Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

The Curse of Listicles and Clickbait!

Posted: May 5, 2016 by Matthew Hanwell in OD, SEO, Social Media, Twitter


By Ian Gee:

In the past couple of months, I have been using twitter a lot more. In the main this has been to promote the Ilfracombe Film Festival a project I am volunteering on.  I have had the Twitter account @IanRGee for many years though have never really used it. So as well as starting an @FilmIlfracombe account I decided to breath some life back into @IanRGee and @AlbanyOD as well. It has been a fascinating, if occasionally frustrating experience!

Twitter has been a great way of connecting with people, sharing ideas, asking questions and having fun. It has not been without its irritations mind you! My biggest irritation and turnoff has been the amount of clickbait and listicles OD practitioners and consultancies are tweeting.

What do I mean by clickbait and listicles? If you have any kind of social media account, you will have seen posts which start; ‘This kitten tried to rob a bank…you won’t believe what happened next!” or “The top 4 tips for getting a flat stomach’ The first is classic clickbait and the second is a clickbait listicle! If like me you are occasionally curious, or in fact at times truly foolish (for that read bored!), then when you click on the link you invariably get inundated with advertisements, exhortations for things you don’t want or need and have to click through goodness knows how many pages to find out what on earth did happen when the kitten robbed the bank and what are the 4 things that will turn my belly into a six pack?! For me as I click through I find I am just getting more and more irritated! What interests me is how many OD practitioners and consultancies are using this approach to promote their businesses.

Clickbait and listicles are an obvious and on the surface, easy way of driving traffic to websites, gamming analytics platforms, raising SEO status and advertising products and services. If we have something to sell whether it be a product, service or our time then advertising is vital. However, the inherent problem with listicles and clickbait is that they very quickly move people from being intrigued through to disappointed and even angry!   Many of the OD listicles and clickbait have done this to me!

Here are a few examples of what I mean. One OD Consultancy posted this ‘The top 2 things to do to increase employee engagement” When I clicked through and eventually got to the page this is one of the bit s of amazing, stunning, and frankly incredible advice ‘Remember to say Hello to your employees when you get to the office!’ I actually decided to make a tweet comment on this and said ‘Gosh who knew” and got a reply that said ‘We really feel it is very important to remind people of things like this….’

Here are some more examples of Clickbait and Listicles:

“Click here to diagnose all your team’s ills…and cure them!”

“Click here for the 4 building blocks of change”

“Check out this cool visualisation tool designed to answer your toughest business questions’

“Click here for a free Free 110-page book download that makes managing change incredibly easy”

What do you think? Am I being unnecessarily critical of something that we now just have to accept as part and parcel of the market place? If you have a favourite listicle or piece of clickbait, then please share it with us all!


5 questions on the future of HR

Posted: August 14, 2013 by Matthew Hanwell in Human Resources, Social Media, Technology

I was recently invited by Andre Souza to share my views on the future of HR and the impact of social media in his Brazilian blog….


Here is what I had to say….

1) Mathew, having worked for over 20 years in HR and seeing the future that is coming in the workplace with social media & big data, what are the changes HR should be promoting in the organizations and in their own role?

In my 20 year of working with HR, I have seen many things remain unchanged! Buzzwords, trends tend to come and go, technology has advanced, however I see many of the things that HR do remaining unchanged also in the future, they may be performed differently, but essentially they are the same activities; for example employee record keeping, used to be paper based, stored in filing cabinets, now it’s web based Self Service, stored in a database – these are typically the hygiene tasks, need to be done, must be done well, but don’t add strategic value to an organization. HR doesn’t always receive the praise it deserves for providing these ‘utility’ services day in, day out.

In addition to the ‘utilities’, HR has also delivered business partnership, talent management, Leadership development, and so on, which I believe have made a more strategic contribution to the organization.

Looking to the future, I see huge opportunity for HR to drive organizational development, to influence the culture, driving new ways of working and encouraging new levels of collaboration, with the goal of significant improvements in employee engagement, ultimately leading to improved business performance.  

By understanding and embracing the very things social media tools enable, then taking the lead to create the conditions where these can flourish, HR can transform an organization and improve how work is performed.  With Big Data, again HR has the opportunity to embrace the concepts and gain new people related insights that will be able to predict future business outcomes. 

Overall, and regardless of technological advances and capabilities I would propose that HR promote and drive openness, transparency, invite participation and encourage interactions and in doing so will see new levels of employee engagement. 

2) If everyone is using different social media tools to connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest & Twitter, what are the reasons that explain that Social Media is still not fully used by organizations yet – especially internally?

