One of the top complaints I have heard from employers of late when it comes to employee engagement programs is a lack of just that: engagement. It doesn't matter if the program is aimed at better employee health, or designed to promote open enrollment—engagement results are routinely lackluster.
Why? You've spent months crafting key messages to entertain and delight your audience, right? You've redesigned your intranet, made colorful posters, even sent emails to get employees to attend. But still—your efforts fall flat.
Here at OneDigital Hartford we've experienced similar dreary results. Just because we've been awarded kudos for our workplace vibe—the same thing still happens here. No one “sees” the intranet, they walk right past posters and they routinely delete company-wide emails. It’s frustrating. So we started to look at how we could utilize new media to try and put a dent in our employee engagement problem.We picked Instagram. It’s an app for smartphones that is photography-based, and utilizes a Twitter-style hashtag to build community pages. We had a few super-users who felt like it might be a worthwhile approach to take a look at, and since we have a lot of clients who also needed to find a new way to communicate things like workplace wellness initiatives—we approached it as a test. We would try it here, vet it, and then develop a best-practice program around using it for our clients. (We’ll discuss that in a later post.)
Let me say here that our overall goal is engagement, whatever the program--and we have mini-campaigns that change every month. They might be to highlight how employees are getting healthy after a long winter one month, and sharing images of things that make employees smile, etc. Each month they change, and our audience of users grows.
There are five major reasons why we picked Instagram, and we think it’s these reasons that have helped us to experience pretty great—and growing—results, like over 100 photos being posted in a month by our employees. Seriously—how many of your Open Enrollment posters have generated that much buzz?
Instagram is a free app for smart phones—that means that aside from the initial ask, “Hello, Employee X, please download this app so that you can participate in our community” there is no barrier to entry. No expensive glossy posters, no IT billable hours for updating the intranet, no promotional material company expenses for those irritating inflatable balloon men (think outside a used car dealership).
Since we started our company challenge on Instagram, we've taught many of our colleagues how to download and use the app. Even our admitted technophobes have found the app to be relatively easy. Shoot, hashtag, post. That’s it. Instant community engagement. Done. And let’s not forget that from the standpoint of the person responsible for supporting the program (in our case, an intern) ease of use means less time explaining, cajoling and pleading with folks to start using the app.
Once you can get employees over the initial awkward hurdle of posting photos to Instagram of themselves, their kids, and the things they like to do on the weekend—it gets to be really fun. I’ll add a caveat here that at OneDigital Hartford we are a great size so that we really feel like a family. I already know that one of the sales guys is crazy for fishing, so when a photo pops up where he’s holding a big fish and he’s wearing an even bigger grin—I’m not surprised, but it makes me smile.
Of course I have to add that you would be well-advised to already have an active social media policy in place. We've got an “official” one that is pages long that no one reads, and we also have a really simple one, “Don’t Do Anything Stupid.”
IT BUILDS RELATIONSHIP
I might not know that one of my colleagues has a daughter that just turned 7 and is the light of her life—but after she’s posted a photo of a gaggle of girls at a swimming birthday party I know—and have the added bonus of a new way to connect with her when I see her at the water cooler. Having a window into our employees’ lives that they have opened—means they are essentially inviting us to get to know them. This is a great example where digital connection can translate into personal connection. And if you are trying to build a community of employees—building relationship is key.
IT CREATES RESULTS
Admittedly—when we started (and by “we” I mean myself and Kameron Mele, our Multi-Media Designer) the results were slow. Plus we got a fair share of flak, which usually comes from a lack of understanding. We held several informational sessions, explaining Instagram, what we were trying to do, and making it as easy as possible for our colleagues to get involved. In short order the number of Instagram users has doubled and we average 100 photos posted each month.
The results have been gratifying. More of my colleagues are getting involved every day. The follows, likes, hashtags and comments are all increasing. We've established a conversation out there in digital land that has started to take on a life of its own. We have some real success stories, too—as well as a number of people who just don’t play in social media, and so we've developed a way for them to stay connected as well. We’ll highlight all of that in our next blog post on our Instagram efforts. In the meantime, stay tuned and consider beginning your own Instagram challenge in your organization!