8 Tools to Help Companies Connect With Employees

Socrates, Circuit and Spotlight: you may find these sites while searching online, but you won’t be granted access. Unless, that is, you work at General Motors, Intel, or SunTrust Banks; these are intranet sites for those companies’ employees.

Intranets, proprietary social media platforms, mobile apps and rewards programs were on PRSA Connect13’s conference “employee social communications” agenda in New York on Tuesday, where corporate presenters ranging from industry leaders to resurgent companies shared case studies.

The following connection tips and tools aren’t new, but these companies, as well as SAS and IBM, found interesting ways to adapt them for employees.

1. Intranet: Circuit is Intel’s go-to platform, created to help employees follow company news and post related comments. Intel’s corporate initiatives director Melissa McVicker told attendees that employees use their personal pages to enter countdowns to their sabbaticals (which they earn every seven years).

2. Customized social media platforms: SAS maintains The Hub, hosted by SocialCast. Here employees join personal and work groups and give props to peers with a “thanks” feature. They’re also encouraged to submit ideas — and top-rated concepts make their way to R&D. CEO Jim Goodnight posts content, as do many employees. The Hub also serves as a real-time engagement platform: according to SAS internal communications manager Becky Graebe, two employees met, fell for each other and literally got engaged there.

3. Mobile apps: Intel introduced GoMyBenMobile, an app where its engineers and manufacturing employees have easy access to benefits information and company news without needing laptops.

4. Q & A crisis platforms: During its recent bankruptcy, General Motors’ provided employees with an “Answer Me Now” capability so they could send queries about pressing concerns (i.e. will my plant be shut down?). GM executive director Katie McBride said, “We weren’t afraid to tackle the latest issues and rumors.” Over 100 questions were submitted daily and answered within 24 hours.

5. Employee ambassador programs: GM’s “Product Ambassador” offering allows employees to take GM cars home on weekends for test drives, while the “Ride and Drive” program encourages employees and GM retirees to test-drive GM’s and competitors’ cars. Thousands have volunteered, providing the brand with a way to “unleash our [internal] talent to tell our story.”

6. Influencer marketing platforms: According to Ben Edwards, VP global commerce and digital marketing for IBM, the company “activate[s]…experts at scale”. IBM Select is “a highly bespoke service for their distinguished engineers”. This group engages with clients online about complex IT enterprise topics. It’s a closely monitored, extremely competitive offering.

7. Fun events: Unconventional events serve as morale builders. As Graebe said, they also “make good business sense, leading to lower attrition rates”. On Earth Day, for example, SAS holds a junk swap where employees can exchange old items. In mid-March Intel hosted “Pie Day”, where employees threw pies at top executives.

8. Graphic facilitation: During the conference, ThinkLink Graphics created images on dry erase boards during each presentation to visually depict presenters’ content. Selected colorful highlights are shown here.

Do your firms utilize any of these tools? If they don’t, then they probably should.