Digital communication channels need governance, and that need goes far beyond guidelines alone if we want leaders and employees to be capable, confident channel users. In our latest Leader Roundtable, Kademy coach Helen Humphreys joined with Comms Leaders to talk about governing in the messy, complicated digital comms space where channels quickly fill with user-generated content, business partners are apt to ignore Comms’ expertise and plans, and the leader voices we want on digital are often the ones missing. Read on for a re-cap on this insightful conversation.
When and how to intervene
Thorny governance issues often are rooted in our relationships with colleagues and their own maturity for using digital comms channels. Some colleagues are new to digital comms entirely and others are simply naïve about professional digital comms; few are masters of the craft.
Acknowledging these differences focuses Comms on thoughtful moderation for growing maturity, rather than maintaining authoritarian control over every post, script and email. Instead, with the help of our governance partners, the Comms team can moderate with targeted interventions that teach leaders and employees to use the channels most effectively on their own. Our Roundtable group explored two questions about this moderating work:
- What is your intervention threshold?
Moderating digital channels with an increasingly high threshold for intervention can help build channel credibility as a place for two-way conversations. This approach might run counter to the asks of your IT and HR governance partners, so your Comms team will need its own credibility to make this happen. At a minimum, keep an ongoing record of your experiences, interventions, and outcomes as a learning tool for understanding and evolving your moderation policies and procedures as your employees grow in maturity.
- Who should intervene?
Interventions come up most often in high-emotion topics that quickly become high-stakes professionally for everyone involved. It can help to have a “moderation committee” (rather than a single channel moderator) of employees, managers and leaders who represent the diversity of your organisation. Because of its representative make-up, this group may be more equipped to objectively and empathetically help employees learn through experience to be positive, professional, and polite in their digital conversations.
Focus on both quality and accessibility
Moderation decisions are more clear-cut when our digital channels themselves are business relevant – that is, the channels directly help the organisation achieve its specific business priorities. As you build out your digital channel ‘ecosystem’, your moderation activities will make sure the right conversations are happening with the right people in the right places. In this regard, our Roundtable group discussed both the quality and accessibility of their employees’ digital conversations:
- For quality, remember that some, but not all, channels should have open posting rights. You’ll want to have one “All Company” channel with restricted posting rights for employees to go to for accurate, up-to-date company information. For those channels with open posting rights, it’s necessary to help everyone know how to post, read, and respond in ways that build up individuals and teams as well as encourage sharing and collaboration. You’ll also want to teach employees which conversations are right for digital channels and which might need to be moved to other spaces when digital is no longer a good fit.
- For accessibility, digital channels are excellent resources for helping employees discover and learn more about the company, its activities, and its people. Look into your channels’ discovery features to see how to open up access to conversations, consider re-imagining and porting over content buried in legacy systems. Also, keep culture-building top of mind when you select new digital channels – how will this channel encourage, align with and shape our cultural values among specific employee segments and across the whole company?
The role of leaders
Lastly, leaders play a unique role in moderating digital conversations by guiding difficult topics, answering questions with the executive perspective and knowledge, and listening directly to employee voices. We’ve talked before about helping leaders participate in digital conversations; in this Leader Roundtable, we spent more time on the practicalities (and difficulties) of getting this done. Several good ideas came up for consideration:
- Ask digital natives to “reverse mentor” leaders who are not comfortable or familiar with these channels.
- Take advantage of tech functionalities (like Yammer’s ‘delegate’ feature) to model leader participation and score early wins on their behalf.
- Use ‘safe spaces’ where leaders are already engaged, like employee groups they sponsor, to practice joining in and contributing to digital conversations.
- Extend existing leader development sessions to incorporate low-stress training on the technical know-how for digital channels, rather than setting this training up as its own session.
Above all, remember that moderating work will evolve as your organisation grows in its digital maturity, so you’ll want to frequently check in with those doing the work to see what’s changing and how you can best support them. If you’d like to learn more about digital governance or have questions for us, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org.