What GE Oil & Gas did to supercharge employees on social media

What GE Oil & Gas did to supercharge employees on social media

GE Oil & Gas supercharges its social media presence

A few years ago, GE Oil & Gas, one of the world’s leading equipment and services’ providers in the oil and gas space, embarked on a series of online experiments. The oil equipment giant trained a cohort of 20-40 high potential leaders to engage online. Becky Edwards was Chief Communications Officer at GE Oil & Gas during this time. I spoke to Becky about GE’s approach to digital interactions. She explains:

The GE team asked this question early on: what would it be like to take this cohort and supercharge them digitally?”

Becky started at GE in 2010 as Global Employee Communications Leader. She describes the internal environment she joined as ‘socially-enabling-digitally’ and employee-driven. Existing internal GE systems allowed employees to comment and even retract offensive comments. She remembers that in 2010, the ability to request a retraction was a progressive capability at that time.

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GE Oil & Gas empowers high potential staff

By 2012, GE had put together a robust set of guidelines for external social media activities.  This set the scene for Becky and her team to develop a specific training programme for the high potential cohort. The programme focused on how they might use their influence in a digital world. As part of the training, Becky and her team prepared the cohort to showcase their digital know-how at the GE Oil & Gas Annual Meeting normally held in January/February of every year.


The team covered topics such as the importance of content marketinghow to create content for social media and where to publish the content once it is created. They also co-created content with the cohorts. The cohort, now digital ambassadors, applied their knowledge from the training on social channels such as Twitter. They could provide a glimpse of the annual meeting for those not present.

GE Oil & Gas enables more online conversations

Becky explains that having set guidelines isn’t enough. As a result of the experiment, Becky says the team realised they needed to visibly and deliberately give people permission. Contrary to the idea that only the most senior person in the team can have a voice, Becky says,

“We needed to tell employees that it’s OK to have a voice, own what you know and share it”

What would be a good outcome for GE Oil & Gas? Becky explains that social media is an enabler that allows the organisation to:

  • Do more commercial transactions that stem from digital interactions
  • Generate goodwill and positive mind share such that people looking for information can find positive information
  • Position GE Oil & Gas employees as thought leaders in their field
  • Draw potential and existing customers into a deeper conversation

Traditionally, technical experts share their knowledge through conferences for instance. At conferences, the conversation would be one to many people sitting inside a room somewhere. Becky says,

“Thanks to social media platforms, more people can now fit inside that room”


Check out other employee social media examples: Rackspace

Check out tips for starting a social media pilot: 20 tips

Photo credit: momoneymoproblemz, CC 3.0 license, 2014, General Electric Sign, Fort Wayne, Indiana
I interviewed Becky Edwards on September 2015. This is a modified version of a blog originally published on LinkedIn on December 15, 2015
Social Media Advocacy at Rackspace – A Podcast with Elizabeth Jurewicz

Social Media Advocacy at Rackspace – A Podcast with Elizabeth Jurewicz

Enter social media advocacy

In my last blog post, I listed 12 content ideas for knowledge-intensive companies e.g. engineering and manufacturing. Engaging an audience through content is one of the main strategies for driving B2B sales. Social media advocacy is another strategy. Do this by empowering employees to develop good behaviours such as listening and sharing online.


Rackspace is the #1 managed cloud company based in San Antonio, Texas. It has engineers, scientists and researchers, helping businesses to tap into cloud computing without having to manage it on their own. There is also great content at Rackspace. Employees get involved in a number of ways.   Last November, I caught up with Elizabeth Jurewicz (call her Liz!), Social Enablement Strategist at Rackspace. She created and delivers the social media advocacy programme. I ‘met’ Liz online and started following her tweets and comments on the topic. We are now in regular contact and I’m learning a lot from her. Here is my 16-minute podcast interview with Liz.

Podcast with Elizabeth Jurewicz

If you’re short of time, here are some key takeaways from the podcast:

  • Establish formal training social listening as a way to engage employees who don’t want to share content directly.
  • Measure your performance internally first e.g. Are employees engaged? Is the messages you are sending being received and understood?
  • When leaders get involved, you know you are on the right track.
  • As a new company, start at the beginning to cultivate a culture of knowledge sharing.
  • Give yourself to develop the right culture in your company.


Elizabeth Jurewicz is Social Enablement Strategist at Rackspace. She helps professionals find the words to express not only what they do, but why they do it. You can follow her on Twitter @CreatingLiz.

