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To join the CNBC Workforce Executive Council, apply at cnbccouncils.com/wec.
Workforce Wire

Chief Listening Officer: The must-have position for every organization in 2022

Zachary DiRenzo 
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Key Points
  • An organization’s online activity can make the difference between retaining or losing top talent.   
  • It’s crucial that organizations proactively form both an external and internal social media strategy. 
  • Organizations should empower employees to use social media positively.
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Chesnot | Getty Images

In today's tight labor market, social media is a battleground. Whether it's ensuring the sanctity of a company's reputation or curating a positive brand presence, an organization's online activity can make the difference between retaining or losing top talent. 

"Use social media in a position of strength, rather than fear," Sree Sreenivasan, visiting professor of digital innovation at Stony Brook University and CEO and co-founder of Digimentors, said last week during a CNBC Workforce Executive Council Town Hall.

Organizations that are solely reactionary to social media have already lost the race, he says, and it's crucial to have both an external and internal social media strategy. Sreenivasan told members of the WEC that an important step is appointing a "chief listening officer," whose role can be filled by anyone or any team, with the purpose of doing what many organizations fail to do — listen. 

Here are the essential tips Sreenivasan shared to make sure you're listening well on social media as an organization. 

Be proactive  

Externally, organizations must be purposeful in finding useful social media comments. Sreenivasan says companies should designate time to monitor trends among posts and comments on social media that mention the organization, as well as consistently making SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analyses to strategize solutions. This requires responding to negative comments.   

"If there are errors of fact, we have to correct it. Because then it becomes part of the record, and people say, 'Oh, you never corrected it. So, it must be true.'" Sreenivasan said.  

Internally, HR has an obligation to train employees on the organization's social media practices during their orientation, especially with the increasing importance of social media in daily personal and work lives. Organizations must be clear of what they expect of their employees and outline penalties for misconduct over social media, and not simply be reactive to conflicts. It's also a misconception that only younger employees are the ones that must be taught about rules; senior-level employees are just as liable to make mistakes.  

"Having these plans before you need them is so important," Sreenivasan said. "Once [the crisis] happens, it's almost too late because things [on social media] go so quickly." 

However, organizations should not only use social media training to warn employees about what they can and cannot post, but to empower them to use social media positively. "There are also good things that happen when employees go in on day one and say, 'Here's my day one at your company.' That's a beautiful thing," Sreenivasan said. "They're at their most excited, and that goes across the network, and thousands of people could see it. And it's a great way to show how welcoming and open your company is."    

Find the right tone  

Tone deafness kills — internally and externally. Nevertheless, securing the right tone is not always as difficult as it seems. "What's commonsense in real life, is commonsense on social media," Sreenivasan said.  

Even brands that have stellar external communications can fail internally. Important organizational practices must be translated to digital with the same care and consideration as they would be handled with in-person interactions. For example, HR cannot overlook how signs of layoffs, like being locked out of company email, may arrive digitally before having a conversation. "The same things that we have in traditional HR, traditional workplace procedures, we should think about on the digital as well," he said. 

Embrace storytelling from within  

Flooding social media channels with positive news is often a challenge, but to be more in touch with the workplace, Sreenivasan says organizations should generate social content from their greatest resource: their workforce. Not only does this improve authenticity, but it also builds overall community. There are great things happening in your organization; go out and highlight them.   

Sreenivasan, who was previously chief digital officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, recalled a security guard in her fifties who was incredibly skilled at Instagram, and how she garnered the attention of the platform with her positive social presence.   

Offering small incentives, like company swag or contest entries, to employees who share their organization's content on their personal socials can encourage social activity across and promotion across the organization. 

Social media is not a passing phenomenon, and it's imperative for HR teams to have a strategic social media plan woven into the fabric of most of their employees and future employees' lives. As the war for talent has become more competitive, smart organizations will balance proactive and reactive outreach to best connect with their people.  

"Giving our employees a chance to learn and teaching them and training them can make a difference," Sreenivasan said.  

To join the CNBC Workforce Executive Council, apply at cnbccouncils.com/wec.

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