Employment Issues / Social Media

Social Media Week 2015 – day one

Before Social Media Week officially starts is the PreCommerce Summit. This is the second year that the W2O Group has curated the event, which again took place in London’s Living Room, atop City Hall and providing stunning views over the unseasonably grey City. 

The afternoon was held together by Annalise Coady (@annalisec) and split, loosely, into three parts: developing digital tech in pharma and healthcare; digital data security, and; engaging through social media. 

Although my personal and professional interests sit outside of healthcare, the lessons can be applied to any organisation. Dina Rey, Head of Digital at Roche (@1healthrepublic), thinks of herself as an undercover ‘agent’ – a digital specialist in a world of ‘pharmasaurs’. Like many industries, healthcare is client focused and the business model has shifted from looking at what patients need, to what patients need next. 

Getting support 

Introducing a digital dialogue at Roche, Rey recognised the importance of top-level buy-in and showing a return on investment, even if initially it is a hypothetical one. It is important to the success of any digital or social media agenda to have not only support from the top, but visible support. The target, as jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer (@jjfeds) suggests, is to convert a digital naysayer/ambivalent senior employee to a progressive way of thinking and by doing so ensure that others will follow

Rey also introduced many in the room to a new acronym which neatly describes a potential measure of digital data: VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). I’ll leave you to consider that in your own time, but as you will see, digital and social media aren’t easy bedfellows in regulated sectors and need careful consideration. Steven Oberman took the opportunity to remind us that digital data is, by design, unstable, ever changing and, as we have found in recent years, susceptible to theft.  

Developing a social media strategy and building a team 

Rey’s comments were again backed up by Federer. When looking at building a digital team within an organisation, she highlighted the difficulty in balancing digital specialists and business specialists, specific to that particular organisation or sector. To succeed, it is important to bring the gap between those two specialisms closer together. 

Summarising the potential for social media, Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF, distilled the virtues of social media, specifically for charities, but relevant to all:

Speed – to gather information and respond

Reach – to a wide audience to raise awareness (and raise funds)

Authenticity – to be able to relate real life stories to support your campaigns

Also worthy of further note are Steven Overman, Chief Marketing Officer at Eastman Kodak (@stevenoverman) and Anna Gruebler, data scientist and software engineer at Altviz (@nannannanna). Overman enthusiastically informed those gathered that Kodak is still alive and well and will again be a visible brand for digital consumers, possibly by the end of the year. Gruebler is leading the way in artificial intelligence and robotics (and is exceptionally engaging but can’t convince Siri to recognise her Venezuelan accent). 

See the bigger picture

Former CIA analyst Cynthia Storer and currently starring in Channel 4’s Hunted (@cindystorer), offered a different perspective on the impact of social media and digital data. She warned of teams looking at incidents and collected data in silos, placing significance on someone having the full picture, across teams and departments. Only that way can a terrorist network – or the more general potential for damage – be fully recognised and protected against. 

Finally, Lord Chadlington took time to discuss the role of Pradipta Bagchi, VP and Global Head of Corporate Communications at Tata Consultancy Services (@bagchips) in harnessing the potential of social media in any organisation. With 325,000 employees across the globe, TCS might be expected to struggle with employee engagement, but he has developed a series of key commands for managing and engaging employees. These are: 

  1. Ensure that your employees are the first with information
  2. Keep messages consistent: internal and external
  3. Respond quickly to social media questions, concerns and crises. Employees will read your communications and possibly be unsettled by them as much as external organisations. 

TCS is a true success story, having developed its own internal social platform. ‘KnoMe’ already hosts 900,000 blogs with more than 2million comments. It is used to survey the opinions of employees across a broad range of topics through voting and forums and, incredibly, had over 260,000 active users. Through the system it developed a practical dress code, democratically sourced and implemented. 

Employee-driven progress

Tata has gone further still. Recognising how time is used by its employees (and that we all perform differently), it has created a suite of apps to allow employees to work away from their desks, particularly to file expenses, request leave, record their time and to access a digital learning platform consisting of nano courses and training tools. It gives more control to employees to complete essential tasks when they want to. 

Employee engagement at Tata is driven by its global social media output. Recent campaigns have been built around participation in the New York Marathon (with those unable to attend joining in by identifying areas of their cities that feel like New York (and tweet them) and sought and shared selfies from its 100,000 female employees (albeit in a larger single image). 


There are lessons to be learned by all organisations by looking at and re-interpreting innovation from every sector, no matter the type of business, charity or industry. Even the CIA!

Social media demands to be reviewed in the widest way possible. It cannot be separated out into HR, marketing, PR, recruitment etc. I expect this to be a recurring theme over the next few days. 

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