Podcast – Mentoring for the next generation

I was interviewed by Graceann Robertson of EC-OG about Next Generation Mentoring. Fantastic chat about a subject not often discussed: What is the role of mentoring in career development? How does it change? And should we care about the future of mentoring in Aberdeen?

Full Transcript of Mentoring Podcast

The following is a transcript of a conversation between myself and Yekemi Otaru, Managing Director of YO! Marketing, about the Next Generation of Mentoring.


Hello and welcome to this podcast today.

I’m Graceann and I’m joined by Yekemi Otaru who is an engineer turned marketer and she is now managing director of her own company – YO! Marketing.

She was recently named on the Scottish Business News 40 UNDER 40 list, and is here today to talk with me about a subject close to my own heart, mentoring.

It is something that has become quite apparent to me especially in Aberdeen. Recently, we had the joint event from IChemE, IMechE, SPE, the EIYPN (and all of the other letters under the sun!). That event was really focusing on young professionals in Aberdeen and looking to the future of the North East. It got me thinking about my own experience of mentoring. Yekemi is here today to talk about the impact mentoring has had in her career.


Thanks for having me Graceann, I’m really looking forward to the chat. Mentoring is also something very dear to my heart. It’s helped me throughout different stages of my career.


Excellent. Would you be able to tell me a little bit more about how mentoring specifically helped you in your career so far?


Yes. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t have a lot of mentoring. I didn’t understand the role that mentoring could play as a young graduate. But as I developed in companies such as Schlumberger and General Electric, I started to have internal mentors who were usually senior managers or executives within the organisation. They were really there to guide and to provide you with a set of skills that you needed to succeed. If you wanted to get promoted, if you wanted more responsibility and skills like ‘How do I manage a team?’, ‘How do I pitch an idea to a senior manager?’. It was really really good for that.

But now, 12 years into my career, I’m working for myself and I feel like I need a different type of mentoring. That’s why I’ve gotten an external mentor now. Rob Cowman, who is now my mentor through the Aberdeen Young Professionals programme, has been really valuable. And just having an external pair of eyes to guide me to help reach where I wasn’t able to reach in my career currently.


Excellent. So you mentioned a little bit there about your mentor Robert Cowman, who works at EC-OG and that’s how we know each other isn’t it? Through Rob and his involvement in the AYP mentoring scheme. Can you tell me more about what attracted you to get involved in the AYP mentoring scheme?


Yes, it was the first time that I had gone outside an organisation to get a mentor. You know, like I said, earlier on in my career, most of my mentors where within the organisation. And I feel like sometimes when you have a mentor within an organisation, they are great for guiding you as long as you are within that organisation. But if you want an external pair of eyes, you need to go outside that organisation.

For instance, if you’ve got a marketing director as your mentor and you are the marketing manager or marketing intern and you want to do something different maybe look at commercial roles or finance roles, there is a tendency that that mentor will try and keep you within that function and indeed within that company. I felt that at that point in my career, which was last year, that I really wanted an external mentor who could guide me in terms of where I wanted to get to for personal development regardless of the company I worked for. So I looked to AYP (that’s the Aberdeen Young Professionals scheme) as a place where I could really get an expert that could be a real role model and a mentor.


Good stuff. For me, I think coming into EC-OG as an intern, I was able to experience a certain form of mentoring. You’ve said previously that there are different types of mentoring. Would you expand some more about the different types of mentoring?


I think there is deliberate mentoring. So for instance, the programme that EC-OG sponsored today with the Future of the North East, it’s a deliberate act of mentoring, you’re going into a group of young people and you’re basically intervening in their career decisions and their career journey and saying ‘Actually you can do this’, ‘with our support you can achieve this and this’. So there is that kind of mentoring which I didn’t benefit from very much when I started out as a young engineer.

Then, there is the internal kind of mentoring which you have within the organisation which I’ve had a bit of where you’ve got a manager or someone in a senior position in an organisation who takes you on as somebody that they are mentoring. You become their mentee. They guide you, help you navigate the organisation. This is who you need to talk to, this is the network that you need to build. This is how you get a promotion, this is what you need to do and so on.

Finally, you’ve also got external mentoring where you’re maybe not looking within an organisation anymore for a mentor. You’re actually looking for a role model who has experienced the things that you want to experience and so you’re looking for a subject matter expert to build a relationship with and they don’t be within your organisation. I think that’s the sort of different types of mentoring.


