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Successfully retaining employee talent using strategic social media

Colin Jacobs - Immediate Future

The headlines that announced The Great resignation may be fading from the minds-eye, but the factors that drove them have not gone away. They are not just robustly present, they are growing. HR departments need to respond with strategies that bring employer closer to employees, and highlight company attributes staff increasingly demand to see.

A recent survey by Randstad revealed that almost 50 per cent of Millennials and Gen Zs want the companies they work for to be aligned with their moral principles, and say they will not accept a job from an organisation that does not match their social and environmental values. Nearly as many said they would not work for an employer that is not making a concerted effort to improve diversity practice.

In addition, more than 40 per cent of younger employees say they are prepared to take a reduction in pay if their job contributes to the improvement of the world or society, with a quarter of Baby Boomers in agreement.

The sentiment behind the results of this research of more than 35,000 individuals, is not news to HR departments. But it serves to underpin the fact that staff are becoming increasingly demanding about being able to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work. They want employer and personal values to mirror each other at least in substantial part. They want to be reassured ESG responsibilities are being pursued.

In addition, individuals also seek a sense of belonging to a company, that there is positive and tangible leadership that revolves around a healthy corporate philosophy. An absence of these increasingly essential criteria are a major driver of The Great Resignation.

Of course, the same factors apply to those that are researching new positions. Salary, job description and added personal benefits are no longer the be all and end all. People want to be part of companies that demonstrate progressive values.

The challenge for many HR departments is not an absence of credentials to keep and attract talent, it is the fact that companies struggle to convey them. They simply don’t get the message across effectively, and one of the main components missing is social media strategy, which has been found to be the single most effective way to transmit motivational ESG and leadership messages to employee audiences.

However, it takes more than the posting of announcements on Facebook or LinkedIn to create employee buy in. It requires detailed knowledge of the audience, and the how, what, why and when of content in order to create engagement that resonates. Get it wrong, and it looks like spam.

So, how should HR directors approach the use of social media for staff retention? The answer is to apply the same principles that enable brand marketers to create large numbers of active consumer followers.  It is a strategy being increasingly and successfully adopted to bring employees closer to employer.

Know your audience
The starting point is to really know your audience. This may come as a surprise, but most business professionals don’t know half as much as they think they do about the people they try to influence.

Whether a brand marketer or HR manager, there is always to temptation to assume a detailed knowledge of who you want to talk, what their motivations are, their triggers for action, what is of most interest, and what media they consume. After all, why wouldn’t a true professional doing their job properly be automatically aware of these factors. Surely, it comes with the job description.

But such assumptions are often spectacularly wide of the mark. We know this from personal experience – of how so many companies bombard us with messages we have no interest in. The people behind those messages are sure they know us, and we will be interested. But how little they do know.

Digital and actual rubbish bins are the repository of the vast majority of targeted mail. Social media is similarly jammed with irrelevant content. This happens on such a large and continuous scale because very few companies use available information to understand the why and how of who they are talking to. Simple demographics and assumptions are not enough.

It is therefore important to use analytics, and apply psychographics to gain a deep understanding of employees. It enables social media conversations to be on the terms of those being talked to. To engage with them optimally, based on the right content in the right context, at the right time, and using the appropriate social media platforms. There really is no substitute for it.

Take Them On A Journey
Corporate use of social media is usually based on using it like a digital notice board.  Announcements are posted almost as a mechanical response to a new development, or other piece of company news. The copy and use of pictures may be imaginative. However, being a standalone post means it registers with the viewer only in the moment. Then it is gone. Also, those you want to engage with will not be either consciously and or sub consciously looking for the post. This is important.

Social media works best when you take people on a journey they willingly follow. To achieve this, you have to create a narrative. Content needs to take the form of storytelling based on longer term strategy. This should not be focused on just the announcement of the successes of ESG and leadership. All good stories tell of ups and downs, learning and progress. It is what captures willing followers. It brings them closer to the company.

A strategy of telling of trials, tribulations and learning goes a long way to preventing the temptation to indulge in virtue signalling. In recent years, the public has developed sensitive radar for claim making. Cynical scrutiny is applied to all announcements from politicians, celebrities and companies, and greenwashing has become a particular pet hate.

By contrast, an honestly declared setback is viewed appreciatively if it is in the context of a positive background. Audiences do not expect perfect scenarios. Triumph after disappointment is the stuff of winners. Be honest and you take people with you, and all the time your audience will gain in numbers, and grow an increasing sense of corporate belonging.

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