Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Personal Use of Social Media in the Workplace: an Employer's Friend or Foe?

We live in a world that has villainized social media time and time again; it is a world that loves to repeatedly mention how much time is wasted on social media, both in our personal lives and in our professional lives.  An article by Cheryl Connor on Forbes this September reported:

Sixty four percent of employees visit non-work related websites each day.  In this category, the amount of time wasted per week on non-work related websites is as follows:  
Time Wasted                  Pct of Employees
<1 hour                                  39%
1-2 hours                               29%
2-5 hours                               21%
6-10 hours                             8%
10+ hours                               3%z
Contributing to these percentages are social media networks. The winners for the time-loss warp are Tumblr (57%), Facebook (52%), Twitter (17%), Instagram (11%) and SnapChat (4%).
Imagine an employee who works 2,080 hours per year (260 days). If she is in top the bracket of time wasters, she wastes 520 hours per year. That’s 25% of her total hours at work spent on unproductive activities. Clearly this costs your company capital. 

As an active social media enthusiast, call me biased, but I don't buy it.  Social Media has undoubtedly changed the working world and, as members of the working world, has subsequently changed us.  Change though, as history will attest, is not necessarily a bad thing.
Shel Holtz, writing for Monster, the employment giant writes:
Smart companies recognize that perpetually networked employees are symptomatic of a larger change taking place in business. These companies will figure out how to turn this new workplace reality to their advantage.
So let's talk about that.  

What are the most significant advantages of social media in the workplace?  
  1. Increase awareness with current global trends.  How can you service or sell to the world when you do not understand it or where it is going?  The world is plugged in to social media, you wouldn't hang up the phone on your customers, so why disengage with social media?
  2. Allows employees to network with potential business leads.  Social media is the 21st century address book; every connection made is a direct line for communication, whether it is for recruitment, sales, you name it.
  3. Promotes brand awareness.  Along the lines of the prior advantage, each employee promotes the company from their use of social media.  All employees are sales people, whether that is their title or not.  When they share their organization's activity in a positive light on social media, the rippling effect can be tremendous for business.  That being said, the adverse reaction can happen if employees are not educated about proper social media etiquette.   
  4. Provides a chance to refresh.  Mankind was not meant to sit behind a desk all day, yet that is where most of us are.  We were meant to be on alert, to understand our surroundings, to be constantly challenged.  Social media does not fix that, but it gives employees the opportunity to change their routine, refresh, and start the grind again.
  5. Increases internal communication.  Imagine you are Joe Shmoe; your company has restricted you from visiting social media sites yet the marketing department at your company uses social media to promote all of the company's initiatives.  All of a sudden your mother, Flow Shmoe, knows more about your company's initiatives than you do.  Companies should understand that social media can work for you, not against you.  Facebook "Groups" or Yammer, can be invaluable ways for collaborating and increase internal communication.

Long story short, I don't buy it Cheryl Connor from Forbes.  Time spent on social media is not necessarily time wasted.  The capital lost in wages spent on employees surfing the internet and social media, will come back full circle in the ways I've described above.

Maybe the question shouldn't be "how do we keep our employees from wasting time on social media?" but instead, "how can we help our employees engage with current trends and promote our brand effectively on the world wide web?"

Thanks for reading.