Amazing numbers of us are using the social media tools you have listed (and many more), and finding great value in our personal lives from sharing and connecting with people and on topics we care about.  It is our own personal choice as to which tools we use, there is no one instructing us to do so, although there will be peer pressure from friends, and in general it will be more about where our friends are and how we connect with them than about a specific tool. The usage is also completely personal, we choose what we update, what we share, who we follow, what we tweet, re-tweet, post and so on. There will always be a wide variety of uses, form a young teenager sharing the latest info on their favourite boy band, to experienced professional sharing detail information regarding a particular technical detail. This is us collectively demonstrating social behaviour.

The challenge, and I believe one of the main reason social media is not fully utilised within organization is that organizations need things to be organized! To have a given set of tools, to mandate that we do things in certain ways, to have established way of working – you document things in Word, make presentations in PowerPoint and communicate using email. Organizations typically provide the tools needed to perform the work, in what is thought to be the most efficient and scalable way. Organizations don’t have the volume of users to reach a critical mass adoption in the same way that happens on the internet, and since they pay licenses for the tools they want these to be used. There is little or no personal choice in what to use or how to use it.

In my opinion, the fear of losing control over the tools and ways of working is another factor that prevents organizations from allowing the use of social media internally. Another common mistake is even when they embrace social media tools, unfortunately they then try to mandate the use, not understanding the social behaviour and culture required for these tools to be fully utilised.

An organizations culture ultimately will either have or create the conditions where social media will flourish on a large scale, or will suppress it. 

3) What do you see as the key tendencies in the organizations & in the work environment in the coming years?

There are many influences that are shaping the future of organizations and work. Technological advances, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), Big Data, Cloud, Social Media, Mobility, and perhaps most importantly a generation of people entering the workplace who have grown up in this “digital age”. This generation only know having a mobile phone, being continuously connected to the Internet, and to their friends, having near real time feeds of the latest news, having  all knowledge is available online (just google it), where there is an app for everything, you just have to find it and where sharing and collaborating are the norms not the exceptions.

Organizations that will be successful in the future will be able to embrace these technological advances, and meet the expectations of the ‘digital age’ generation.  I believe these organizations will be less hierarchical, far more networked, open and transparent.

Leadership is and will change, from command and control, issuing orders, and controlling through ‘reporting to’ lines to where leaders invite participation from all the people within their organization (from strategy to customer service), interact and have dialog with people, not broadcast and remain remote. Leaders will be able to amplify their messages through their own use of social media, and have the opportunity to demonstrate the behaviours that they typically ask their employees to exhibit. 

4) You mention in some of your speeches in conferences & events that there are still companies that fear the potential lack of productivity of employees using Social Media in the workplace. The dilemma for some companies is still control or not control. Should this be their main concern? Which benefits could companies have by using Social Media? What are the best practices you have been seeing in this field?

In my opinion there has been fear of any new communication technology being introduced to the workplace. When Telephones (Landlines) were first introduced, there was the fear that employees would spend all day on the telephone speaking with their friends. When email was first introduced the was a fear that inappropriate emails would be sent to the executives of the company, although they were often the last to use email. And when Internet browsers were introduced, the fear was that people would spend all day browsing the web, and accessing inappropriate content.  Today how many of us can do our jobs without a phone, email and a browser?  I do wonder what is the productivity impact of billions of corporate emails that are sent/received each day?

I believe that the same is true for the social media tools we speak of today, in the future they will be woven into the fabric of our work, and be essential to how we get our work done.

There are clearly areas of work where it is not appropriate for people to have continuous access to social media. However in my experience the use of social media to connect people with each other, to people who share the same profession interests, to share knowledge and experience can only enhance productivity, and in particular in knowledge based roles that many of us have.
There are concerns related to security and control, however I would question how much control companies have in reality, even of their own brand and marketing.  In my opinion the potential benefits far outweigh the risks.

5) Finally, many organizations are still maintaining the structures that worked in the industrial age; traditional managers are struggling to cope in this new era of collaboration, openness, transparency, How organizations, executives & leaders can adapt to this new era – and specially for the new generation that already grew up in this collaborative and open environment?

It took a long time to develop and establish the structures of the industrial age that we see in organizations today. They are well established, and no doubt have contributed to the business success that organizations have enjoyed. Fredrick Taylor (the father of scientific management) would recognise many of the structures, processes, and way of working that exists in companies today, although he died in 1915! Given the social, economic and spectacular technological progress in the last 100 years isn’t is about time the way we organize work also developed?

