So, I hear the economy is turning around. Indicators are indicating. Pundits are…punding. And we’re also being told that the last facet of the economy to rebound will be the jobs. The conventional wisdom (horribly over-simplified for effect) goes like this:
- ACME Manufacturing’s orders slow down due to the sluggish economy.
- ACME lays off workers.
- Economy slows down more.
- ACME lays off more workers.
- (Insert more of the same here.)
- Economy begins to heat up.
- Orders grow at ACME, but current workforce keeps pace.
- Economy continues to heat up.
- ACME is not able to keep pace any more, and is forced to add to their workforce.
And…scene! So, if we’re at the point where orders are beginning to grow then it may still be a while before the employment rate catches up. I like to think that we have an “employment rate” of around 89.8% right now. That sounds more optimistic than an unemployment rate of 10.2%. But that’s just me.
When the jobs start coming back, the paradigm will eventually shift to where companies have to actually attract the best talent again. But what will they do to catch these highly desirable employees?
If by “highly desirable” the company means technologically-savvy, social media-conscious workers, they should consider implementing and expanding programs which integrate social media in their corporate structure now – before the recovery is complete. A model to do this is Duke Energy. With little more than a core group of employees with forward-thinking ideas and the will to do the legwork, Duke has set up both internal and external social networks that have flourished, making them a desirable target for attractive talent when the economy fully recovers.
How did they do this? First, they wisely started the effort with small groups of participants. This allowed for an easier buy-in from the corporate leaders and decreased the footprint of their test. They also chose specific subjects instead of trying to make the effort all things to all people. For example, @DukeEnergyStorm was launched on Twitter in just a day to keep customers abreast of storm developments and resources during a power outage. They were also were willing to over-communicate with their internal partners. They answered questions, held hands, and made sure their early adapters became happy participants (if not evangelists) for the programs. They also were willing to look outside of the company to other sources, particularly the American Red Cross, for ideas on how to implement these programs. Finally, they kept business purpose at the forefront of their efforts. This kept corporate buy-in high and was a tool against the inevitable, “Tell me why we’re doing this again” mentality.
Michelle Pearson, Director of Social Media and Martha Brown, Internal Portal Program Manager, along with their respective teams at Duke Energy, deserve a tremendous amount of credit for blazing a trail other companies can follow – large and small. When the economic pendulum swings back far enough, they will attract the kind of talent that should keep Duke Energy at the forefront of innovation in their industry.