Businesses playing catch-up on social media need to seek advice before rushing into what may seem like a brave new world.
A social media white paper with a hashtag for a title created its own Twitter buzz among business leaders at its launch in July.
#HRSoMeAndYou presents the findings of my company’s latest research into social media, drawing on data from more than 90 organisations across Australia and New Zealand.
A widely held view of social media is that of a gen Y employee wasting time on Facebook. This view disregards the fact that employees who are having an ‘off day’ or are unmotivated have always had access to a number of work avoidance avenues, from excessive personal calls to extended smoko breaks.
A minority of employees may abuse social media access, however computer forensics can easily identify where, when and what was accessed, providing solid evidence for any performance management discussions.
Social media can deliver many benefits to organisations that use it well. In fact, workplace leisure browsing has been proven to enhance productivity, in addition to supporting employee attraction and retention.
Social within organisations means more than just access to Facebook. Companies that have embraced this technology are rewarded with productivity enhancements from more efficient people practices across the board. Traditional workplace practices have the potential to become supercharged. Suggestion box schemes take on a life of their own – a raw concept or idea from one person can be enhanced by the contributions of others to produce a refined solution to workplace problem or opportunity. The old company newsletter, which has diminishing levels of reader engagement as the pages go on, can be transformed into bite-sized chunks of information available on a mobile device – perfect for the commute to work or any other downtime.
The immediacy of information via social media also brings communications benefits. One organisation in the research cites social media as being the main reason it was able to avoid imminent strike action; employees raised issues online during a negotiation process and the prompt responses from leaders within the business effectively diffused the situation.
Many leaders are still getting to grips with the social space and, as with all new technologies, fear of the unknown is rife. Insights from Erik Qualman in his #Socialnomics update demonstrate that social media is not just a fad. With every month that goes by the world continues to change and evolve – the easiest thing to do is get on board before the knowledge gap becomes too much to overcome.
The real risk for business today is in failing to embrace the social space. This technology has moved out of the trial and error of the early adopter phase and is going mainstream. In essence, the door is closing on social media as an opportunity for competitive advantage. If your competitors are not already reaping the benefits of enhanced collaboration and communication, they soon will be – making their business more efficient and more innovative.
In addition, employees are demanding social, with 62 per cent of employees in the research stating that daily social media access is important or essential in their role; and, in the absence of a formal social platform, some employees are creating their own. At best this results in missed opportunities, with ideas and innovations being visible to only a select few within an organisation; at worst, the company may be exposed to reputational harm with little ability to monitor or control the situation.
When considering implementation of an internal social media platform, the research reveals the following critical success factors:
• the right culture – trust is critical;
• the right support – senior level champions willing to engage with their people on the platform; and
• the right monitoring – light touch governance works best.
The chosen social platform is also important, but more critical is the way people use it. And that’s why getting the right advice at the start is essential.
A good starting point is to identify and engage the digital natives in your business in order to create early buy-in and a great sounding board for the program. Experts can then be engaged to further refine these ideas and advise on gaining maximum value from your investment.