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SOCIAL MEDIA: Social Media Technology Used to Simultaneously Engage with People in 127 Countries


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Companies have long used social media technology such as Facebook and Twitter in trying to reach more customers – but how are businesses using it internally?

In what is believed to be one of the first of its kind, thousands of Grant Thornton people from member firms in 127 countries around the world gathered online to take part in contributing ideas to the next corporate strategy for the fastest growing global accounting organisation.

In South Africa just under half (45%) of the total national Grant Thornton staff complement registered and participated in this inaugural event with more than 420 staff connected to the “Jam” to engage and interact with global colleagues.

Held over three days in September using IBM’s InnovationJamTM technology and generating more than 13000 comments and posts, findings were carefully reviewed and these were presented at the Grant Thornton Annual Conference in Montreal in October, with live streaming to member firms around the world.

“In 2009, the Grant Thornton global leadership team developed a go forward strategy that we called “Ambition 2015, setting reach goals in growth, people development and thought leadership,” said Grant Thornton Global CEO Ed Nusbaum. “Five years later, Ambition 2015 has been a success and now Grant Thornton is looking beyond 2015, and we wanted to tap directly into the wisdom of the crowd for driving our future growth strategy.”

This highly collaborative social networking exercise, open to everyone from Grant Thornton member firms around the world, was designed to encourage the exchange of ideas between senior management and staff across the organisation.

Discussion forums were led by Nusbaum, his leadership team and CEOs of Grant Thornton member firms from the UK, US, China, Canada, Sweden and France.

Three senior partners from Grant Thornton South Africa also presented on the global stage so that employees from around the world could engage and learn from local expertise.

Deepak Nagar, National Chairman of Grant Thornton SA hosted a live chat session entitled “Defining Success: Perspectives from South Africa”; Johan Blignaut, Managing Partner of Grant Thornton Pretoria chaired a VIP Forum focusing on “Our role in society – CSR – an extension of marketing or the heart?” while Gillian Saunders, Global Leader of Hospitality and Tourism and Head of Advisory Services at Grant Thornton SA hosted a VIP Forum which addressed future opportunities in Hospitality and Tourism.

The participation level by Grant Thornton people nearly doubled the average for previous online crowd-sourcing events at major global corporates (37%). More than 24,000 visits and over 13,000 comments were posted in what is believed to be one of the largest on-line collaborative events held by a global accounting and advisory services organisation.

“Staff in South Africa were so excited to be able to engage with global counterparts in a live exchange of ideas and knowledge on a single platform,” says Jeanette Hern, deputy CEO of Grant Thornton Johannesburg and head of People and Culture for the National Firm.

Ed Nusbaum, Grant Thornton Global CEO, commented:

“We wanted to give everyone in the organisation a voice and tap into the wisdom of the Grant Thornton crowd, and the Global JAM was the perfect way to do it. Topics ranged from how to unlock potential for growth, delivering greater distinctive client service and disruptive technologies.”

Participants spanned every age group from 18 to over 60, including all job levels from intern to CEO. Everyone in the Grant Thornton organisation was also able to watch the live stream of the Montreal presentation, followed by real-time questions and comments sessions thereafter.

Jeanette Hern, in attendance at the Montreal Conference concluded: "Great experience! Never felt more a part of our global organisation."

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