How do employee’s EXTERNAL interests work to engage people INTERNALLY? #MercerActive

“Why would anyone outside my office and work team care about the 5K I just ran for charity? I mean, I’m proud of it, but it doesn’t feel like something the whole world needs to know about, and why would I use our firm’s hashtag?”

I was recently asked these great questions from a modest colleague who I was trying to convince to post about it on Twitter using our MercerActive hashtag. Never mind that people post all the time on much lesser accomplishments, but why associate it with #MercerActive? The short answer is that it helps build colleague engagement across Mercer, but that probably deserves a bit more explanation.

The MercerActive hashtag was established to create connective tissue around all the health and wellness activities our colleagues do in their spare time, or occasionally on behalf of Mercer (e.g., race sponsorship, office softball team). You may be wondering why not just let colleagues post on their activities on their own accounts, and those who follow them can be updated there, rather than create a special hashtag? Here’s why.

  1. A communications “binding agent”: At many global organizations, employees tend to bond with their immediate team and office mates, but not with anybody else across the company. There is absolutely nothing wrong with local bonding, especially since it may be that work and customer activities need to be very local. However, even if that is true, there are always good reasons to get people to link with colleagues outside of their local teams. For instance, it opens up connections between people that allow for idea and information sharing. It also reminds people that they are part of something bigger than their local team that both gives them a broader perspective and helps them see how their work fits in with the company’s overall mission. There are a number of “binding agent” topics that reach across employee populations. Health and wellness is something that employees are concerned about and interested in all over the world. Whether it is achieving an athletic accomplishment or talking about a new healthy diet, it sparks interest and conversations among employees who would otherwise never speak.
  2. We want active employees: Unlike some personal interests that employees may hold (e.g., rebuilding car engines, puppeteering, etc.), health and wellness is one that promotes the interests of almost all companies. Most companies have some health and wellness program that this would fit into nicely, or at least have a stated position about the importance of healthy employees. At Mercer, we also have a business that promotes health affordability, accessibility and quality outcomes, and being able to show through our #MercerActive hashtag that we have a culture that values healthy employees is in sync.
  3. Presenting an attractive culture: We could fulfill the above by having employees just post their active pursuits on the intranet. However, by making it a hashtag to be used in external social media, we are projecting an attractive culture to potential recruits who value exercise, health and even competition. They can also see how we encourage, support and congratulate each other when we post about our MercerActive accomplishments. It allows us to show our supportive culture rather than just say we have one, which is much more powerful.

As a colleague, I am proud of the traffic on our #MercerActive. As a communicator, I am thankful for it.

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