The death of email: time for leaders to get social

by 02 Apr 2013

Resistance to change and lack of social media understanding among senior leaders is stifling innovation and transparency in organisations, according to research by CIPD.

In the report, titled Social media and employee voice: the current landscape, employers are urged to recognise that social media drives collaboration and transparency, and those who do not embrace it will find themselves at a disadvantage.

Findings revealed that senior leaders are often unable to grasp how social media works and the power of the data it can generate. The report also noted that too much weight is given to the potential dangers of social media, while the benefits of more traditional systems are overrated.

The sentiment was echoed by Jay Larson, president of worldwide field operations at social media platform developer Jive. He noted that the age of email as a communication channel is numbered. “Today, if a CEO sends out an email message, how do you know who read it? How do you know who hit delete? How do you get feedback? You don’t; you send it out to the ether and hope for the best.”

Likewise, Larson noted “a few town hall meetings and newsletter blasts” are not enough. Social media is a way to engage and inform a valued audience: the workforce. “This is a completely different way of communicating and engaging with your people. If you’re a business leader in charge of change, and you have people spread out across a wide range of geographies, how you can possibly drive that platform without embracing social channels?”

Some of the positive benefits of social media include an open channel for employees to feed views, concerns and ideas upwards, and greater knowledge sharing and innovation between employees at all levels.

Larson added that social media is “about dialogue, not monologue”.

“Someone can look at the video or a blog post and then comment – there’s a closed loop mode of communication here, which is tremendously powerful. A blog I post can spark a bunch of other discussions – it’s leveraging the expertise of those who have a stake in the business from across the world. How can you do that with email?”

Social media interactions can also give organisations access to a unique blend of qualitative and quantitative data, which in turn can drive greater employee and customer insight, said the report.

Jonny Gifford, research adviser at the UK-based CIPD, said that social media was an opportunity to enhance ‘employee voice’ within organisations.

“For organisations to thrive, employees must be given the opportunity to discuss how their organisations can innovate and feed their views upwards, as well as having the freedom to blow the whistle about genuine issues at work,” he explained.

“Social media won’t always be the most appropriate channel for discussing issues, but employers must wake up to the fact that they can’t ignore it. Employee voice expressed through social media is much more influential because it is more likely to be heard.”


  • by Leanne Faraday-Brash 2/04/2013 12:37:23 PM

    Would much rather use social media as a mechanism with which to engage staff than have a remote and old world leadership team attempt to manage staff engaged with social media in the form of time theft! For me, a no brainer!

  • by Anirban Dutta 29/04/2013 4:31:51 PM

    Agree with all the points stated, I wouldn't have been reading this had it been an email :)

    I'd almost always prefer to read a blog or a video message from my CEO just for that human connect. You just know that the email was written by some Internal communications staff with an e-signature of our leader, well I think the Social signature with an avatar is way more powerful.

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