I got an email from a friend who looks after the digital and social media initiatives for a company and he wanted to get my inputs for an internal newsletter he is writing on social media etiquette for his firm's employees.Here are his questions and my answers:
a) How is social media changing the relationships within organizations? Do we see hierarchical structures being challenged, or are these structures robust and established enough to adapt social media as a channel?
This is actually contingent on an organization's existing culture and the way it is championed by executive leadership. When a leader exhibits collaborative behavior that he/she exhibits publicly via the enterprise social network it becomes a role model for other employees. However, just implementing a social network internally and hoping that silos would break is unrealistic. An organization has to look at structures, policies and process - in fact the whole change management process if it wants to become an open collaborative firm.
b) What should a social media policy be, in an employee-centric organization?
There are various kinds of social media policies that can be found on the internet. However I believe that if an organization is both employee-centric and customer focused it should focus on education and enablement of social media usage instead of the "don't do this" and "don't do that". I also believe that a policy is not enough, employees should be educated and trained on how to leverage social media. Maybe, start a pilot with all employees in an external facing role.
c) How should an employee constructively use social media?
Internally when an employee makes his/her work visible by sharing it on an internal wiki/blog/status update, it enables other employees to know and connect - which they would not have been able to do earlier. It then enables "communities of practices" to form, leading to more knowledge sharing and even discovering prospective mentors in the organization to learn from.
Externally, an employee can share company news and updates (with a clear disclaimer) to get the news about the organization to his social networks and communities. If the employee also hears of prospective leads and business opportunities he/she can also alert the company's sales teams to it.