A closer look at IBM Canada’s successful community-building, social media presence and employer branding development efforts
At our recent Randstad Award ceremony held on April 22nd, IBM was voted the best employer brand of 2015, based on an independent employer branding research polling 9,500 Canadians. The organization has been perceived as having the best salary and employee benefits, career progression opportunities and training. Over the years, IBM has time and again innovated in technology. But to Pat Horgan, VP, Manufacturing, Development & Operations, IBM’s true innovation resides in the tight, proud community they created: the IBMers. I had the chance to see that community in action, when we announced their big win online on Wednesday night. A flood of IBMers tweeted their support and pride. And it struck me that this was in no way a one-time thing. To build such a strong community, you need to nurture it.
Why do you think IBM is such a powerful brand in Canada?
Over the last 100 years, IBM moved from making cheese slicers, clocks, scales, card punches to innovating in areas like cloud, analytics and mobile technology to help make the world work better.
IBM stands for progress. We want to be essential to the clients we serve, and the best way to do that is have our employees – our IBMers –take the lead in bringing our values to life and adapting them to a changing world.
We believe, as an innovation-based company, in the importance of open exchange — between IBM and its clients, and among the many constituents of the emerging business and societal ecosystem.
We make important contributions to the world, to the future of business and technology, and to public dialogue on a broad range of societal issues. It is important for IBM and IBMers to share with the world the exciting things we're learning and doing.
How do you foster employee engagement?
We believe that, at the center of our communities should be IBMers—as the greatest source of influence to build belief, not only in our products and services, but in our role as the agenda setter for the industry.
As the IBM brand is primarily experienced and embodied through IBMers , we give them a set of practices that define how we behave (practices that were developed from IBMers own ideas of what really mattered), and we are providing an internal framework for brand stewardship as experienced by the IBMer.
These practices are reinforced with seminars, education, and unnumerable blogs written by IBMers on how they are living the practices in their daily lives, to help others understand how to embody the practices.
What initiatives and tools have you launched to encourage exchange and interaction?
We use video blogs. Our CEO, on her second day on the job, posted a video blog for all employees. She had 205,000 visits, 751 comments, and 175 likes. Half of IBM saw that video within 48 hours.
IBM’s Think Academy is another relatively new initiative, supported by a community. It’s IBM's social/digital platform to educate employees, clients, partners and friends on growth topics critical to our success.
We recently launched ThinkFridays where once a month the Corporation focuses on a strategic initiative and encourages all employees globally to participate in 2 hour learning module.
Our IBM Expertise Locator, allows us to reach out to IBM experts for internal collaboration and external engagement.
How social is IBM?
IBM has been “social” in the online sense of the word for decades. In 1997, IBM actively recommended that its employees use the Internet —when many others were seeking to restrict employees' Internet access. We actively share brand experiences on social media – designed for employees internally and also for them to amplify externally.
In 2003, we made a strategic decision to embrace the blogosphere and to encourage IBMers to participate. We also undertook the first reexamination of its values in nearly 100 years. Through "Values-Jam," an unprecedented 72-hour discussion on IBM's global intranet, IBMers came together to define the essence of the company. The result? A set of core values, defined by IBMers for IBMers, that shape the way we lead, the way we decide, and the way we act.
Since then we’ve continued to advocate IBMers' responsible involvement in social media, internally in applications like IBM Connections, and externally via third party applications (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube), for sales, communication, marketing and recruiting efforts.
The most recent example is Canada’s “country twitter” handle -- @IBMer_CA , a new way to engage IBMers we just launched in January of this year.
What would you say to other organizations who want to develop a strong employer brand?
Don’t divide brand and culture: one of our senior leaders, Sandy Carter, likes to say “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
Listen –crowd-sourcing employees ideas have helped us strengthen the brand and given employees a real stake in its success.
Stay authentic – don’t base success on a product or technology but on the reflection of your corporate character – and define that first before you expand brand responsibility outside marketing.
Don’t be afraid to ‘give up’ some control of the brand in favour of having employees take a greater ownership stake in its success.
Collaborate even more than what you think is required.
Trust your colleagues and employees to be interested in maintaining brand health and help them understand what that means and the role they can play in the brand’s success – if required.
Who knows who will be voted Top employer brand at next year’s Randstad Award. Will IBM replicate West Jet’s extraordinary winning streak with three consecutive wins? One thing is for sure, IBM has all intentions to continue to strive for innovation… and to keep their employees tweet, share, and promote their pride of being IBMers.