Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Unproductive Fallacy

The case for unfettered employee access to social networks in the workplace is compelling.

Team collaboration...creativity and idea creation…office morale…all typically receive a spark from empowering staff to engage in online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIin and Govloop.

Yet, a myriad of executives at commercial and government organizations hold tight to the mistaken notion that social media in the office is cancerous. For instance, a survey conducted last year by Robert Half Technology found that 55 percent of employers banned all access to social networking sites.

While legitimate security concerns related to data leaks, viruses and malware are often cited, right up there on the list of “why we block” is the rationale that social media breeds a lack of productivity.

This is simply not true. I have personally found that an organization that treats its employees like mature and experienced professionals is rewarded with a workforce committed to performance and success.

Several years ago Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) adopted a core principle to promote and support a healthy work/life balance for all employees. More than a work from home policy, we view the job as something you do, rather than a place you go. Our employees work where they want, when they want and how they want.

My role as CEO is to be clear and consistent on expectations, and then hold my colleagues accountable for performance.

We had some staffers flame out in this environment. One account executive chose to spend time on his own consulting endeavors. A sales rep simply stopped working all together. Both are no longer employed at Strategic.

Yet, by and large, this flexible work environment has been one of our wisest decisions as a company.

This same philosophy of treating adults like…well…adults applies equally to social media access in the workplace. Yes, there may be some who abuse the system by passing their time on trivial pursuits. The performance review process should weed them out.

Executives should demand the doors to social media be thrown open. Give them Facebook. Allow them to tweet. Embrace LinkedIn. Network on Govloop.

You’ll be rewarded with more than a thanks. You will also realize a measurable return in productivity, creativity and, ultimately, revenue and profit.


Angela said...

I agree. Employees who are treated with respect do things to ensure they ave your continued respect. Also, when your employees have a social media presence, it enhances the notion that the company is participating in social media and makes them more inviting.

Michael Ham said...

Great blog Marc, thanks for sharing.

Companies need to understand that even if they lock-down social media sites, their staff are still on them...via their iPhones, BlackBerry, Android, Smartphone's etc. Mobile browsing is on the up...In the UK, one of the mobile service providers issued figures of 49 million minutes of mobile web browsing for Dec 2009...nearly 50% of which was spent on facebook!

Surely the best way forward would be to communicate what's expected of staff members, and the do's and don'ts of their useage of social media, giving them the confidence to go out there and maximise the opportunities that social media can bring to the organisation, whilst mitigating the risks?

Training staff and making them feel more empowered and responsible, makes them feel more a part of the organisation, and in return should gain better results for the company?

Maggie McGary said...

I love the work where/when/how you want philosophy. Especially for jobs like mine--social media/community management--sitting at a desk 8 hours a day is tedious. Especially when I also need to be online in the evenings and on weekends anyway...and when I can do that via my iPhone or from my laptop from wherever. More flexibility would definitely increase my productivity and decrease the chance of burnout.

Bettina Kristensen said...

I don´t know why - but the words comming to me right now are: in a lot of companies are sitting old men in old shoes...they don´t know what social media are and how to use them...come on its 2010.......I mean let the employees use social media in the office. Let them be a part of the world around them - I myself get inspired when I´m surfing around looking for tips and tricks to be a better marketer:-) - and as a person I just hate a lot of rules for what to do or not to do...I would like to use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and some other social sites but here at office I can only use LinkedIn. Yesterday - once again - I was out in IT asking for access to Twitter and Facebook - and the answer this time was "maybe". Here at office they see LinkedIn as a prof. site and the others as sites you use as a private person - but what about all the oppertunities for business my company miss then? Lets see social media as "free" marketing......I think let the employees tell the story aboyt the company out in space and let them act as responsible employees. Don´t be afraid for the world around you - be a part. "Free" people are a lot more innovative.....thats my point of view.

And to all of you - have a nice day out there with a lot of sunshine:-)))

√Črika Ferreira said...

Great post. But, in this case, you work at a communications company, and people do need social media. This is not true to all kind of jobs.
But I agree, when you respect employees, they shows commitment with the company. Whe need ideas, and the best way to have them is to talk to people and to know different strategies.

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled with the use of social media in the workplace. I have been following the debate closely. The balance of productivity and working like employees live is a tricky one with social media. Blog, blog, blog or block, block, block??? I thought this whitepaper had some real teeth - http://bit.ly/d2NZRp - and they are doing a follow up webinar that I just registered for - http://bit.ly/cR80Al. Enjoy!!!!

Matt said...

As we talk to our customers about the use of social media in work environments, many agree with the statement that an unproductive employee is just that - unproductive. If you stop them from using social media, then they are merely going to find another (non-work related) outlet for their time. Put another way, it is not a social media or technology issue. It is an employee management issue.

The speed with which social media has entered the workplace is unprecedented. We find that the social media concerns are rapidly migrating to the risks - both business and security oriented - that the company is exposed to. There are no policies on these applications. So they are playing catch up to their users. Some are taking the draconian approach - block it. Others are letting it all in. Neither option is optimal.

A balance is appropriate. If allowed, how do you strike the balance of protecting the network from threats, the intellectual property and maintain compliance with internal and governmental regulations.


Alicia said...

Marc, mteam regularly taps into SM quick-hit updates that are business related. I imagine there's a personal update in there now and then, but it doesn't take misuse of SM to identify those at risk of missing the mark on productivity or building the corporate asset -- that shows up all by itself. My company produces healthcare education, sometimes delivering it by SM. A text reminder to an employee to stay compliant with medications (for example) is good for the employer and the overall work environment.

wannasnow said...

Your text is really good, but Brazil (my country) is not prepared yet to be wide open this way.



wannasnow said...

Your text is really good, but Brazil (my country) is not yet prepared to be wide open this way.



Mike said...

I worked my dream job in my early 20's. Unfortunately it's over, but I learned many good lessons that impact all work I have done since then. During my time at that job my typical work week was about 45-50 hours with perhaps 10 hours per week playing foosball, ping pong or multiplayer computer games with my coworkers. But we also loved the work we did, and in the other 35-40 hours per week we probably completed more work that we would have in a 60-hour week without breaks.

Mature and experienced? Heck no - I was 24. But by the time I was 25 I knew some critical components of a happy and productive work environment.

To "[treat] employees like mature and experienced professionals" and to allow unfettered access to social media in the office are not one and the same. Many workplaces certainly benefit from the propagation of social networking.

However, to believe that social networking is beneficial for ALL work environments would be a case of denial (or worse).