While writing my last post, I got to thinking about all of the conversations I’ve had with the talented, ambitious, entrepreneurial colleagues I’ve gotten to know over the last few years. Most of these individuals serve, in some fashion, as social media evangelists – they’re the ones leading the charge to get their organizations on Twitter, to start blogging, to start using new technology to really change how their organizations operate.
I quickly realized how valuable these people are to me, not to mention how valuable they are to their own organizations. They’re always willing to share best practices, war stories, and valuable content that I can use every day. They inspire me as I see what they’ve been able to accomplish in similar bureaucratic environments. They seem to make everyone around them happier through their enthusiasm for using social media to connect with people. Their ambition and passion drives others to want to do more, to try new things, and to work together to solve problems.
When I talk with these people’s peers, I hear similar stories – about the innovation they’ve enabled, the initiatives they’ve championed, and the value they’ve provided others. These social media evangelists are clearly recognized by their peers (and often, by their competitors) for making a difference and being an invaluable part of their organizations.
However, when I speak with these social media evangelists themselves, I often hear a very different story. It’s not that they aren’t appreciated – they are. It’s more that their managers haven’t figured out how to appreciate them. Rather than hearing all about the promotions, raises, or awards that I would expect to hear about from employees as valued as they are, I hear things like:
- “Sure, I may be the “Director of Social Media,” but I don’t have any authority to make decisions and wasn’t given a budget or a team to actually scale this effectively.”
- “My bosses say they love the work that I’m doing, but I haven’t been promoted yet, because they don’t have a progression model for someone who does social media.”
- “I’m constantly getting recruiting calls from other organizations and headhunters because they recognize the value that I bring, but I don’t think my boss even understands what I do.”
- “Why am I putting my butt on my line to bring about some real change in policies and culture, when I get the same raise as the guy who keeps his head down, does his job, and goes home at 5:00?”
- I love working in social media – I feel like I’m getting an opportunity to make some real changes here, but damn, it’s exhausting constantly trying to get buy-in for my initiatives and justify my existence.”
- “I’ve met and worked with people from across other teams throughout the organization, but because those teams fall outside of my boss’s area of responsibility, I don’t receive any credit for that work.”
If, by most accounts, these social media evangelists are highly valued for their contributions by their peers, colleagues, and competitors, why then, do they not feel like they’re valued members of their own organization? Why aren’t they moving quickly up the corporate ladder? Why do they feel exhausted and frustrated (but simultaneously excited and motivated)? Why are these social media evangelists highly sought after by recruiters and competitors, yet often ignored or misunderstood by their own management chain?
If you’re the manager for one of these social media evangelists, here are five ways to ensure that they do indeed feel the love:
- Do some research about social media and your organization. Go beyond just what you see on the status reports and performance reviews and find out exactly what impacts this person has had. Reading “starting the organization’s Yammer network” doesn’t sound all that impressive until you actually join the network and see thousands of people from across the organization collaborating with each other in ways that were impossible using existing technology.
- Talk to other people. What’s been the real impact of this person’s work? This impact doesn’t have to be measured in dollars and cents. Have they empowered others to become more innovative? Has their work resulted in changed policies and practices that have opened doors for other initiatives? Find out exactly how their peers look at this individual and why.
- Realize that your traditional business models and performance reviews may need to be adjusted. You can’t tell someone they’re a high performer and you value what they bring to the organization, but fail to promote them or give them a raise because they may not fit nicely into your existing models. Work with them to identify ways to keep them moving up the corporate ladder without destroying their creativity and ambition.
- Consider using non-traditional rewards. The social media evangelist loves getting promotions and raises (who doesn’t?), but they also highly value rewards that make their work easier and allows them to be more effective. Instead of the traditional “Great job!” certificate or Starbucks gift card, consider giving them an intern that can help them with their day-to-day work or a small yearly budget that they can use to purchase specialized software (Photoshop, etc.) or hardware (Flip cameras, additional RAM, etc.).
- Support their initiatives. Check in regularly and ask if there’s anything you can help with – that may be something simple like sending an email to the team to show that you support what they’re proposing or setting up a meeting for them with a member of the organization’s leadership to discuss his/her plans and dreams.
Most importantly (and this is the easiest and most effective tactic), make sure that you actually care about the work that they’re doing. This may sound like common sense, but every time you giggle when this highly valued employee says the word “tweet,” know that a small part of him/her is dying. They take their jobs very seriously and have spent many many hours trying to help others understand the work that they do – the last thing they need is to have to explain what a wiki is to the person who’s supposed to be their biggest champion. Remember that while these people may present additional managerial challenges, they’re also some of your most entrepreneurial, ambitious, innovative, and passionate employees. Make sure that they’re feeling the love from you, because if they’re not, there are many other organizations searching high and low for people just this who are more than ready to show them the love.