27 June 2012

Social Media And Workplace Evolution

While social media has held the public’s collective fascination for some time, its emerging use within workplaces and organisations is a relatively new phenomenon.

As such, quite a few senior managers and decision-makers are worried that the importation of these platforms may also invite unwanted employee behaviours like procrastination, time-wasting, and inappropriate communications. In reality, I don’t believe that any trepidation is warranted. With the transparency of social media spaces enabling everyone to see what everyone else is doing, employees will hardly feel encouraged to act unprofessionally and push the boundaries of social conduct. Our research also shows that there’s very little non-work-related communication going on in these spaces – only about 10% - which I would actually class as normal, healthy, water cooler-type conversations.

More importantly, the use of social media in the workplace can offer huge advantages. Indeed, a study we’ve done with Deloitte Australia (read the full report) shows that it’s an effective means for creating awareness of what’s going on in other spaces of the organisation. It can also be utilised for crowd sourcing ideas and knowledge sharing, and also offers new graduates the opportunity to quickly learn what’s going on within the company. Innovation, productivity, problem solving, information sourcing and employee engagement are also key areas that can benefit enormously from the application of social media platforms.

Rather than attempting to prevent its use (which I don’t think is possible), managers and executives need to embrace the concept. They should become involved and lead from the top. With the use of social media tools being very hard to prescribe, they should instead be open to exploring the possibilities. They should encourage their people to experiment with it and see what transpires. I wouldn’t mind betting they’ll be amazed by what emerges.

Author: Kai Riemer – Senior Lecturer – University of Sydney Business School
Follow Kai on twitter @karisyd

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