The question maybe, to what extents and where are these industrial process still appropriate in tomorrow’s organization? These practices and ways of working may still be appropriate in a manufacturing context, but so many of us are now working in ‘knowledge work’ not physically producing products.

With regards to how leaders and executives need to adapt, I have often used the analogy of swimming, you can’t learn to swim without them getting wet! Some people have a fear of water, others don’t understand the benefits, it takes time to learn to swim, and it can be frightening.  I would encourage Leaders to take the first steps, by using social media themselves, perhaps have a reverse mentor – a younger person coach them on what to use, how to use and what to expect. Start small, experiment, learn, and experience the benefits.  Be open, invite participation, encourage dialog and I believe you will experience new levels of engagement. Be Social!

Organizations are made up of people, people who share a common purpose; in an environment that is open, invites people to participate, enables them to collaborate, share, and contribute will be a more social business.

sympathy card 1

By Ian Gee

We now live in a world with so much data readily available that I sometimes think it is hard to know where to start! Little Data can be intimidating let alone what do we now do with Big Data! My last blog post ‘Making the Soft Stuff Hard’ was an exploration of the challenges this places on our practice. Your comments have really stimulated my thinking. I want to take this exploration a bit further and look at how the web and social media might offer us some new opportunities and possibilities as well as raise some challenges, in terms of data gathering and its use.

In particular, I want to explore the use of sentiment analysis in OD and how it can potentially help us to understand what is going on inside and outside the organisation. Sentiment analysis can be best described as ‘opinion mining’. It’s a software driven process that analyses text and identifies feelings, reflections, likes and dislikes. At its most sophisticated it can give you a very good temperature reading and a good sense of what peoples attitudes are to particular issues. It provides you with an understanding of the judgements people are making, their inclinations, passions and opinions.

Sentiment analysis in OD is nothing new. As practitioners we have always done it through reviewing the data we gather from interviews, observations, focus groups and surveys. Trying to make sense of the data, above and beyond the literal content we search for opinions, similarities and differences. We then make, what we hope, are skilful understandings and interpretations. These ‘data bubbles’ as I like to think of them, have been of immense benefit to me in my career and I hope to my clients as well. Now though, with the proliferation of social media and the web, data is everywhere and not just what we choose to focus on and systematically gather.

Most company intranets have the facility for employees to comment and contribute. In progressive companies, discussion and even dissent are actively encouraged. This generates masses of data and information. But what do we do with it other than watch it pass by like a news ticker? As an OD practitioner, challenged with developing large company interventions, my question is how can we make best use of this rich source of what is on the surface can seem to be random data or chitchat? I don’t believe we can simply ignore it and carry on as we have; we do this at our peril. At the same time, the sheer volume of data can be daunting. It is usually made up of long threads of comments covering multiple issues and usually across numerous platforms. To start to analyse it manually can seem to be bit like trying to read the Internet! This is where I think sentiment analysis provides an answer.

Here is a personal example of where I used a sentiment analysis tool to good effect. I was recently working on a global project where I was not at all sure whether or not some of the key players were truly supporting the changes or not. I am sure you recognise this as a classic issue of stakeholder alignment. Most of us have faced this at some time in a transformation project. As an experiment, I used a very simple and free web tool to analyse a large number of emails I had received from the team and was very interested in the results. By looking at the words and strings of sentences the tool highlighted the fact that the majority of the statements were indicative of people sitting on the fence and waiting. My intuition told me we had alignment issues, the sentiment analysis gave me the data I needed to have conversations with the team and find out what was needed to get them fully on board. Now you could argue I might just as well have trusted my intuition and ‘held up the mirror’ based on what I was feeling. However in a ‘High Tech’ environment, being able to share the results of the sentiment analysis made for a much more fruitful, useful and interesting discussion.

Apparently there are even more sophisticated tools that will analyse anything from tweets, blog posts and discussions both on the company intranet and also the web generally. I think for my own practice, when I am next asked to get involved with a company wide change programme, I am going to recommend that we use both internal and external sentiment analysis as part of the initial diagnosis and continue to use it, at given periods, to see how sentiment shifts (hopefully I a positive way!) as the transformation progresses.

On a final note I am assuming you are all familiar with and other similar ‘trip advisor’ type-sites for business? Have you ever used these sites to help you build a case for change?

I would be very interested to get your thoughts on the use of tools like sentiment analysis as a support to change and transformation. I am wondering if this is this one of the ways in which our practice of OD can be advanced and made more relevant and interesting? If you have any websites demonstrating tools to share that would be great. See below, for a couple of them from my friends Tim and Matthew. Over to you all now!


Posted: October 19, 2012 by Matthew Hanwell in Collaboration, Organization, Social Media

Is Collaboration a bad word? As in collaborating with the enemy – in the extreme punishable by death!

