard."

He added: "...employers should also be thinking hard about the opportunity social media gives them to simultaneously collect opinions and facilitate discussion about genuine opinions and ideas, and to analyse the data in rich and meaningful ways."