Alcatel-Lucent is social on the inside

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While much of marketers' focus on social media has been how to use it to reach customers and prospects, many tech companies are also using social media tools internally to engage in employee marketing. Alcatel-Lucent, a telecommunications industry supplier, is a case in point. About four years ago, it began experimenting with internal communications via a blog from CEO Ben Verwaayen. Alcatel-Lucent also introduced an Ask Ben program, which allowed employees to email questions directly to the CEO. Two years ago, encouraged by the response to this and other efforts to expand transparency, Alcatel-Lucent installed a Jive Software platform to foster better communications among its global employees, which it calls Engage. Jem Janik, social business evangelist-Engage enterprise community manager at Alcatel-Lucent, said the company had three main objectives for Engage: 1) To reach more fellow employees across silos; 2) to find information and expertise within the company more efficiently; and 3) to stay engaged with Alcatel-Lucent beyond an employee's immediate work group. “Ultimately, the company was looking to transition to be a more transparent, open and agile company,” Janik said. Engage allows employees to communicate directly with each other no matter the silo, time zone or job title. It is also intended to reduce emails and unnecessary meetings. When the platform had its soft launch in April 2010, 100 employees were told about its existence. By the time the official launch came about two months later, 10,000 employees had signed up for Engage. “It went viral for sure,” Janik said. Now about 60,000 of Alcatel's 77,000 employees participate. Janik tells the anecdote of an Alcatel-Lucent marketing executive who was an Engage skeptic. The executive attempted to find the best information on the company's machine-to-machine communications efforts. After six hours of emailing various people in the company, he still hadn't found what he was looking for. But one of the people he emailed used Engage, posted a message and found the information on machine-to-machine communications in about a half-hour. Janik said the marketing executive is now a believer. “It's a way to be more productive and more efficient.” The platform also helps communications take on more of a peer-to-peer, rather than a top-down, character. For instance, the nominees for Alcatel-Lucent's CEO Excellence Award are now put to a vote via Engage, rather than being determined by the executive suite. Additionally, Alcatel-Lucent has used the platform to foster innovation. One program, for example, asked employees for ideas for new apps that might take advantage of an Alcatel-Lucent API. More than 200 ideas were ultimately submitted. Alcatel-Lucent isn't alone in employing Jive software to change the way employees communicate across the organization. Jive said Deutsche Bank, Groupon, Nike and Thompson Reuters are also using its software to create internal social networks. While Aon Corp. built its own People Finder social media employee network using Microsoft Co.'s SharePoint platform.
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