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Get Started with Social Media as a Culture Tool

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What would you say if I asked you if you were using Pinterest as an organizational or change management tool? How about Tumblr?

I'm betting common responses range from "That's for the mommy bloggers" or"Isn't that for only people who bake/clean/sew/read the current YA thriller too much?" In fact, there's a Pinterest board called "Human Resources Should Stay off Pinterest" with case "pins" portraying memes that jokingly demonstrate certain, er, humor that could get HR, OD, or manager of peoples in trouble should their public boards leak to the public. But the very jokes that that board elaborates on is why you should be using tools like Pinterest and Tumblr to help you motivate and connect with the people in your organization. Many times, using visuals to articulate messy or uncomfortable feels can be easier than trying to use words. Here's where memes, Pinterest, Tumblr and the like can be a game-changer for your culture or OD toolkit.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs talks about the different levels of needs that each human craves in order to be whole. The bottom four of the needs pyramid (picture below) are what Maslow called "deficiency needs". If these four bottom parts of the pyramid aren't met, the individual feels anxious, or that something's not complete. That person can't even begin to really get on board and get completely motivated and focused for the project, program, or task looming ahead.

As a tool, Pinterest pins and Tumblr sites like the recently viral Working at a Nonprofit, in their visual representation and curation of community, can directly speak to esteem, friendship, and self-actualization. People create these online spaces because they need to feel they're not alone (security/friendship) and because they need to feel more confident or re-juice their creativity (esteem/self-actualization) for their jobs at hand. Depending on the vibe of the organization or community you work with, these tools might be a great addition to your management toolbox in helping manage change.

Understanding and cultivating the culture of your organization and better yet, the motivation of why people like to come to work everyday, should be a top priority for managers and those that help to develop and manage the people side of things.

For most individuals, it's not the bottom part of the pyramid they're worried about and as Maslow pointed out, the brain is a complex organ. Humans focus on multiple areas at a time. Yet, a certain need can "dominate" a person's train of thought.  What if there's an executive transition, or bad stock report for Q1, a looming recession, or a large amount of staff leaving the organization?No matter the size of a company, this will have an effect on a staffer somewhere and have that person thinking about the safety and security of being able to provide and survive.

Sometimes, there's an overlap of the safety and love/belonging levels. Say one of the folks who've left the organization was a long time friend of another staffer. And the exit wasn't pretty...it's bound to create another train of thought in the person left behind that could send tremors throughout the organization if left alone.

Or maybe your group isn't going through such negative life changing events as listed above, but instead you've achieved something positive: a huge growth spurt that allows you to hire five new staff or create a new department. The esteem part of the pyramid has just become vitally important for you with an overlap to the self-actualization.

Maybe you have one or all of these things affecting and changing your organization culture. What's the next step to help that change go smoothly?

Before you look to the tools though, remember you need to create or update your strategy for managing change in your organization. You want to fix the problem, not just the symptoms.

Assess what's been happening: Sit down with a group of folks (the office workers, the remote staff, the contractors, the vendors, and if you're an association, the community you work with)  and start asking questions about what makes your company fun and amazing and what's changed. It's great if you have value statements and a great mission to orient around, especially if you're going through an executive transition, because that helps you refocus the conversation on why you do what you do, rather than a person who might have embodied the organization.

Glean at least two objectives you can focus on and measure (i.e. Our company likes to change the face of education and help our workers consume their weight in chocolate cookies). These are the things you want to get back to doing before the "need" started to distract.  Don't worry about making the assessment crazy formal: you could enact a simple anonymous pre-assessment and post-assessment, baked into the rest of your change management strategic plan or have more of a qualitative thermometer approach of whether your organizational conversation is trending more positive or negative overall, looking to overall effectiveness and attitude for indicators.

With these fundamentals in place, now you can play with the tools that will help you help people manage their coping and empower their part in the community.  If you use Pinterest or Tumblr (you could blog or instagram too), it's best to develop a narrative that will allow you to connect with a majority of the people who make up the workplace AND help control the way people are talking through and about the change that's taking place.  Check in on your current brand voice (is your org snarky, sweet, or silly?) and then open up an org Pinterest and/or Tumblr account and get ready to create!

These sites need seeds and tending. Plant just enough to get the conversation going, encourage staff and community to contribute to the pins or posts, and together find ways to visualize the happiness and security you want to communicate out. Or as with the aforementioned nonprofit tumblr site, allow people to commiserate together. Help guide the conversation in a positive way, and remember that if dialogue goes in a way that seems unfriendly, it's okay to let folks talk it out as long as it stays respectful. The point of these sites is to allow people to "be together" and build that safety net, move past the distracting need dominating their brains, and re-focus on the goals of their work anew.

While change is never easy, it really is a team sport. Tools like Tumblr and Pinterest allow us to play through it together. Has your organization gone through a change recently? Are you using a tool like this to help manage it?