Just before Christmas I had a chat on the phone with Richard Binhammer (@richardatdell) at Dell because I had heard about some interesting initiatives they had for enabling the employee use of social media.
Unfortunately, at the time I needed to talk to Richard, I was stuck in a very noisy Paddington station in London, so my recording of the conversation was next to useless – no chance of getting a good Audioboo published, but the key points I discussed with Richard were:
- Dell believes that social media is just another communication tool that all employees will use in the near future, if they are not already doing so… it’s just like companies introducing a telephone onto every desk, or an email account for every employee.
- To overcome the issue of unauthorised employees talking online about the company – like non-media-trained executives talking to the press – they created a course that is open to all employees. The course gives guidelines on good online etiquette related to the use of company information and references.
So, in theory it’s quite possible to have a very junior member of staff who can freely talk about Dell online because they have taken the course, and a senior member of management who can’t say anything online because they have yet to complete it.
The reality is that this is unlikely – Richard explained to me that pretty much everyone he works with uses social media on a daily basis as an information resource and so they will all have completed the training.
But, the interesting thing here is that the company has acknowledged that social information tools can be a great source of debate and information, enabling people in knowledge jobs to perform their role more effectively. Allowing a free-for-all online would be dangerous for any company, but by establishing some ground rules about best practice online and offering training, Dell has shown great maturity.
Even when employees are denied access to social tools on corporate networks, they usually have immediate access to the web on their phone, so attempting to close down online discussion by employees is pointless. Far better to accept that employees will talk about their workplace online and to give some guidance on what works and what does not.