According to recent research, it is safe to predict that by the time you’ve finished reading this article, three out of every four employees in your office will have accessed social media while on the clock.
Is social media becoming the Wild, Wild West of employee non-productivity? Should companies care whether or not employees are on social networks? Should social media be discouraged or embraced? What’s a manager to do?!
Before you hit the Google search bar to search for social media tips for managers, you should grab a cup of coffee and read my interview below. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Aliah Wright, the author of a recently released book published by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) entitled “A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn … and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites.” She shared a few key points that will help you understand the in’s and out’s of what is happening in social media and what your company should be doing to stay on top of this new form of communication.
Here’s what she had to say to help us all catch up:
Q1. Please tell us a bit about your book and who the audience is.
“A Necessary Evil” is for anyone who manages people who connect to the Internet from the palms of their hands. The book encourages employers to embrace social networking and its usage at work. Statistics show that 90 percent of adults use social media. According to a recent Facebook IDC study, 84 percent respondents’ time is spent on the phone communicating via text, e-mail, and social media versus only 16 percent on phone calls.” That’s right. More people are typing than talking. What’s more the enterprise social networking market is growing exponentially with IDC projecting that revenue from such software to grow from $0.8 billion in 2011 to $4.5 billion in 2016. This is the way we communicate, collaborate, share knowledge, gain insight, as well as further our personal brands and careers. It’s imperative that companies allow their employees to use this valuable resource.
Q2. What advice would you give to a manager who is new to understanding social media but wants to put guidelines in place for his or her team on how to use it in the workplace?
Familiarize yourself with the social media networks your employees are using. Is it Facebook? Instagram? Viddy? Vine? Pinterest? Twitter? GetGlue? LinkedIn? Google+? Yammer? If you don’t know ask them. Lurk first. Join, sit back, read, watch, and learn. Follow the people you admire, mimic their good behaviors, and then join the conversation. You have to engage first so you know what the culture is like. In terms of policy, employers need to be mindful of regulations. Employees are legally allowed to discuss their jobs on social media. Help them build their brands (while enhancing your firm) through their very own blogs and contributions to Twitter chats, LinkedIn, and other online forums. A good place to start with social media policy is to look at Wal-Mart’s policy. It’s been blessed by the National Labor Relations Board. SHRM members can find it on our website, but you can also Google it.
Q3. Do you have any interesting case study stories to tell about how a small business has used social media for their benefit?
Yes. Industrial Mold & Machine in Twinsburg, Ohio, has just 34 employees. Each employee was given an iPad so they could collaborate with one another from their workstations instead of using computer kiosks stationed around the plant. By deploying the social networking tool Socialtext from their iPads, workers are able to save time by reporting directly from their machines instead of the kiosks. Also, companies that cannot afford job boards are increasingly turning to social networking sites to find talent.
Q4. What are employees allowed to say about their employer on social media and what should companies do to monitor this activity?
The National Labor Relations Act allows all workers to communicate with each other about issues relating to their employment as long as that communication falls within the realm of protected concerted activity. And that is extended to conversations on social media. Protected concerted activity is when two or more employees discuss the conditions and terms of their employment in a way that’s designed to bring about change. Companies should, however, have policies outlining that employees are not to disclose proprietary information or trade secrets. There are dozens and dozens of social media monitoring tools that allow employers to monitor or eavesdrop on social media conversations. (Radian6 and Sprout Social come to mind—but I’m not endorsing those just listing them as examples). Not only do these tools allow employers to monitor employees, they’re excellent for engaging customers, future talent, and to monitor their brands. Monitoring these conversations helps companies turn those discussions into demonstrable action items (or nip bad publicity in the bud).
Q5. What impact do you see social media having on small businesses in the next year? What about the next five years?
Can you imagine us having a conversation about letting people use the Internet at work? But that very conversation occurred when the Net was new. People police themselves on these tools—just as they do with the phones on their desks. Those who abuse the tools should be reprimanded—another reason why you need rules. I believe within the next five years, we won’t be having conversations about the need to let people access social media at work. It will be something employers allow automatically because the value will finally be discernible.
Consider these interesting statics from my book:
• 53% of businesses that don’t embrace social media will ultimately fail
• 76% of firms that embrace social media will grow faster than those that don’t
• 86% of people who use social media once a week say they were recently promoted; and
• 71% of senior managers say firms that embrace social media at work will find it easier to attract and keep the best talent.
Social crowdsourcing—tapping the collective knowledge of peers and others on social networking sites—make us work smarter and faster because we’re turning to our peers and other experts to help us in our jobs. That alone will put companies that embrace it head and shoulders above those that don’t.
About Aliah D. Wright:
For more than 15 years, Aliah has worked as an award-winning reporter, writer, editor, artist, manager, web designer, and web content manager. She is also the author of the best-selling book, “A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn … and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites.” It was recently published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
She works in SHRM’s award-winning editorial division. SHRM is the world’s largest association dedicated to the HR profession. In that role, She has become a subject matter expert on the evolution of HR technology, Social Media Strategies, and Global HR.