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July 25th, 2010

Engaging Employees through Social Media

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Engaging employees in organizational strategies is a challenge for most companies and their leaders. Mayo Clinic has a pretty good track record, but we’ve never been satisfied with the status quo.

In 2007, we introduced our strategic plan in an internal campaign called Creating the Future. Research conducted after the campaign launched showed that almost half of our employees said they were aware of and understood their role in fulfilling our strategic plan. That’s not too shabby. Many companies would be ecstatic over those numbers. But not Mayo Clinic.

We wanted to find new ways to engage every employee in our strategies. So in 2008, we added social media to the mix of employee communications tactics. We introduced a blog called Let's Talk, where leaders talked about the strategic plan both on video and in blog posts, encouraging employees to join the conversation.

The response was immediate and powerful -- with so many employees participating that the servers temporarily went down! Employees asked questions, made comments and shared their ideas -- and that continues. Let's Talk has evolved to become a platform not only for discussing business strategies, but also for discussing news about Mayo Clinic and about issues that could affect us. During the health care reform debate, for example, traffic on Let's Talk was brisk.

We recently updated our strategic plan, so it was important to get this new information to employees as effectively and efficiently as possible. Our leaders believe deeply that every employee is essential to Mayo's success and are committed to communicating our strategic direction to all 56,000 employees. We decided to build on our past successes with both traditional and social media tactics, reflecting what employees are experiencing in the world around them.

In June, we launched The Mayo Effect, a large communication effort across the enterprise with a twist. Each face-to-face meeting that leaders conducted (and they did a lot of them) opened with an edgy "You-Tube-style" video...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmn-23_vyZg]

...followed by an inspiring presentation by our CEO that was filled with stories rather than heavy with PowerPoint, and highlighted by open discussion with the CEO. We made these conversations available to employees at all campuses through different media. The CEO pointed employees to a refreshed website and new blog as the main resources for the details of the plan. Within the first few weeks, 22,000 employees logged on to the website. Communication will continue to unfold in phases, but preliminary feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are just a few samples:

  • This feels like a pivotal time at Mayo Clinic.
  • The strategic planning feels thoughtful and not like other corporations that publish a new strategic plan every 90 days.
  • The message is clear.
  • I like that we kept simple terms and tied back to our historical roots when framing the vision.
  • I do not feel like I am 'waste' to be eliminated as an FTE at Mayo but I am part of the solution to seek out true waste.
  • We are doing things at Mayo that we would never have considered in the past: Reaching out in social media, advertising, marketing.. It is good to see.

I couldn't agree more. Mayo Clinic recognizes that the world is changing, and we must change to continue our mission. Employees are the face of Mayo Clinic to our patients. We need them to be invested in Mayo's success and engaged in delivering an unparalleled experience to our patients.

Social media makes them a part of the communication, a part of the conversation. Social media is not only changing employee communication but also how employees participate in the success of the organization. We've only scratched the surface.

Linda Donlin is the manager of enterprise employee communications at Mayo Clinic.

Tags: Case Studies

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