Are social business and corporate culture inevitably linked?
In a recent podcast, Mitch Joel interviewed Fred Reichheld, author of The Ultimate Question 2.0, and creator of the Net Promoter methodology. Fred made a statement that has stuck with me in the several weeks since I tuned in:
“You can’t be the best place to buy, if you’re not the best place to work.”
As social business moves from the toddler stage to youth stage, it’s becoming accepted wisdom that the best and most social organizations transform from the inside out. Whether it’s Charlene Li’s Open Leadership, The NOW Revolution from Amber Naslund and me, Humanize from Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, Smart Business, Social Business from Michael Brito, or Olivier Blanchard’s Social Media ROI, there is a chorus postulating that people make your company social, not tools and technology.
Does Being a Good Place to Work Impact Social Business?
Last week’s release of the 2012 FORTUNE list of 100 Best Companies to Work For got me thinking about whether being employee-centric inherently impacts the social business aptitude of the company.
To search for a correlation, I turned to the Dachis Group Social Business Index, which ranks companies in near real-time based on the ongoing social media conversations about them from internal and external audiences. For each of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, I matched up their Social Business Index ranking (where applicable).
Observations on Social Business and Employee Centrism
When starting this investigation, I had no idea what I’d find. I recognize that this is not an apples to apples comparison, as many of the companies (especially smaller ones) ranked as Best Companies to Work For are not in the Social Business Index at all. Also, some of the companies that are Best Companies to Work For are in industries (finance, healthcare) where outward facing social participation (as indexed by Dachis Group) is sometimes still in the embryonic stages, with growth often stunted by a diet of regulation and fear. And of course, the methodologies of the two rankings are massively different.
Even with the analytical shortcomings of this approach, however, the findings were surprising to me:
- Among the 100 Best Companies to Work For, 40 are ranked in the top 900 companies in the Social Business Index
- 29 of the Best Companies to Work For are ranked in the top 400 companies in the Social Business Index
- Among the top 100 companies in the Social Business Index, 11 are also Best Companies to Work For in 2012
More likely may be the hypothesis – and here I am clearly drawing conclusions to suit my own assumption (shared by many other social business authors and consultants) that the embrace of an open culture makes companies a more desirable place to work, and this openness then seeps into interactions with customers and prospects. That the cultural qualities that make a company “good” in the eyes of employees also make the company “good” and worthy of chatter in the eyes of external publics via social channels.
This is the “rich get richer” philosophy that I’ve written about before at Convince & Convert. Companies that genuinely care about their employees and customers are typically good at social media, because it’s just one more way for that caring to manifest.
The Social Business Chicken and Egg
Another interesting finding in my comparison is that among the 40 companies appearing on both lists, only five (Starbuck’s, Microsoft, Mattel, Hasbro, and Cisco) were ranked higher on the Social Business Index than on the Best Companies to Work For list.
I wonder then if there is a natural progression at work here. That companies that embrace openness and employee centrism fully articulate and implement those values internally first, before eventually radiating outward to customers and prospects. This stands to reason, as most companies (and certainly the vast majority on both lists) had strong corporate cultures long before social media and social business were coined, much less deemed to be important.
And I question whether it’s even possible to do succeed in reverse order. Is it possible for a company to be particularly and disproportionately good at social media and external-facing social business first, and then shore up their culture and employee focus second?
Can you make your customers happy without having happy employees first?