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Popping the Question: Is Social Media an Effective Way to Engage Employees?

Deloitte Debates


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Social media is a lot of things to a lot of people. But is it a viable tool for employee engagement?

Talent 2020 employee survey results indicate a strong link between employee engagement and employee satisfaction and that employee satisfaction and retention go hand in hand. They also show that a company’s ability to communicate effectively and transparently goes a long way toward building employee trust in leadership, strengthening job satisfaction and retaining top workers. But, is social media an effective way to engage employees? Or does the fluid, less structured nature of social media conversations preclude meaningful engagement?

Explore all sides below by clicking on each button:

  • Here's the debate
  • My take
  • Join the conversation
It’s awfully risky.
We don’t need to take on the potential liability or reputational risk that a social media post or comment might trigger.
It’s risk worth managing.
The risks can be mitigated with proper planning and oversight and are outweighed by the potential benefits that come from increasing employee engagement.
It’s too new—too much of a Wild West.
Social media discussions seem like a free-for-all. We’re better off sending the messages we want to send through channels we choose, rather than getting caught up in someone else’s conversation.
All the better to stake our claim.
The conversations are already happening. It’s better that we state our position for ourselves rather than have others put words in our mouth or read too much into our silence.
Our employees don’t want us butting in on their conversations.
A lot of social media chatter is like water cooler talk on steroids. We don’t have the time or desire to play Big Brother when people are just blowing off steam.
How better to understand what people are really thinking?
It’s more about having a seat at the table than being a fly on the wall. Sure we want to know if employees are saying negative things, but positively and openly engaging them—and maybe learning about legitimate areas where we need to improve—are the real motives.
Do we really need “one more thing”?
We have so many forums for communicating with our employees—emails, voicemails, internal newsletters, meetings, events….do we really need another one? Many of our employees don’t even use social media.
It’s too big to ignore.
Social media use does vary by generation, but it’s also increasing for almost every generation. For some employees, it could be a matter of “if you build it, they will come.” For others, they’re already there and could be waiting for us to show up.

My take

Brian Augustian

Brian Augustian, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Many employees are likely already engaging in some form of social media, which makes it a ready-made venue for employers to both listen and speak. It could be a game-changer in that it allows employers to communicate on employees’ terms rather than following the traditional model where management decides when and how to communicate, say by sending a memo or calling a meeting. Instead, social media is more about give and take. It’s a way to not only track and understand what employees are thinking and feeling, but a way to share back the company’s perspectives and potentially make changes based on what’s learned.

It’s this more free-form nature of social media communication that makes some employers wary. But if you opt out of the conversation because you fear it’s too risky, you may allow others to control what’s said. A more effective approach is to develop a social media strategy that fits your organization and is guided by not only the legal/regulatory team, but also by a cross-functional, cross-generational employee advisory panel. Having this diversity of views can help you set goals for social media use and better understand and tap into the various avenues that are open to you.

For example, internal social media platforms can be a tool for onboarding new employees, for sharing knowledge and ideas and for gleaning insights that lead to innovations. They also allow you to keep a finger on the pulse of your employees’ opinions and employee satisfaction throughout the year, rather than depending on periodic surveys or chance interactions. External social media can help you engage employees on a different, public level—as consumers or fellow citizens, for example, rather than employees.

Above all, social media has become such a part of the human experience that it’s already a part of the employee experience. Employers have a clear opportunity to help shape that experience to benefit the organization and its employees. 

Related content

Library: Deloitte Debates
Services: Consulting
Overview: Human Capital


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