"Employee engagement" and online bosses

You may have seen me being grumpy in the past about the phrase Employee Engagement. It’s one of those buzz phrases that get bandied about and in fact end up becoming devalued as a result. But it would be foolish to ignore the truth that more managers making more effort to connect better with their staff would be “a good thing”.

I began to wonder how employee engagement manifests itself online and realised that it is probably quite a big challenge. How does a manager begin to connect with staff online? Is it appropriate on non work systems like Facebook and Linkedin? Linkedin appears a more obvious choice on the face of it but given how much it is used for job hunting would you want your boss part of your network? Even if you have internal social platforms what is the right way to connect with staff? Maybe they are already active and already have extensive networks. Isn’t this potentially the worst case scenario of looking like a Dad dancing at a disco?

We all start by lurking, becoming part of a group online and watching how they communicate and work together. Once we have something to say, or a good question to ask we de-lurk and off we go. But all the harder when you are the boss. Maybe you just have to be brave. Maybe you can’t be everyone’s “friend”. Maybe the social aspect of online tools is a stretch for most managers. Maybe it’s a stretch for most of their staff. Can your manager be your friend? Do you want him to be?

As ever online probably isn’t as different from “real life” as we think. If you have a friendly and outgoing boss who is genuinely interested in you and wants to make a real connection then social tools are going to help. If you don’t, if you have a boss who doesn’t trust you and who always finds reasons to find you wanting, then I reckon the chances of him using any social tools, let alone wanting to be your friend online, are slim!