Go Ahead and Ban or Limit Social Media

Companies that ban or limit social media use at work might want to rethink their strategy.

Despite varying efforts to discourage employee social media use during working hours, 75 percent of employees report that they access the medium anyway from their personal mobile device, according to an October survey by HR technology company SilkRoad.

What’s more, 60 percent of employees reported in the survey that they access social media via a personal mobile device multiple times a day. And the practice is only expected to grow with the proliferation of mobile devices.

Brian Platz, SilkRoad’s chief operating officer, said the results suggest that companies need to stop viewing social media as a threat and start finding new ways to harness its potential as a workplace tool.

For companies that choose to adopt social media, there’s also some encouraging news from the survey: “Most of their use wasn’t personal,” Platz said. “They’re [also] using it to connect with co-workers and do business-related things.”

Overall, the survey found that few companies have a social media policy or offer social media training. Platz said businesses must address this gap to stay ahead of the “social transformation” that’s occurring across corporate America.

Most firms surveyed, however, at least allow some sort of social media access. Forty-three percent of employees reported working in an organization where access is completely open; 24 percent said it is open but monitored; and 16 percent work in organizations where social media use is completely blocked.

Employees also reported what they do on social media while at work. The majority said they use it to connect with co-workers, followed by some who said it was “a fun social platform to connect with others.” About 44 percent said they use social media at work to perform work-related content.

Social media use for work purposes varies by business unit or function. Marketing leads the way as the function most likely to use social media to connect with customers, according to the survey, followed by sales.

Surprisingly, functions such as customer support and product management reported infrequent use in the survey. Fewer than 10 percent of HR people surveyed reported using social media to connect with customers.

Given this evidence, HR and other functions should view social media at work as an opportunity to advance the company by capitalizing on employees’ enthusiasm for it, Platz said.

Twitter was overwhelmingly the most popular social media site accessed at work, the survey showed, with 70 percent reporting they access the micro-blogging site during their day. Facebook was next at 65 percent.

Corporate intranets, however, ranked the lowest in comparison to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, according to the survey. Just 19 percent of respondents reported using them at work for either personal or professional purposes.

That’s not surprising given that most company intranet sites are outdated and were never really widely adopted to begin with, Platz said. Some companies, he noted, have begun to develop and deploy their own internal social media sites that aim to mimic the functionality of Facebook and Twitter.

Most of these internal corporate social media tools are still new and have a long way to go before they’re adopted at a pace to compete with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“I think there will be a few cycles before anyone gets it right,” Platz said.

Frank Kalman is an associate editor at Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at fkalman@talentmgt.com.