Ok. It’s interesting because normally we don’t hear the different types of mentoring. When we hear mentoring, it’s the word mentoring itself and that’s it, which I guess leads onto my question about describing the process of mentoring and how you experience and what you get from it.

For me, as an intern within EC-OG, I’ve picked 5 words which I think really describe how I felt the experience was for me. The 5 words are inspiring, encouraging, freedom, positivity and fast-paced. So that last one there, fast-paced really focuses on the fact that learning, for me at least, is not fun unless it is fast-paced. There is something happening and you can learn from the change that’s happening in the organisation and you’ve got people who can help you and work alongside you, really guide you to be able to really get the most from a situation and learn from it and develop.

So my question to you is, would you be able to do a similar sort of thing and choose 5 words that explain your situation and your experience of mentoring?


Yeah, absolutely. I think the 5 words you picked are absolutely spot on for where you are in your career and where I was a while ago. I think now when I look at my mentoring journey, it’s probably ‘Relationship Building with an Expert’. And I think that’s sort of where I am right now and who knows, it’s a cyclical journey. In a few years, I might go back to the inspiring, encouraging and positivity but for where I am right now, the mentoring is really about building a relationship, building trust in someone who is an expert and taking that relationship forward and growing from it.


Excellent, yeah. I agree with that and I like how you’ve taken the 5 words and put them into a sort of sentence rather than taking my words on their own. My next question is about the future and how mentoring really fits into the Aberdeen environment. So thinking to the future, is mentoring going to be a cyclical process? Do you think that mentoring is going to be something that we continue to do? Is it still going to be important and why is it important?


Yeah, I think it’s a great question especially with obviously the recent oil and gas downturn in Aberdeen. And I think like we already mentioned before, the different types of mentoring and a lot is being done at the moment to engage young talent and inject more innovation into companies across the board in Aberdeen.

But I think that the early stage intervention, you know when people are young graduates or still at school, is really really important because it gives them a clear idea of what they can achieve. I think that if it’s more diverse and more flexible then people can see all the opportunities for them in terms of their career.

Further down the line, we also have to be ready to mentor young employees in an organisation who have now come into the workforce and are looking around thinking, ‘Is there anyone like me doing well here?’. Because for me that was something that really shaped where I am today. Looking around in an organisation and thinking well I don’t really see anybody like me doing well and sometimes it’s subconscious. But it does register in your mind and you start to think well, ‘Should I turn left or should I turn right?’, ‘Am I going to be ok?’ And further along in your career you know, even when you are 10 or even 20 years in the industry.

Yekemi cont’d

If you want to do something different, it might be that you need a different kind of mentoring. You need to speak to someone who is an expert in a certain field. If you’re building a business you might need to speak to someone who has gone international with their business, gone global, someone who has done partnerships across the world. And that’s a different kind of mentoring. I think mentoring is definitely something that can go on throughout your career and it can come back again.

We are all learning. And I don’t think that I will ever reach a point where I say, ‘I don’t need a mentor, I’m good to go’. I think I’ll always need that expert in my life to share ideas and grow from’


Great, well I think that’s a really nice end for the topic of mentoring. I think it really nicely concluded our conversation and rounded things off in a positive way. I guess we always have to be positive!

Thank you for joining us today on this podcast about the next generation of mentoring.

Interview with Mick Beavers, Managing Director at Control Valve Solutions

Interview with Mick Beavers, Managing Director at Control Valve Solutions

Culture is notoriously difficult to mould and even more onerous to sustain. But Mick Beavers, Managing Director of Control Valve Solutions gets an ‘A’ from me for his deliberate leadership in cultivating an authentic company culture. I interviewed him on 27th June in their Portlethen office in Aberdeen. Here’s how he has built one of the most admired oil and gas services companies in Aberdeen. Control Valve Solutions (CVS) is a £4M a year business, founded in 2009. It was recently nominated for best customer service. The company culture has something to do with it. It is transparent, authentic and autonomous.


Mick says he stumbled onto his philosophy by accident. It emerged during a very busy time in the early days. He noticed that the more he left people to get on with what they were doing, the more productive they were and the better the business became. Mick says he suddenly realised that he didn’t need to micromanage his staff. He wasn’t worried about people management. He laughs as he explains,

“The simple recipe is not to hire assholes”

In the hiring process at Control Valve Solutions, Mick explains that himself and the team look for people who seem to be coping with life, people who are themselves. Mick himself remembers a time when he was in the job market. He describes several interviews for senior positions where he wasn’t himself. He says,

“I always said what I believed the interviewers wanted me to say…Looking back, the interviewers didn’t create an environment where I could be myself”

It is this relaxed, authentic environment that Mick consistently strives to create for his employees. The company focuses more on personality and appropriate coping mechanisms than on technical ability when hiring new staff. Mick admits that when it comes to personality and technical requirements, there needs to be a balance. One of the key areas of development at Control Valve Solutions has been hiring people from diverse technical backgrounds and conducting training programmes to increase the overall technical competence in the company.

