The use of social media in the workplace is still polarising organisations. A sizeable proportion of IT leaders, HR policymakers and line managers still perceive SoMe (for short) as frivolous, distracting and a drain on productivity.
That’s a shame, because the judicious use of social tools can foster innovation, accelerate business processes, increase transparency, promote workforce engagement and deepen customer relationships. Enterprise social media comes in a variety of guises, from instant messaging and collaborative workspaces to professional networking forums and video tutorials. But SoMe antagonists are still labouring under the impression that by encouraging socialised working practices, they’ll open the floodgates to Candy Crush, Instagram and SnapChat during working hours.
But ignoring SoMe is a problem waiting to happen: the current crop of new entrants to the workplace (millennials, digital natives, Gen Ys or whatever you want to call them) was born in the internet era. They were able to click a mouse before they could read a book, their communications are frequent and fluid, and they’re accustomed to getting instantaneous feedback. Various studies indicate this cohort is voting with its feet and short-listing prospective employers based on their tolerance for mobile and social working practices.
They have a point: they innately use SoMe to connect with people, express themselves and crowdsource opinions and ideas. So to negate this instinct is to suppress their ability to do their job. But appreciably, for their managers and colleagues who don’t experience technology as second nature, this hyperconnectivity is treated with suspicion.
Undoubtedly, there are some individuals who might abuse mobile devices and social tools, but that doesn’t discount the entire principle. After all, if we banned things simply because some people can’t be trusted, we’d have to have an amnesty on hot coffee in paper cups, pointy-ended scissors and investment banking. Unmotivated, disengaged employees have been finding ways to slack off since Rome was built. But that’s no reason why everyone else (and the bottom line) should miss out on the benefits of SoMe.
Social tools actively promote engagement – and therefore productivity – by eliminating the traditional communications silos which stifle innovation and impede team efforts. Proven use cases by early adopters range from onboarding and support, providing job-specific training and content, assigning tasks and monitoring progress to reinforcing company values, celebrating good work and helping colleagues feel connected to one another.
Remember when email first infiltrated the workforce? I certainly do. As my manager at the time proclaimed: “I can see where this is going to lead. Time-wasting and frivolity. Once the novelty wears off, we’ll get back to the proper way of doing things.” I imagine someone probably said the same about the telephone, once. SoMe will find its way into your workplace, so meet the tide with the appropriate frameworks, policies, platforms and communications to turn it to your advantage.
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