Magazine article Talent Development

Twitter: Inside the Enterprise, Up the Next Hill

Magazine article Talent Development

Twitter: Inside the Enterprise, Up the Next Hill

Article excerpt

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Forming a committee to develop a social media strategy didn't seem right to Greg Matthews, director of consumer innovation at Humana. He saw advantages in encouraging the company's 28,500 employees to begin to incorporate new practices, and wanted to demonstrate an alternative approach to even the early work. His team's charter, after all, was to explore the leading edge of technology and business practices, and to act as a conduit to bring those practices into Humana's ecosystem.

Five minutes before meeting for the first time with the people Matthews refers to as the "uncommittee," he framed a plan: encourage the representatives from 14 departments across the company to use Twitter to take notes of the meeting, broadcast their ideas, and collectively watch the conversation stream so that they could learn which ideas resonated across groups.

They established a code "#hcoc" (in Twitter lingo called a hashtag because it begins with #), used in each tweet to track the conversation for Humana Social Network Chamber of Commerce, and set out to learn what happens when form follows function.

Before you conclude, "We couldn't do that" or "Our organization doesn't support Twitter within our firewall," keep in mind that at the time of this meeting, neither did Humana. Some reports estimate that more than 70 percent of large organizations today ban Twitter, Facebook, and other social media tools within their firewalls.

Yet Matthews (@chimoose on Twitter) recognized that most of the uncommittee members carried personal, smart mobile devices (one reason they were familiar with the practice of microsharing, or microblogging), and they could use them to tweet during the meetings.

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With widespread adoption of mobile devices worldwide, organizations that believe blocking social media access is their best defense, sidestep considering how the tools already help their employees succeed. Rather than banning social media tools, companies ought to consider educating their employees on how to use the tools responsibly and to begin learning how these tools can benefit more people. Workplace learning professionals who understand these tools and who can make a case for their use are in a strong position to help their organizations navigate and climb new terrain.

Turn over stones

Although Humana's uncommittee is still new and each member has a different full-time job to keep them busy, they know that health, and the health system, has to change. For Humana to continue leading through innovation and focusing on consumers, they have a steep climb ahead. Working socially (through microsharing, and in a distributed way) stretches their capabilities and accesses 28,500 other people who can help.

They've presented to IT on issues of security, access development, and toolsets, sharing what they have learned first-hand to at least help the technical teams see wider options. They are beginning to meet with and talk to Humana's legal team on issues of intellectual property, compliance, liability, and indemnity. And that work synchronizes perfectly with human resources as they focus on creating a culture of collaboration: hiring, training, and recognizing people for sharing.

To get as many other people ready as possible, Matthew's Consumer Innovation team also created a series of self-guided training modules for employees to learn about various social media tools without becoming overwhelmed. People can spend a little time each day to get up to speed and gain a sense of how these resources can help them.

"LinkedIn in 15 Minutes a Day," for instance, offers employees a chance to learn enough about the new media to have some comfort when testing it out on their own. Other 15-minute courses introduce the basics of Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The team has also created custom content intended to facilitate sessions on subjects including RSS feeds and readers, blogging, search engine optimization, and social campaigns 101. …

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