I just returned from NYC, where I attended a very productive conference hosted by the Insidedge team from Golin/Harris (http://insidedge.net), which specializes in employee communications and change management. [Full disclosure: I was co-founder of the Insidedge group and spent five great years with the team.] One of the salient themes was the impact of Web 2.0 technology (and philosophy) on employee communications. As in other recent conferences, I was struck by the wide gulf between companies that are fully embracing new tools and those that seem to be hoping all this talk of blogs and wikis would just go away. A telling symptom of this digital divide: several of these communication executives (all from major companies) had never heard of Second Life.
Perhaps the most interesting presentation was by Christopher Barger, until recently chief blogger at IBM and now serving the same function at General Motors. Chris’ remarks on IBM’s embrace of Web 2.0 tools was eye-opening; IBM serves as a great example of a very progressive approach to leveraging new technology to enhance internal communications – witness their laid-back approach to employee blogs and advanced use of collaboration tools. But as became clear during the presentations and discussions, one size does not fit all. What works for IBM may not work at, say, an auto manufacturer with an older, unionized workforce. (Good luck Chris!) Like in marketing or politics, you have to tailor your approach to your specific “customers.” But the ultimate lesson here is that all companies – no matter what their culture, demographics or industry – need to investigate and leverage relevant Web 2.0 tools. If not, as the new tech-savvy generations enter the workforce, companies risk being badly out of sync with the new communication model. And any communication team worth its salt should want to be leading the wave, rather than dragging the anchor.