There has been a lot of talk on the interweb lately about super injunctions, and a certain footballers apparent ability to score more often off the pitch than on it. We talk of these injunctions as if they are new phenomenon, or reserved for the super rich and wealthy when actually, for most employees and the organisations they work for, we have unwittingly been living within a world of what I would call very similar ‘internal super injunctions. all along’
For most of us, saying anything other than positive things about our employer or employment status has previously been an absolute no no, save through the official channels like the annual anonymous (Of course it is!) employee survey or guarded ‘lunch with the boss’ where honest feedback is always welcome (Of course it is!). Internal communication strategies are largely, with a few exceptions, built around managing communications one way – from the employer out to the employee masses. They struggle greatly with two way, socially structured conversations which is why many employers (and specifically HR folk) still approach the thorny subject of social collaboration internally with suspicion and avoidance, even going as far as banning the social conversation or putting in place sanctions for employees who discuss work related matters on their own social platforms.
But just as social media has undermined even the most determined judicial efforts to prevent people speaking out, so too is it eroding an organisations ability to manage communication, filter out the less than good and stage manage the employer brand, particularly to the outside world.
As I said in a recent post, we are becoming more comfortable with challenging the organisations that put food on our table yet employers still have a very confrontational attitude to this change, preferring to close down and defend any such activity. This approach is unenforceable and totally unrealistic. The momentum is so great, that to try and ignore it, or ‘ban’ our way around it, is folly. We tried that 10 years ago when customers found their voice (How dare they!) but soon realised we had to embrace their views. Now the same thing is happening with employees – and it appears we like that even less.
But in just the same way, we cannot ignore it. To do so is to turn away from perhaps the greatest opportunity to improve business performance that will cross our paths in the next 30 years. Yes, lifting the lid on the ‘watercooler conversation’ by embracing the social dialogue internally can be scary. However, therein lies a rich seam of insight, innovation and opinion – all offering a window into your organisation, its products and services, and even its customers that you could not hope to get through more traditional channels or approaches.
Just like the super injunction has been rendered almost unenforcable, requiring a total rethink on such matters, so too must the internal communications rulebook.