Yet, culture at Control Valve Solutions has generated positive customer reaction such that customers feel comfortable and valued in dealing with the company. Less focus on technical capability has not hindered business growth. When I ask Mick what he does day-to-day to maintain his company’s culture, he says,

“It’s a team effort”

He walks around to see employees every single day he is in the office. He chats to them not necessarily about the job but about how they are doing and perhaps what they got up to on the weekend. Mick says he can pick up when people are having a bad day and acknowledge it. It’s not for him to solve but that acknowledgement goes a long way in making employees feel valued. Mick understands the pressures of the job and explains the reason for his approach,

“Myself and the managers try to make people feel human again, rather than just working away”

Mick has earned the respect and trust of the employees at Control Valve Solutions, occasionally getting involved with issues outside work. While there have been difficult times, he feels honoured to have earned the people’s trust. Mick is a naturally trusting person, which comes across in his dealings with friends and strangers alike. He explains,

“I trust people once they walk in the door but when they lose that trust, it’s gone”

He also explains that there’s certainly a hard side to business. And that leaders need to find the right balance.


Mick is active on LinkedIn and explains that it’s instilled confidence in him. He notes,

“If you write positive things, you feel positive within yourself”

He continues,

“It’s really important to be positive just now because there are a lot of negative stories on social media because of the way the oil and gas industry is at the moment”

Mick says it’s disappointing to see such stories because we have to stay positive. He admits that he doesn’t like being in the limelight but says it is easy to hide behind social media. Mick finds opportunities to post something in areas of engineering, sales, marketing and leadership. Many in the industry perceive Control Valve Solutions as one of the fastest growing oil and gas services companies in Aberdeen. Mick believes this is partly because the company has done a great job of celebrating its successes on- and offline. Even in very difficult times, the team have found creative ways to push out positive stories about the Control Valve Solutions brand and its best-in-class productivity.

Social media has had mixed reception at Control Valve Solutions. Some employees are engaged online and there are some that don’t get it. The marketing team educates employees on the impact of social media on the company’s brand and why it is an important tool for marketing. Mick admits that he first got into social media to wind up industry peers – and he believes he was successful. He laughs,

“I’m surprised I didn’t get a black eye while doing it”

Control Valve Solutions has generated significant external engagement and has a group of employees who are engaged internally. The company’s social media activity has kept its peers on their toes. Mick adds,

“It keeps us on our toes too, we keep getting better. I know that if we need people to come together and make something happen, we have the people within the organisation to do it”


About four years ago when PPI claims became popular, Control Valve Solutions launched their own KPIs for the business. There was a song on the radio that went, “♩ ♬ this month we will be claiming our PPIs, PPIs ♫ ♫”

Mick describes going to the shop floor and hearing the employees singing, “♩ ♬ this month we will be claiming our KPIs, KPIs ♫ ♫” Mick says it showed the team had really taken KPIs onboard. Mick smiles when he says,

“It was great feeling”

It was around that time that the slogan, ‘Living the dream’ emerged on the shop floor. The phrase caught on, with employees requesting the phrase to be put on the newly-introduced corporate clothing. Employees and customers have embraced ‘Living the dream’. Mick says it really sums up the culture at Control Valve Solutions, that the employees came up with this on their own. Sustaining culture is quite a separate matter. Mick says people join the company and immediately notice the authentic environment, compared to where they used to work.

But employees start to take the culture for granted over time. The management team wants to now focus on reinvigorating the culture. Mick explains,

“I think it’s good for the guys to remember how shit it used to be at their last workplace”

Mick sees his role as a supporting one, and advises leaders to keep business as simple as possible. He explains that everyone at Control Valve Solutions understands what it takes to run the company in terms of overhead costs, margins and revenue requirements. The team know exactly what it takes. When things are going well, Mick notes that it is easy to be everybody’s friend. Nevertheless, he intends to continue to be in tune with the business so that people can come to him with both good and bad news. Keeping the communications lines open is crucial to sustain the ‘A’ culture at Control Valve Solutions.

