Postcard from Chicago…Be Yourself and Spread The Message
Sitting high above the Atlantic Ocean on my way back home from a whirlwind 48 hours in Chicago seems like a good time to reflect on what I heard, what I learned and what I’ll share when I get home.
I can’t really begin on the learning takeaways though without saying a big thank you to the committee who pulled off a wonderfully slick, well organised event in which everything happened as it should, when it should. From location to food, from drumsticks and dollar necklaces (you had to be there) to transportation and agenda, nothing was overlooked or left to chance. Massive thanks to Trish, Steve, Ben, Jason, Mark, Crystal and Joan.
A second big thank you to Nobscot, who provided the scholarship that enabled me to get there. I really enjoyed spending time with Laura who gave me a great insight into the organisation and its products.
There is a third big thank you…but more of that later!
So what did I take away? Well here are some of the things that initially stood out from the different tracks that I participated in, I’m sure there will be more later:
Employee Brand vs Employer Brand – it’s not enough to have one or two people, micro-celebrities if you like, who effectively are the employee brand in social media. Those who are blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook about their organisations may be ambassadors, but you need more…it may well be down to those individuals to spread the word and encourage others to participate, though the word ‘encourage’ is probably the key as ask, suggest, cajole or demand may not get the required outcome! In terms of content, there was much debate across different tracks as to how companies can ensure that their employees are not putting a negative or misleading message about their employers into the public arena. There was much use of the word control (more on this later) and guidelines but personally I prefer the notion of ‘guiding principles’ and trusting your people to deliver a message that is honest and shows that you have talent who are thoughtful, insightful and passionate.
Mobile working is still working – I helped facilitate the Mobile HR track and it soon became apparent that for HR the need to be mobile and visible to all your clients is paramount. It was interesting to hear of initiatives that encompassed mobile learning as well. We have the technology that means we can now operate from a variety of locations, yet there still seems to be a mindset that a day spent working ‘on location’ isn’t really a proper day’s work…several attendees would talk of an expectation that the ‘day job’ would somehow be done in the evening or at weekends! A lot of this can probably be dealt with by educating the office based functions…work isn’t something that you just do at a desk or in an office.
Don’t call it Social Media – call it anything but!! Communication, Social Learning, Information, Learning Library…many suggestions were made in an attempt to overcome negative connotations around ‘social media’ or ‘blogging’. The message I took away was that it was the information learned, and the contact made, that was the key…as we say time and again, social media is a platform through which we communicate. It’s the message, not how you get the message, which will bring others onto the platform.
Top Teamwork is often more important than Top Talent – a really interesting track on sports and the lessons that HR can learn left me with that thought. Steve Boese used basketball as the example…a moderately successful team became a great team by trading its star player (as per the measurable statistics) and replacing him with a not so star (by the stats) player. They key, the secret to this happening was that it wasn’t basketball ability alone but teamwork and team spirit that carried the team through. A simple message, but so often overlooked in our day to day business lives…it’s not just about having star performers, but about having performers who make those around them perform too.
I hate the word CONTROL – seriously, I know I’m a libertarian but every time I heard the world control – control the message, control social media, need to control what employees say in blogs and on twitter, need guidelines – I felt myself get more agitated!! During one track I asked if we could just forget CONTROLLING social media and start EMBRACING social media! It’s my belief that if you try to control what people say, whether through a policy or strict guidelines, then you stifle the creativity and spontaneity that, I believe, are at the heart of social media. You need to trust your people…I know it can be tough in a company of, say, 30,000, as there will no doubt be some who will give a negative message, but I think that they will usually be outweighed by the ones who give a positive image. People do respect those who give them freedom of speech…drive it underground and it then has the capacity to become more damaging.
Gen Y – I know I’ve written about this a lot in the past, and as always it was great to hear the irrepressible Sarah White talk so passionately and enthusiastically about her generation, but there was a difference this time…the format was much more conducive to debate. Previously Gen Yers were preaching their case and taking on the audience, but this time we had a panel of 1 Baby Boomer, 1 Gen X and 1 Gen Y and I certainly felt that more came out of it – less argument, more understanding. Certainly some great points were made around the shift in benefits, security and stability within companies which often gets lost in the ‘which generation is better’ format.
And the third big thank you??
To all the wonderful people I met and who all made me feel so welcome!! I was very privileged to meet some really intelligent, articulate thoughtful, genuine, honest, caring people and the thing that struck me most was…
…that everyone was exactly as I thought they would be!
For all the doubters and cynics around social media, those who believe that the message can’t be trusted, there was proof that if people are just themselves then their personalities will come through! Here were people who I only know through Twitter, blogging and Facebook and yet their characters and personalities were exactly the same as those that shine through the words they write (whether in 140 characters or longer) and the way they interact.
That was the biggest message of all for me…if everyone uses the platform as a conversation, a way to connect, share and learn, in the same way that they would do if it was face to face, then you can trust both the medium and the message.
Be yourself and spread the message.
I just can’t wait to do it all again…