In a recent New York Times article, Jim Whitehurst, president and chief executive of Red Hat, gave his thoughts on employee engagement and social media.

As an open-source technology provider, the company is no stranger to the concept of online collaboration and idea sharing. So the idea of using social media to connect with their 4,000 employees came naturally, long before Facebook even existed.

Like many other companies, Red Hat uses social media as an internal communications tool, including a forum that they call the “Memo List.” What intrigued me in reading the article was that unlike many other companies, they use it to give employees a voice in the company decision-making process, including the development of Red Hat’s mission statement.

In the article, Jim states that “A lot of companies will either hire an external firm or have a management off-site meeting…we (created a mission statement) from the bottom up.”

Using the forum, they solicited feedback and constructively debated ideas, which resulted in some modifications. By the time they were finished, everybody knew what the mission statement was and what it meant, regardless of whether or not they agreed with it.

“As long as our employees are involved, they will accept virtually any decision,” says Jim. “A lot of the issues that many companies are now facing is that they think, ‘I can’t let my employees have a seat at the table in this.’ But it’s not about having a seat at the table for the decision. It’s about having a seat at the table to voice their opinions and make sure those opinions are heard.”

Great stuff,