It has to be one of an HR Directors worse nightmares – one of your employees leaks news about your organisation to the competitors, the public or the media.
Yesterday HMV the UK retailer was announcing to their staff that 190 positions were being made redundant in their head office and distribution network. What they did not realise at the time is that one of their staff was live Tweeting the action.
In my time as an SVP Human Resources unfortunately there have been countless occurrences where I have had to deliver similar news. It is never an easy thing to do, even in circumstances where you and your people know it is inevitable, as is likely to have been the case with HMV whose organisation is being managed by administrators.
One of the most critical things to do when managing complex organisational change is to be honest and timely with your communication to your people. It is unreasonable to think that employees in your organisation will not express to their family and friends not only what has happened but HOW the news of the change was delivered to them and what they THINK and FEEL about the way they and their colleagues have been treated.
And of course they can easily speak to the media. I remember one significant organisation change we announced in my last corporate position when there were TV reporters waiting for staff to leave the office at close of business and asking them to comment on heir opinions were of our organisations restructure and redundancy announcement
Today however, thanks to easy touse social technologies people can share their opinions to their network online quickly and in real time.
However, what makes the HMV Twitter case different is that one of their people was Tweeting from their official (verified) Twitter account. The Twitter account was not hacked and the employee in question had access rights to it.
A number of blog articles on the story are commenting that HMV leadership needed to know how to manage the Twitter account and have policies in place.
It goes without question that you also need to have governance in place for managing your social media accounts and a social media policy.
In circumstances such the HMV organisational announcement, a senior member or your communications and/or HR team could have administration access to your social media channels. I am not suggesting that you automatically revoke access to staff who are managing your social media accounts. You have to assess the risk. We have to trust our people.
As a leader you need to ensure that you do everything in your power to create an environment where they trust you. And building trust is not always straight forward.
I remember when I first moved to Ireland in 2000, I had a conversation with one of the members of my team and he shared with me that he did not trust the leadership of the organisation based on his 20 years of experience in the different companies he had worked. For him, and for many of us, the ability to believe and trust his boss and the local and global leadership team was influenced by people had had worked with in the past.
Trust in the organisation you work for, the leadership and your colleagues is hard to build and easy to lose.
In the case of HMV Twitter crisis, the Tweets have been deleted but thanks to people on Twitter screen shots have been taken. Those screen shots have now appeared in articles by traditional media from Australia to the US and of course in Ireland and the UK where HVM have retail stores.
The HMV employee who posted the Tweets to the HMV Twitter account has also been posting on her own account (though it is not verified that this is the person). She comments (see the screen shots):
I would apologise for the #hmvXFactorFiring tweets but I felt like someone had to speak. As someone without a family to support/no mortgage
I felt that I was the safest person to do so. Not to mention, I wanted to show the power of Social Media to those who refused to be educated.
Just to set something straight, I did not ‘hijack’ the hmv twitter account. I actually assumed sole responsibility of Twitter & Facebook – over two years ago, as an intern.
When asked (this afternoon), I gladly provided the password to head office.
I also set another member of staff up as a manager on Facebook, and removed myself from the admin list. I didn’t resist any requests to cooperate.
And she later Tweeted:
I hoped that today’s actions would finally show them the true power and importance of Social Media, and I hope they’re finally listening.
You can see their most recent Tweets in the screen captures below where she posted around 6 am this morning:
@hmvtweets you need to go to ‘settings’ and revoke my account access as an admin. I’m still able to switch between accounts.
It appears she was using the corporate Twitter account to try to get colleagues in HMV to listen and value her opinion about the use of social media in business – and in the most recent Tweet she is educating them on basic administration of their corporate Twitter account!
Listening is a key skill to develop and use in your journey to building trust in you and the strategy and actions orf your organisation. In the context of relationships in the workplace, it is imperative that as leaders we need to work towards a situation we all listen and respect each others opinions – even if they do not agree with each other. Perhaps like many organisations, HMV had concerns about how to be effective in their use of social media in their organisation?
The HMV account have deleted the rogue Tweets from their corporate Twitter account but have posted (screen shot):
Our @hmvtweets picked up a lot of attention today, it’s clearly been a tough day for us all at hmv, please stick with us #hmvxfactorfiring
There have been job losses today, but not in our stores. We are still open for business, thx for your continued support #savehmv
One of our departing colleagues was understandably upset. We’re still here thou, thx for supporting hmv thro these challenging times
It must be a challenging time for both leaders and employees right now and i am sure the last thing they want to do is cause undue concern for their employees and of course their customers.
What can we learn from the HMV Twitter crisis?
My colleague Shel Holz in the US comments:
Candor, proactive communication and transparency—along with compliance with regulatory requirements around disclosure and other aspects of a layoff—must guide our approach to these kinds of announcements. It’s the only way to ensure you don’t have to respond to misconceptions created by unofficial disclosures by people who are not in possession of all of the facts.
I agree with Shel and in addition as I mention above, putting in place governance and social media policies is a foundation for effective social media use in organisations. However, put put aside the technologies, policies and processes, you can also help mitigate the risk of a social media crisis occurring by building an culture in your workplace where your people believe, trust and respect in you as their leader and in the decisions you and your executive team make.
Do you agree it is not just about the technology, training and tools? What other learnings have you taken from this social media crisis case study?
As a side note – one global brand is jumping on the trending hashtag to promote their retail solution – it’s a bit of a far stretch for me but I am guessing they want to build visibility with retailers who are watching the HMV Twitter crisis unfold.
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