I always found it surprising working in a large organization that people didn’t collaborate far more, or be actively looking for ways to collaborate with their colleagues. This collaboration could be in the context of a team, a unit, in a meeting, a workshop, or across the whole company, using whichever form of communication medium. I would sometimes ask colleagues (half jokingly) what was the name of the company on their corporate badge – sometimes it felt as if colleagues were indeed the enemy.

Some neuroscientists believe we are hardwired to distrust everyone except our own family members, so no wonder it is difficult for us to collaborate with colleagues. How related are we?

Of course not all collaboration creates value, it can create a lot of noise and even disruption, but in my opinion it is better to have too much than too little. Sometimes a lack of collaboration is put down to the difficulty of finding people and knowledge within the organization. Corporate directories and knowledge management solutions are put in place to address this, but often these become underutilised once the initial hype and enthusiasm has dwindled. I remember asking an engineer once why they hadn’t completed their profile (skills, experience, etc.) in a corporate directory – they told me that they already had enough work to do, and didn’t want to attract any more. Perhaps people are simply unwilling to collaborate?

In a workshop setting, running group activities, most often the groups of people formed into temporary teams would by default compete against each other, assuming they were in a competitive situation verses the other teams. Almost never sharing or collaborating, even though no such instruction was given, and even in the case where a common external competitor was identified.

Individual objectives and goals have also been mentioned to me as a reason for a lack of collaboration: I’ll focus on my own goals or objectives. I am not rewarded for collaborating with others, or for helping them achieve their objectives, it just wastes my time. Or perhaps it is the stress associated with such goals, and deadlines? Could the answer lie in having more unifying objectives, objectives where it is only possible to accomplish the result through collaboration? Such objectives are challenging to set, and require that leaders transcend their own organization and see the bigger picture. And then at the end of the day how do you assess and reward individual’s performance in a collaborative effort? But almost by definition aren’t all organizations a collaborative effort!

A collaborative culture, a known set of collaborative technical capabilities are a foundation. One would hope that the overall purpose and objectives of the company or organization are sufficient to encourage both willingness and the ability to collaborate, especially these days when achieving this so often involves people from outside the traditional boundaries of a company in the sometimes very extended value chains.

For collaboration to flourish there needs to be a prevailing feeling that “we’re in the same boat together” !!

Social Media within the Enterprise

Posted: October 11, 2012 by Matthew Hanwell in Organization, Social Media

I’m looking forward to speaking at HR Tech Europe in Amsterdam later this month (25th & 26th October). I’ll be sharing my personal reflections, thoughts and lessons learned from evangelizing, encouraging, promoting and supporting the implementation and adoption of collaboration and social media capabilities within a large global enterprise. I’ll reflect on how the world of work in my opinion has and is changing, the challenges and opportunities, and what in my opinion one should focus on.

Having presented at HR Technology events over the years; it will be interesting to hear how my message is received in 2012. Is the concept of ‘social media’ now accepted and widely and successfully adopted within organizations? Does social media remain in the domain of Marketing as an external channel to customers and consumers? Have Corporate Communications picked up social media to improve communications? Have the IT folks installed some social media applications? And what role, if any has HR had in all this – maybe written a policy?

I remember talking about the use of Social media a few years ago at a large event in the US. Following my presentation I was surprised by the questions I received; how can we block this? How do we prevent that? How do we control what our employees do? What are the security risks? We can’t allow our employees to do that, it will impact productivity? We can’t trust our employees…..and so on…And I was in the USA the land of the free?

At subsequent conferences and events I included a slide where I reminded people of the fear and concerns that existed when earlier disruptive communication technologies were introduced into the workplace, (not quite going back to the pen) – The fixed line telephone – fear that people would spend all day speaking with their friends? Email – would employees send inappropriate emails to each other or to senior management – except that senior management might have been the last people to use email! Or Internet browsers – fear that employees would access/download inappropriate content, and spend all day browsing the web. I would challenge the audience to think how many of them could work ‘productively’without a telephone, email and a browser today? And state that in my opinion, so it will be with the social media capabilities, these will become as embedded in our daily work as email and browsers are today. And in any case performance and productivity, specifically for ‘knowledge workers’ can’t be measured based on the time a person spends sitting in front of a computer screen, but rather on the outcomes of the work they do. I hope now in 2012 we have moved beyond this, and that it is safe to leave this slide at home.

I’m also looking forward to catching up on the latest news and thinking from the world of HR Technology, and the Social Enterprise – it looks like a great line up of speakers and topics.