When an employee is up to date with what’s going on in his company and feels involved, s/he will be happy to talk about it on the social networks. Companies need to be able to support and harness this desire for expression without constraining it.
L’Atelier: What drives people to talk about their activities and their company on social networks pages?
Julien Cotte:Employees only talk when they feel proud of belonging to their company. If they don’t feel this way, they don’t say anything. When you appreciate the worth of your company you want to talk about it.
The more an employee grows in the overall working environment, in a team s/he gets on well with, the more comfortable s/he feels. I think I can safely say that as a company, we have certainly put a lot of things in place. But you have to create strong foundations and make sure that there are good working relationships. This will then help to ensure that your employees become advocates for the company.
L’Atelier: Was this a genuine strategic move, then, at your company?
Julien Cotte:Well, what we wanted to do was change the overall image of our brand, in order to attract and retain good staff. We therefore worked hard on the concept of our ‘employer brand’. We needed to make the idea that our company has a real existence, a real life of its own, central to our HR policy. And we did so, focusing especially on our internal platform, which has helped us percolate information through fairly easily. To such an extent that, even though were actually doing a lot internally, we didn’t trumpet it around, either internally or externally.
L’Atelier: What does an employee get out of talking about his company to the outside world?
Julien Cotte:In my view, showing employees that they can express themselves without getting their knuckles rapped brings down barriers and gives them a sense of responsibility. This has the immediate effect of making a person act, of boosting his or her motivation.
L’Atelier: How can you create this culture, highlighting company values without imposing them?
Julien Cotte:You have to build up a framework of information which employees can consult. But above all you need to show that you’re taking them into account.
The other important aspect is to reassure employees about their right to have their say. You need to give them free rein. We see that even when they are being critical of the company, their criticism tends to be constructive. As a company it’s essential to be able to take criticism and know how to set a good example. You need to know how to play the game and not become overbearing.
L’Atelier: Long term, should employees’ communication on social networks be structured?
Julien Cotte:No, I don’t think you have to ‘industrialise’ the process. But there are always opportunities to support it. On ‘Engage’ (Alcatel-Lucent’s collaborative social platform) we have a group dedicated to people who tweet on behalf of the company, with a Community Manager who spots and contacts likely individuals. On this network we demonstrate best practice, that’s for sure, but in no way is it about following a rigid policy.
We don’t try to entice people, we don’t say: "Tweet about what you are doing". But when we organise an internal event or one that has links to the Employer Brand we speak to the people involved to see whether they would like to talk about it.
L’Atelier: What are the benefits for the brand?
Julien Cotte:It helps us to become better known and recognised. We’re a B2B brand, and this, for example, could be a handicap. We’re very well-known to technical people, but less so among the general public when it comes to attracting potential recruits. That’s an area where we still have a lot of work to do. You have to create a desire to join the company. Having our employees talking about what the company is doing is a useful thing.