About Mick

Mick_BeaversMick grew up in Derbyshire and credits much of his success with his upbringing in which he was much rebellious as he was challenged. He cites a hunger for criticism and feedback as one of his biggest driving forces as well as a deep suspicion of complacency. It is this attitude which keeps Control Valve Solutions driving forward, always pushing to improve and innovate.

Mick has worked in the valve industry for 21 years with a brief spell working in IT from 2005 to 2007. This mix of IT knowledge and a passion for valves led to the creation of Control Valve Solutions in 2009; a valve company firmly rooted in the development of technology. One member of staff once described the company as ‘A software company that happens to sell valves’. Mick believes that you should always start as you mean to continue because it is much harder to add things to a business retrospectively, especially a focus on culture or technology. That you need to have a solid foundation and vision on which to build from the beginning

7 Ways to Revive Your Corporate Culture

7 Ways to Revive Your Corporate Culture

On Sept 11th 2015, I hoped for an honest discussion about why some organisations appear to have a cultural advantage over their peers. The right corporate culture provides an edge in several areas of organisational performance such as innovation, employee engagement and digital adoption. I got an honest conversation when I interviewed Enda Logan, CEO of The Fifth Business and Visiting Professor at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. The interview forms one of four case studies in my book, The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media in Organisations (Rethink Press, 2016), launched on Feb 16th 2016. I based the book on real life case studies from multinational firms, It is especially relevant to corporate culture.

The Smart Sceptic's Guide to Social Media in Organisations As part of Enda’s interview with me, he emphasises that change always starts at the top. This is true for all lkinds of change initiatives. These include the use of social media for business and regulatory changes in addition to other strategic initiatives. I couldn’t agree more. Culture eats strategy for breakfast any day. A 2014 Forbes article even concludes that your company culture is every bit as important as your pay cheque.

Here are 7 ways to ensure your corporate culture allows for sustainable change:

1. Cross-functional ownership

An organisational culture that supports effective change does not allow its business consequences and power to reside in one department. This can make it difficult to change quickly. Instead, smart corporate cultures ensure shared ownership across the organisation. They do this through aligned goals and cross-functional leadership.

2. Continuous improvement

Spend time reflecting on what’s working and what’s not, by observing and sharing lessons learnt and through tools such as root cause analysis. Identifying success and failure causes is not enough. When companies discover the causes, they must implement plans to replicate what is working. Then eradicate what is not working.

3. Honest feedback

Enda’s story of a man he once met with the job title, Corporate Jester fascinated me. This man’s job was to sit in his employer’s board meetings and say the unsay-able. He got paid to challenge ideas from senior executives. This was clearly an enlightened board that actively sought honest feedback. They consider different views to encourage a questioning mentality – starting at the very top.

4. Employee engagement

A corporate culture must enable employees to challenge and share ideas without fear of being penalised or fired. Engaging employees requires them to believe in your purpose and to share their knowledge, knowledge that they regard as power. If your employees don’t feel trusted and empowered by the organisation, you need to revive your company’s culture quickly.

5. Lead by example

It’s not lip-service. It is also not a matter of sending memos to announce new initiatives in the organisation. Senior leaders should be the first seen to live the values they want their employees to adopt. The traditional model of top-down is dead. Such models consisted of a manager telling his staff what to do and think without much responsibility for acting out those desired behaviours himself. It is crucial that change begins at the top to ensure lasting results.

6. Employee empowerment

The future of work is that employees will spend more and more time on social media, using their networks to share knowledge with colleagues, customers and stakeholders. Shama Hyder, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing notes in a recent Forbes article, “People are now media… how organisations leverage people as media in a smart way is here to stay.”

Companies can leverage the power derived from having their employees share content online that is beneficial to the business. As a result, companies could increase brand awareness, effective recruiting, more sales leads and enhanced customer engagement.

7. Future-proof strategies

Finally, a smart corporate culture allows change to occur repeatedly and rapidly to survive the marketplace. There is a delicate balance between sustainable change and being agile enough to change again. Companies must become good storytellers, internally and externally to ensure that people are aware of the good things happening as a result of the changes. At the same time, operational processes should help to monitor the progress of change and flag when things need to be reviewed, and changed again.

In conclusion, these seven tips can help companies develop an engaging corporate culture to support lasting change whether you are introducing social media, a new e-learning system or an HSE policy.

This article was first published on The Fifth Business blog on 19 April 2016

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