Guest post by Danna Vetter, VP, Consumer Strategies, ARAMARK – Part 2 in a series
There are no stronger or truer words in the business world: your people are your product. It sounds so simple, yet time and time again, companies make decisions and take action without including the pieces that make them whole. You are the sum of your parts. With the support and influence of your people, you can accomplish anything at a company.
So at a large company like ARAMARK, we knew right away that the first step to successfully becoming a social business was through our people. We created a center-led Social Media team that, among other things, is responsible for developing tools, training, and resources to help our businesses accelerate their social media strategies. But above all else, they are tasked with championing the social media effort for the whole organization and leading a Center of Excellence that empowers our employees to leverage social media into the way they do business.
Unless our people integrate social media into their work lifestyle, we will never become a true social business. We had to work with others from around the company or socializing these concepts would be comparable to shouting in the Grand Canyon, an echo only heard by us.
ARAMARK’s multi-business structure makes for a natural hub-and-spoke model to spread the message and ideas of social media. We created a social delegate team, made up of individuals from each of our businesses and functional groups. Delegates were tabbed as the designated leader for social media in their business area, helping build the social media strategies and manage the communication and activity for the field. Early on in the build, we made sure the team had vertical depth by including functional area delegates, who brought perspectives from groups such as Legal, HR, and Communications.
At first, we thought that the delegates should be of a certain role or position in the company. Having a certain clout, the thought was, would help drive influence to the late adopters. But what we found out was that it’s really about finding the right people, not level or title. Being a delegate wasn’t a full time job – it was a designation and we needed people to be a part of this beyond their regular roles. If it wasn’t the right people, they weren’t going to find the time to do something that could be considered additional.
Our delegates are a diverse mix of roles and responsibilities across our company – we have marketers that have decades of experience yet limited social exposure, we also have relatively young professionals with maybe five years in the working world that grew up with the explosion of social media. But the common thread among them all is this – an energy and passion for bringing social media to ARAMARK and a willingness to challenge the status quo and embrace change.
We meet live every six weeks, which has been a great forum for the delegates to communicate with peers and share ideas. While we give regular updates on what is happening socially across the organization, we also created teams within the delegates to present information back to everyone about new and relevant social media concepts and ideas. It has gotten people involved and active in the group and helped create the dialogue that breaks down walls in large organizations like ARAMARK. We are also active in trying to bring in external guest speakers to present for the team where applicable (such as Facebook, who recently came in to present to the team).
One of the roles of our team at the center is to make sure the delegates are prepared to manage social media for their business. As this industry evolves into something different each and every day, we don’t want to just get our delegates smart on what social media is – we need them to become subject matter experts that are able to constantly adapt along with this ever-changing field. When that happens, everyone wins. The delegates are able to create more influence and credibility in their role and add to their own professional skills. For us, we are able to drive support at all points across the company.
While our live meetings are tremendously effective, we can’t truly sustain social media without continuous dialogue with our delegates. To help develop this kind of communication with the team, we leveraged an internal collaboration tool, which is a social network of its own. Our team leads the site in sharing resources and tools, wikis on social media topics, and blogs on the latest news. The blog has been a great area to not just present information, but also create discussion on what new developments mean for the company, our businesses, and even our delegates.
Internal collaboration, like social media, is a whole new idea and business process that many companies struggle to get off the ground. We’re no different. Getting people to share and look for information internally is a cultural shift in itself. But when we do share knowledge and learn from each other, it brings people together and opens up doors into concepts and ideas people might not have even thought their company took part in. And it makes people think of new ideas they should be doing for their own business.
While internal collaboration is always a work in progress, our best moments are when we are able to sit back and watch conversation and ideas go back and forth with our delegates. Sometimes not everyone agrees with a stance someone takes, but that’s what great – everyone is exposed to both sides of a topic and can make decisions for themselves about what works best for them. Productive conflict and challenge makes us smarter as a group and delivers more comprehensive outcomes.
Social media is only going to be as successful at ARAMARK as our people are able to make it. Because, as we mentioned earlier, your people are your products. Which in our case makes for a very powerful opportunity.
ARAMARK is a private, $13 billion global company that provides managed services (food, facilities, uniforms, etc) for clients in several industries, including sport and entertainment, higher education, healthcare, as well as other general business and beyond. This is the second in a series of posts on how the large company is working to integrate social media into the way it does business.
Part 1 – They all laughed
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