chris.brogan.headshot.As part of our “Trivia Questions For…” interview series, I am honored to have caught up with Chris Brogan, one of the social media world’s most celebrated champions and influential thought leaders.

A prolific blogger and highly sought-after consultant/public speaker on the future of business communications, the social Web and relationship-centered “human business,” Mr. Brogan is the president of Human Business Works, an online education and community company for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs. A co-author of the New York Times bestseller Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, he also writes a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine, providing an invaluable resource for small businesses of all stripes (including at least one NYC corporate team building company).

Today, I am asking Mr. Brogan about the impact of technology and the economy on the modern workplace, including the use and affects of social media on productivity, communication and morale:

1.     With all of the new digital communication technology in the workplace, employees and managers alike are relying less on in-person communication skills. Should this be a concern?

I think there’s a few ways to get at this. I believe that personal communication is important. Video helps with this. You can use Skype or GoToMeeting or Google+ Hangouts, but the connection really helps. I believe that in-person skills are very important still, but more interestingly, learning how to communicate in multiple modes is very important.

 2.     The economy remains unstable, and workplace morale is low as a result. What can companies be doing to show staff that they care about them long-term?

I think the real story here is to keep the employees very well in the loop about the goals, about each person’s role in completing those goals, and how every single aspect of the business impacts sales and the future. The economy is going to be unstable for some time. In fact, news from the 1930s said the same thing. Instead of worrying about that, work harder at communicating the value of each employee clearly. Working on morale is lame. It’s not focusing on the issue. Humans are smart. They just want to know that what they’re doing is going to potentially change the game. If not, then who cares about morale?

 3.     Conversely, businesses who wish to remain competitive must make do with fewer, harder working employees. What do you have to say to those who feel that social media is a drain on workplace productivity?

People said the same thing about Instant Messenger, about any website the world has ever launched, etc. The truth is, people are working harder, and spending more hours at the office. If you want to empower them, do what one of the largest and most wealthy companies in the world (Google) does: make it FUN to be at work. Hint: limiting access to social media is the opposite of making it fun and friendly to be at work.

4.     A theme of “Trust Agents” is that to have an effective & persuasive online presence, businesses must establish & maintain trust. With brand reputations on the line, however, can HR and senior management really trust their employees to use social media appropriately in the workplace?

If HR and senior management can’t trust their employees to be the brand representative of their company, then it’s a much larger problem than whether or not an employee tweets. Instead, it’s a matter of giving every employee a clear storyline to understand, plus a crash course in media training. Over the last few decades, most companies made sexual harassment education mandatory. I believe media training for all employees should be mandatory in this world where everyone has access to a video and text news system at all times. Everyone’s cell phone is a huge PR nightmare away from changing the company’s fate. Why not arm your employees?

 5.     How can leaders utilize the social Web to improve the way their teams communicate, collaborate and ultimately perform?

Communication skills come from a few things. One is that people feel that they are heard. Two is that people feel that they have a voice at the table. Three is that everyone learns how to communicate positively and productively. Beyond these details (which have nothing to do with the Web), the best method to getting teams to communicate is to work on educating and training them in the best possible ways of collaboration. To me, the best potential social networking tool out there for collaboration right now is Google+. Look at it with your “internal teams collaboration” hat on, and you’ve got a winner. For free.

 6.     You now write a monthly column for “Entrepreneur” magazine. What can startup business owners do to “get off on the right foot” with both employees and clients, in order to demonstrate trust and foster loyalty?

I think that clear communication, monthly (instead of annual) feedback and reviews, clear goals that focus on building sustainable, relationship-minded business practices, and a strong recurring question to one’s self about whether you would use these methods or tactics on someone you love, and that often helps things turn out better. For instance, if your email marketing is coming from “donotreply@ohpleasedontemailusback.com,” then it’s clear you don’t care about loyalty.

 7.     Retaining top talent is key in this economy. What advice do you have for companies that love their employees, but simply do not have the resources to adequately compensate them for their work?

Retaining talent is a tricky situation these days. I’ll tell you without hesitation that money isn’t the issue. Employees want flexible work hours, flexible working locations (the workshifting community demands to grow), and many other perks that have absolutely nothing to do with salary. Treating employees like VIPs goes a long way. I’m forever laughing at companies who say one thing (we value our employees) and do another (so we are going to block 90% of the internet because we think they’re children).

 

Now, Mr. Brogan has a trivia question he’d like to ask YOU:

Q)      Everyone knows that “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first song aired on MTV. What was the second? 

To find out the answer, connect with Mr. Brogan by visiting his Website www.ChrisBrogan.com, the Human Business Works Website or by writing to him via his Twitter feed @ChrisBrogan. Also, keep an eye out in early 2012 for his forthcoming book on using Google+ for business!

(Please feel free to respond to Mr. Brogan’s interview by using the “Leave a Reply” feature below).