A case study about the role social media plays in maintaining and growing a powerful, engaging, and results-producing culture at a Chicago area custom software development firm, Geneca. Written by guest blogger Jerry Carducci.
A few months ago, in his most recent SMinOrgs S.M.A.R.T. News Digest, Jerry Carducci shared ideas and examples of how social media can be used to build and reinforce organizational culture. As promised, he now follows up that post with a case study about the role social media plays in maintaining and growing a powerful, engaging, and results-producing culture in a Chicago area firm.
In addition to the take-aways Jerry shares below, I’ll offer my own observations about what this case study highlights:
- Social media can be used not only to reinforce an organization's cultural values, but also to promote employee engagement.
- When used effectively, digital interactions mirror in-person interactions. An organization’s “digital” culture shouldn’t be different from its “physical” culture.
- As noted in Part 4 of the Social Media Primer, organizational size is neither a barrier to nor a key determinant of the effective use of social media.
- Social media can and should be fully integrated into an organization’s communication and collaboration efforts. It shouldn’t be viewed as a simple add-on to or substitute for other interaction activities. The keys are to focus on using the channels that offer the most efficient and effective means of achieving both individual and organizational goals and to ensure that “high tech” approaches are also “high touch.”
I always appreciate Jerry’s contributions to the S.M.A.R.T. Blog, and have enjoyed seeing him add to his collection of News Digests by creating and sharing a case study. If you would like to be a guest blogger and/or share a case study of your own, please email email@example.com.
- Courtney Hunt
In an environment filled with economic uncertainty, restructuring and doing more with less, I think we all would agree that aligning employees and actively engaging them with corporate values and belief systems is an increasingly challenging task.
Social media has found its way into many organizations, formally and informally, as a means of communicating and collaborating with and among employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. Since culture defines an organization and requires continual communication and reinforcement, I couldn’t help but think about whether social media could help connect the complexities of an organization and its culture. Can it serve as a platform to strengthen and reinforce an organization’s cultural value system, build community, and provide a method for inclusion and transparency – both internally and externally? And do best practice examples exist where an organization intentionally designs their social media strategy in a way that enriches their culture?
The answer to these questions is “yes.” I had an exclusive opportunity to explore how Geneca, a Chicago area custom software development firm, uses social media to manage one of its most valuable intangible assets -- its culture.
To the naked eye it would appear that each social application works independently. However, when you look deeper, one begins to see the strategic thought process underlying the individual approaches. I saw and heard firsthand how Geneca has designed its use of social media as a tool to protect, enrich and manage its culture and how it has become a source of differentiation and competitive advantage.
Key points I drew from the discussions and observations are:
- From its beginnings in 1998, Geneca’s culture represents the strength of the organization and provides the foundation for all the organization does. It is based on three fundamentals; serving clients, honoring commitments, and serving employees. Culture is so important that Joel Basgall, CEO says, “If we have to choose between growth and culture, culture wins. Without culture, the company goes nowhere.”
- Geneca’s culture is about inclusion and transparency. Absent are egos, personal and hidden agendas, and “sacred cows.”
- Protecting Geneca’s culture is a shared accountability throughout the organization and reflected in the way it sources for new talent and skills, connects with clients, and designs its workspaces.
- Geneca leverages social media, both internally and externally, to promote and extend its cultural values.
Internally Yammer serves as the company’s “water cooler,” providing a virtual platform for open discussion, innovative ideas and sharing interests.
- It brings together on-boarding, special interest groups, employee development and knowledge transfer, corporate goals and innovation in a way that is engaging and creates buy-in.
- Employees actively engage in forming vision, mission and goals on initiatives along four strategic imperatives; Culture, Clients, Organizational Structure and Organizational Growth. By taking a role in their development, employees take ownership and accountability for results.
- Employees are able to post ideas on Yammer, which through collaborative exchanges develop and evolve into “great” ideas.
Externally Geneca extends its culture to continually build and strengthen relationships outside the organization. The message about Geneca’s culture and what it means to all stakeholders comes across loud and clear.
- Geneca uses its website (www.geneca.com), LinkedIn (Geneca and Geneca and Friends), Twitter (@genecapeople and @geneca) and its blog, Getting Predicable, to convey its cultural values in the form of shared practices and discussion.
- Through these media, prospective job candidates can get a firsthand look at what work life is like at Geneca, meet Genecians and see personal interests and philosophies.
- Geneca also uses these channels to share best practices with others in the industry.
Geneca uses social media in ways to reinforce, convey and extend its culture. It has successfully connected these media in a way that is cohesive, delivers a consistent message and creates a virtual community that generates value not only for its bottom line, but for employees, clients and the industry. When everyone comes through the door, they are focused on one common objective: making software development predictable.
The results are impressive and have enabled Geneca to sustain its growth through the economic turmoil during the past four years. Geneca continues to be widely recognized for its progressive people practices and is among the Best Places to Work in the Chicago area and Illinois.