A Curious Case of the End Justifies the Means

6 Dec, 2017
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“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it” according to Eric Qualman, best-selling author of Socialnomics and motivational speaker. This may be self-evident, but the way in which companies think about social media the risk vs the reward— employee engagement, impact on productivity, collaboration —is constantly evolving". 

According to a survey conducted by TeamLease, organizations that allow unrestricted usage of social media at their workplace risk losing 15% to as much as 45% of the total productivity owing to social media indulgence alone and around 32% of the total time spend on social media during working hours is used for personal work indicating a huge loss of official resources and productivity. This underpins the fact that even though employees may primarily access social networking sites for business-related activities, it does not necessarily signal business focus and can have a detrimental effect on productivity. Apart from the loss of productivity, survey respondents also described that the extensive usage of social media by employees has resulted in an increase in loss of confidential information, defamation, misinformation and employee solicitation. 

Drunken driving however cannot be a case against cars.  Social media is emerging as an important tool to help employees collaborate more easily and its valued by employees particularly when they operate out widely dispersed environments. For many others, like the millennials, social media has almost become a way of life and expression. Hence many organisations are adapting to this behaviour by channelsing important messaging, conversations and communications leveraging social media even if it is restricted within the enterprise. In an era where emails seem outdated to the new breed of employees at the work place social media has a potential to become the key messaging tool and at the core liberating for the new gen employees. With improved access to internet bandwith and speed in data transmission we are witnessing interesting innovations at workplace using social media. If organisations are able to connect employees with a strong sense of purpose the worries around misuse and loss of productivity can be minimised. As a matter of fact, motivated employees shall become trailblazers of channelising social media capabilities gainfully and intelligently to collaborate and innovate. One cannot wish away the important of social media at workplace today just like we cannot wish away the importance of Internet and there is no better testimony than social media gainst like Facebook and Whatsapp seriously considerly launching the enterprise versions of both these tools (already on BETA for same). The argument is really hinging on how much is too much. Anything unrestricted comes with its risk however a carefully designed social media policy can help employers optimise organisational needs with those of their employees. Some suggested measures would include :

Social Media Policy : Invite employees to cocreate a social media policy which meets the organisational goals yet doesn’t deny employees a platform of expression. Through extensive brainstorming and weighing all pros and cons a company wide policy of the do’s and don’t’s can be articulated. The same can be relooked at reasonable periodic intervals. Co-creation shall improve the chances of its acceptance and also make employees responsible for its usage. 

Use Social Media for Internal & External Communications  – If you cant stop them, its probably better to join them, where they are. Organisations around the world are struggling how to ensure that corporate vision and sense of purpose gets percolated down to every indvidual contributor within the company and in today’s time social media is probably the best platform to choose to achieve this objective. It is easy to relate to and use. It also helps them participate and share actively which enhances their sense of belonging and loyalty to the organisation.

Employees as brand ambassadors on social media – Empower employees to be social media ambassadors of the brand and one can without any doubt expect them to be responsible in its usage and the kind of communication that go out. Inspired by Enid Blyton’s popular “Naughtiest girl is a Monitor” wouldn’t be such a bad idea to make the most errant cases the ambassadors. It has its risks however the upside can be potentially mammoth. 

If there is one thing to take away from this, it is the fact that social media is simply just a new medium for an old dialogue. There is no denying the fact that the biggest social media risk is actually in not involving your employees. Statistics reveal that socially engaged employees feel more optimistic about their association with the company and are overall viewed as the most credible voices on a company’s work culture and ethics, innovation and business practices. Employers should focus on fostering employee social conversations, cultivate employee advocacy within the organization  and empower employees to shoulder the responsibility of being the voice of the organization. In Margaret Heffernan’s words for good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate. Safe to say this is one debate which shall remain inconclusive.

Authored Article by Manish Sabharwal & Rituparna Chakraborty .

Featured in Asian Age & Deccan Chronicle.

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