Author(s), Title and Publication

Sievert, H., & Scholz, C., (2017). Engaging employees in (at least partly) disengaged companies. Results of an interview survey within about 500 German corporations on the growing importance of digital engagement via internal social media. Public Relations Review,


Contemporary communicators faced with increasing employee disengagement, which negatively impacts workforce loyalty and productivity are looking toward social media to target better, more meaningful connections. In doing so, organizational communicators are accessing collaborative internal platforms to reengage team members with content they’ve contributed. While the use of social tools for internal communication follows the trend of digitization and fundamentally fits many business and leadership models, this study asks whether employees today are not only more, but better connected. Are they meaningfully engaged in such a way that the employer benefits, as well as do the employees?

In an empirical study of approximately 500 German companies with results compared to a similar 2013 study likewise conducted using German corporations, the authors note that while internal social media platforms may enhance social engagement and productivity, their use is reliant upon a baseline of existing trust-based employee engagement. Successful deployment of social media platforms for internal communications works not in isolation, rather is contingent upon an overall “blended employee engagement” stratagem.

Results of the study indicate that employee engagement is predicated on a strong overall corporate culture constructed upon progressive leadership and factors such as collaborative cross-divisional work, trust, and personal responsibility. When present, these factors are amplified by internal social media platforms and provide a voice for employees. Findings further indicate that companies with internal social media platforms often fail to fully utilize it as a vehicle for engagement, thus missing the opportunity to allow employees to experience their own voice as the “wisdom of the crowd.”

Implications for Practice

Organizations should (1) encourage and foster internal social media platforms as part of an overall blended employee engagement strategy, (2) ensure that trust in leadership is fostered as this greatly enhances the effect of internal social media platforms, and (3) work toward overall engagement strategies that contemplate the increasing use and effectiveness of internal social media in increasingly digitized corporate settings.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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