This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

Despite the increased interest in employees’ communication behaviors, what prompts them, and the potential contributions to organizational performance, there is little understanding concerning how companies manage employees’ work-related communication, particularly on social media. To gain a better understanding of how organizations enable and motivate employees’ communication behaviors, this study evaluated how organizations establish and implement three different managerial processes, namely, individual-, corporate-, and business-oriented approaches. How companies apply these approaches depends on contextual factors such as a company’s culture and norms, strategic orientation toward communication, leadership commitment and support, roles and responsibilities, and competence.

For this study, the author conducted qualitative interviews within six knowledge-intensive professional organizations such as law firms and management consultancies in Finland. Twenty-three organizational leaders responsible for employee engagement in social media participated in in-depth interviews on topics ranging from 1) company background; operating environment, organizational culture, and structure, 2) employee communication behavior; leaders’ perception of employees’ communication behavior and its outcomes, and 3) management processes; existing management objectives and processes regarding engaging, empowering, controlling and developing employees’ communication. Internal documents on social media policies and publicly available information on company websites and in social media supplemented interview data collection.

1.     The main drivers for establishing management processes that enable and/or motivate employees in their work-related communication in social media include: 1) increasing emergence of new communication technologies, 2) business transformation due to digitalization, 3) increased transparency expectations, and 4) increased competition for talent.
2.     Organizational differentiating factors explain how companies cope with internal and external factors. Namely, increasing awareness, creating common understanding, community, communicating expectations, allocating time for communication, providing tools and content, training, coaching and supporting, and providing feedback and rewarding.
3.     Three patterns of managerial processes emerged related to employee communication behavior on social media: 1) individual-oriented; the individuality and self-responsibility of employees and the managerial focus was on enabling individual employees to empower and educate themselves, 2) organizational-oriented; communications department played a central role in driving organizational communication initiatives and processes, management processes applied in a paternalistic manner, 3) business oriented; social media communication perceived as an integral part of doing business, a strong vision for the future, and employees perceived as integrated assets in making the vision a reality.
4.     The active role of employees as communicators benefitted not only the employees but also the organizations as they cultivated new and increased organizational knowledge, awareness, visibility, discoverability, the possibility of enhanced organizational reputation, and new business partnerships.

Implications for practice
Organizations and managers should enable employees’ work-related communication behavior on social media by 1) ensuring they can access social media from their workplaces and devices and have appropriate platforms at their disposal such as a blog site to publish their professional content, 2) providing internal communication tools and content which employees can discover and share, 3) training employees on social media usage and platforms to encourage comfort with the role of advocacy, voice and employee ambassadorship, and to prevent the possibility of overreliance on company-created content, and 4) sharing opportunities and benefits of communicating on social media, which can increase employees’ intrinsic motivation, and their interest in communication behaviors.

Location of Article
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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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