Monday, November 23, 2009

Social Networking in the Workplace

Not too long ago, the Financial Post published an article titled “Social Networking By Workers Not Without Cost To Employers”. The article outlined how employers are concerned employees spending time on Twitter and Facebook are costing them money. It cited a survey that estimated lost productivity on Twitter cost employers US$13.5-billion in lost productivity in 2008.

Needless to say the article has stirred up a considerable amount of debate in the recognition industry and one of the contributors was my friend and colleague Steven Green from PollStream.

Here're Steven’s comments and thoughts on the original article and the pros and cons of social networking as it pertains to our industry:
Hey kids, turn down that rock and roll music!
I have come to the conclusion that pockets of the recognition industry are still having trouble separating the benefits of social software in general from the very specific sites of Facebook and Twitter.

Tools allowing employees to engage in dialogue online, to share their opinion with peers, managers and leaders are transformative to the organization. Being a large organization means you have employees spread across geography and time zones - it's very difficult for people in different locations to connect and learn from each other. By leveraging online tools, employees can much more easily find and share resources with the right people at the right time.

Sabre Holdings has implemented a social site that connects people who have questions with the most likely people in the organization who have the answers. The questions and answers are then available in a shared resource for others to benefit from. Along the way, employees get to know each other and find out what other skills they each have; what pets they own and anything else either person wants to share in their online profile. The result is that employees get to know each other as people rather than just getting a question answered. What's the benefit of getting to know your colleagues? Anyone in our industry can offer more than a few answers to that question.

The Corporate Executive Board recently completed a large scale report called Mobilizing the Workforce: Enable High-Impact Communications Across the Workforce. This is an excellent report that is part of their What The Best Companies Do series. The conclusion is that peer to peer tools are the most effective way to enhance employee satisfaction and engagement. There is much more to the report of course, but of the 7 companies featured, 5 of the case studies illustrate the power that social software had on workforce mobilization and engagement.

One of the stories in this report focuses on the impact of an informal recognition program launched by TD Bank. Yes, it's a program that my company Pollstream provides and while I am proud of the results, I am not alone in thinking it's had a tremendous impact on the organization. You can hear first-hand how Wendy Arnott of TD Bank explains the impact the program has had on the company in her interview with Shel Holtz. More recent information on the program shows a positive correlation between retail branches who are engaged in the social media program and their respective Customer Experience Index. That's powerful.

Do Twitter and Facebook have a place within the corporation? That's one question, but why do we obsess about this as if it is the only question? I can tell you that from our view of the world, companies that do not adopt social software are going to have a hard time attracting and retaining talent in the near term. The younger knowledge worker will have lots of choice of where they want to spend their day and a company that does not offer the tools these young people expect will be turned down flat. Being able to earn visibility in the workplace is very important to the job seeker today. Social software provides the opportunity for employees to be discovered on their timeline which is very desirable. The question being asked by knowledge workers more and more is, "How do your values mesh with mine?" No mesh, no hire.

It’s funny how we always have these debates when new technologies emerge. George Bernard Shaw said “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”!

Truer words have never been spoken!


Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary on social networking and its alignment with engagement and recognition.
Denise L. White
Dir, HR Dillard University