Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Punishing Employee Engagement

The issue of organisational action taken against employees deemed to have abused customer engagement guidelines is an interesting dilemma which I thought I would post my thoughts on, rather than attempt to provide a solution to. Similar to the guidelines themselves, differences in interpretation will almost certainly influence the eventual action taken; with variances therein dependent upon the organisation in which the breach has occurred. As our society becomes increasingly interconnected, transparency and conversation become the norm. The question is though, what happens when these societal standards clash with the culture of the organisation?

Guiding Engagement
Many would suggest that the dilemma itself exemplifies the obsolesence of the traditional business model concept, highlighting a need for further developments in organisational culture. Unfortunately this is not always practical. For example, whilst organisations may applaud the increasing societal presence of transparency, they will almost certainly display reluctance to divulge the trade secrets that make them competitive. This is understandable, and is a theme which I shall be exploring later in the week. For those organisations which are keen to encourage customer engagement, guidelines similar to those published by organisations such as IBM represent a safety net designed to minimise employee generated damage to the brand equity. Actions taken when these lines are crossed will depend upon both the reasons for and the severity of the breach.

Influencing Action
The nature of business is such that variations in practice between organisations will occur as standard; this is what allows for competition. Action taken following a breach can have a profound effect on the organisation's social media presence; with the potential to either destroy or discredit the organisational offering in the process. Clearly the resultant action is dependent upon both the extent of and perceived motive for the breach. For example, organisational action following an unintentional breach may differ significantly from that following a malicious planned attack. Admittedly the resultant action will be significantly influenced by the severity of the incident, with breaches resulting in serious damage to the brand equity almost certainly resulting in dismissal. What constitutes serious damage to the brand equity? Again, this is something which will depend upon the individual organization.

Striking a Balance
Whatever action the organisation decides to enforce following a breach, it is imperative that the repercussions are considered carefully; too lenient an outcome may fail to prevent future recurrences, whilst too strict a punishment may deter customer engagement all together. As an organisation it is your responsibility to ensure that an appropriate stance is taken. Recognize the impact of the social media on your business and consider what might happen were it to disappear, or worse still, appear manufactured. On the other hand, consider the potential ramifications that the actions of a negligent employee can cause through their electronic voice.

What action would you consider appropriate for social media guideline breaches? Is employee dismissal justifiable, or is this simply transparent behaviour in a society that condones honesty?

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