What Facebook Can Teach Managers About Building Engagement

Facebook is amazing at building and maintaining engagement. From a behavioural science perspective, Facebook is set up in a way that encourages engagement. How does it do it and what can it teach us?

1. Facebook makes it very, very easy to give positive feedback. In fact, it isn’t just easy, it is actually feels good to click the ‘like’ button (or is that just me?).

Research suggests that team members need around 3 pieces of positive feedback for every piece of negative feedback. Not many employees are getting even close to that. So when you are reviewing a piece of work, find some way to communicate all the things you like about what has been done rather than just focussing on what needs to be changed.

2. On Facebook (and in life), feedback shapes behaviour. We notice what behaviour seems to get a lot of positive feedback and what gets ignored and over time we change our behaviour. At work, desired behaviour is often ignored, apart from occasional larger gestures – an employee of the month award; a bonus at performance review time; an acknowledgement in the team meeting. In terms of behavioural psychology, what happens on Facebook is much more powerful. Aim to give positive feedback, frequently and real-time, don’t worry if it is just small. Think of the ‘like’ button!

3. Facebook understands that people crave connection and that connection is important in building engagement. Gallup found something similar in the workplace, they found that ‘having a best friend at work‘ is associated with improved performance. We also know that leaders who focus too much on getting the task done and ignore the importance of encouraging team members to build relationships tend to have dissatisfied and disengaged teams. So what can Facebook teach us about how to build connection?

4. Facebook understands that what actually builds connection is lots of little interactions about ordinary things. Sharing a joke. Saying how tired you feel because the kids have been up in the night. Sharing something you find interesting. So, those chats in the office kitchen aren’t time wasting (unless they go on for hours!) – they are building connection and engagement.

So, to get Facebook-like engagement, managers might want to build some habits around giving frequent positive feedback, encouraging people to create connections with each other and valuing those chats in the staff kitchen.

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