Social media is here to stay and companies who try to block their employees from using it during work hours are making a big mistake. It may seem that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are productivity sappers, but study after study shows it actually enhances work.
Consider this: A study conducted by consulting firm McKinsey Global Institute last July found improved communications and collaborating through social technologies could raise productivity among highly skilled workers by 20% to 25%.
“If you think about how we get work done these days being online and being connected is more important than ever before,” says Margaret-Ann Cole, svp, Northeast consulting practice lead at Right Management. “Companies need to embrace it.”
Whether you are trying to lure millennials or experienced professionals one thing is for sure both groups are going to want to access their social media Websites during work hours. While there could be some level of personal socializing going on many professionals use these venues to promote the company brand, share industry specific articles and network with other professionals, says Cole.
Companies that try to block their employees from using it are fighting a losing battle since many workers have mobile phones and will simply visit those social networks that way during work hours. “Everyone’s got their phone or tablet set up next to their computer,” says Kelly Walsh, a veteran HR professional and president personal consulting firm, 1SmartLifecom. “They are on it anyway so why keep battling it and worrying about it.”
Embracing social media usage is one thing, letting employees go wild with is an entirely different thing. Yes you want to keep your employees productive and happy but at the same time you don’t want them saying the wrong thing as a representative of your company or inadvertently introducing a virus into the network. Because of that, business experts say companies of all sizes can benefit from creating an internal social network. According to Walsh there are lots of tools available to enable companies to offer a social network to its staff to enhance and foster communications and collaborations.
An internal social network “works really well for companies,” says Walsh, noting that instead of stopping employees from using social networks, offering an internal one funnels the conversation into the work environment. “It can increase collaboration and increase team work,” she says. An added benefit: employees who work in a global company will have a better understanding of what their overseas counterparts are up to. “If you have a guy in India who starts tweeting internally it gives employees a platform to talk,” says Walsh.
The same study by McKinsey revealed that around 28% of the workweek is spent managing email while close to 20% of the time was spent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help. When a social network was used internally the time spent searching for company information was reduced by as much as 35%.
In addition to offering employees and internal social network, companies whether they employ five people or 5,000 have to have polices in place about what can and can’t be said on social media whether internally or externally. After all you don’t want an employee making derogatory comments or bashing a competitor as a representative of your business. You also don’t want a situation to arise where workers are using the internal social network to bully an employee, make inappropriate jokes or set the company up for a potential lawsuit.
“Don’t discourage usage but do establish clear polices,” says Shel Holtz, founder of communications company Holtz Communications + Technology. According to Shel companies who don’t train their employees on how to use the social networks could face an online crisis.
So what should your policy entail? Experts say it should state clearly what can or can’t be said on social networks and how employees should be treated using an internal one. “If you make sure employees are trained on how to use social media as conscientious employees you’ll be in great shape,” says Holtz. “You’ll always find an employee who spends all day on Facebook and doesn’t get the work done. Manage that employee as an exception rather than simply not trusting all your employees.”
Hand in hand with having usage polices is having some form of measurement to ensure employees are getting their work done. That doesn’t mean bosses should be keeping a running tally of who comes in at 8:00 a.m. and who leaves at 6:00 p.m. and how much time is spent online but there should be some form of productivity measurement and employee accountability. “It’s the same thing as working at home,” says Walsh. “I’m not checking to see if somebody threw in a load of laundry. Did they achieve the outcomes they needed to achieve over that week or day?”