Should Users Use Social Media for Work Collaboration?

Social media is a powerful communication tool to share information and build relationships, as individuals and brands. It can also be a significant distraction in the workplace, where people use social media to attend to personal matters rather than focus on work responsibilities. Despite this possibility, companies are now considering how to turn social media into a valuable work resource.

Salary.com’s 2014 Wasting Time at Work survey revealed that 4% of total work time (online and offline) wasted was on social media. Looking at online activities, employees spent 23% of their online time on Facebook, 1% on Pinterest and 1% on Twitter. This may pose a challenge to business productivity.

Enterprise social media is on the rise, as organizations seek means to improve internal communications across departments. Better communication translates into higher levels of employee engagement, motivation and performance. The opportunity to utilize an technology at work that people use everyday to connect with their loved ones could be what boosts collaboration in the office and breaks down barriers across departments.

Microsoft created a Whitepaper called The Rise of Enterprise Social Networks, using various survey data reported some interesting statistics on employee engagement and the impact of social networks on business:

  • 73% of employees are disengaged (Isaac Getz/ ESCP Europe School of Business)
  • Employees are 4X more likely to be engaged at companies with enterprise social networks (PulsePoint Group/Economist Intelligence Unit)
  • 60% of employees believe that social media promotes creativity and innovation (Microsoft)
  • 61% of employees believe that enterprise social media improves communication and collaboration (Microsoft)

These statistics are eye opening, yet somewhat troubling. What is happening in the office that makes so many workers not interested in their employer? Certainly, company culture plays a significant role. If leadership is too rigid and fragmented, then employees will shut down. If leadership is interested in their employees’ level of satisfaction, then they need to make them feel a part of the business and be active in it.

Social media has truly changed the way many of us conduct business from sales to IT. Telecommunication firms, like Verizon and Optimum, have turned to tools like Twitter for help desk support. These businesses are becoming models for how IT can work within the corporate intranet and have begun to spark interest in tools like IT ticketing systems. We’ve seen project management go this route too, using tools like Slack, Trello and Basecamp as a means to collaborate and communicate.

Those individual tools work great, but often those are limited in transparency. If the intent is to break down silos, enterprise social media tools like Yammer and SocialCast are connecting people to interact beyond assigned projects. They are allowing employees to get to know each other by learning and sharing. Companies are creating roles for internal community management and social media management to encourage communication, idea exchange and collaboration.

While enterprise social media can be a wonderful thing, it really comes down to how the company supports it. Here are some things to consider when deciding to implement an enterprise social network at your company:

  1. Company Policy: Leadership should have internal and external communication policies in place. If not, it’s time to draft one! Your company should provide guidelines on the types of information and interactions that should take place on the network, noting what will be permitted and what will be moderated. Your policy should set structure without being a barrier.
  2. Human Resources: To make enterprise social media work for your business, you will need to build a team to support and manage it. Community and social media managers should be empowered to encourage engagement and collaboration by setting examples, moderating activity and supporting employee usage.
  3. IT Infrastructure: When implementing new technology, your current systems need to be evaluated to support it. You also need to have a team that is knowledgeable on how these networks function. If you have a unified communication system in place, the enterprise social network should be a part of it and not a standalone communication tool. It needs to be accessible, yet secure.
  4. Company Culture: Not only will leadership need to buy into the idea of an enterprise social network, your employees will too. Communication is key in any sort of change, big or small. Therefore, there needs to be interest and excitement built by demonstrating the operations and the benefits to business. Once you have adoption, you may begin to see a change in your company’s culture to promote a sharing environment.

Will enterprise social media work for your business? Simply having a network isn’t enough. You as a leader need to be a part of it. Your employees will let you know by how engaged and motivated they are. Social media is only as powerful as those using it. What do you think? Should users use social media for work collaboration?

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