Power of Social Media in Building Employee Relations
Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 2009
, Published on 27 November 2014
"If you are not networking, you are not working”
Hey! Why are you using Facebook in the office? This is the common notion for the use of social media in the workplace. Why so? The perception is that it is an unproductive activity and can breach company’s confidentiality. Many a time perception is being deceived by the lack of an idea of complete picture at hand. So is the case with social media and its effect on the employee relations. The advent of digital age has transformed the way the employees are being communicated-from ‘talking at them’ to ‘talking with them’.
Image Courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net, Stuart Miles
This shift to this open communication will help to break the departmental and geographical silos of the organization (Fig.1).
Fig.1.Social networking at workplace (Source: http://en.blog.zyncro.com/2011/05/09/what-is-zyncro-infographics/)
Social media- an aid for bridging the gap
Social media being a mode of instantaneous communication can be used to create a forum for the employees to share their ideas and thoughts with each other, leveraging the spirit of innovation and collaboration. It can be used to carve the culture of an organization and can answer one of the most mystical questions-Why this is the place to work for? Transparency across the walls will further stimulate the sense of ownership in the employees. Enticing new talent can be provoked by the extensive use of social media.
The enterprise social media is a live example as to how the raw power of social media can be harnessed for the greater good of an organization. Even if we see through the perspective of management of a company, ROI is substantial because it helps to reduce the redundancy by promoting a smoother flow of information. From process improvisation to productivity increment, social media can thus promise a higher return on investment (Fig.2).
Fig.2. ROI on corporate social networks (Source: http://en.blog.zyncro.com/2011/07/04/the-roi-of-corporate-social-networks)
Why employers are hesitant to deploy social media at workplace?
Employees’ work versus private life boundaries when crossed creates a detrimental effect on the organization and social media is just blurring the line between the two. What will happen if an employee uses his personal or professional network accounts to create embarrassment for the company? Breach of confidentiality and the loss of reputation can be a matter of great concern for the employers as the whole identity of the company is at stake and it takes a tick of a second for confidential information to reach the outer world. Judging by the power of social media, the dissemination of gossip and negative messages at the workplace can prove to be a source of harassment for others.
How to create a balance?
To strike a balance, companies should define acceptable scope of use and ownership for online content through social media. A definite guideline should be devised to describe the way social media can be used by the employees. Rather than controlling them, it should more of a suggestion to help them to engage in social media for the good of themselves and the company. A sense of ownership should be cultivated to make them realize their stakes in the company. But at the end of the day, an extra piece of burden is being added in the form of training and therefore it should be imparted through interactive techniques like “gamification”.
A social media policy should clearly bifurcate between the sharable and non-sharable content by employees. The privacy of the individuals should also be taken into concern while framing the policy. With a well defined policy and training, a company can turn its employers into its brand ambassadors. Companies like Unisys, HP, Sprint have recognized this fact and have molded their social media policy to increase productivity and performance.
Social media-the spark of change
Diverging away from the traditional broadcast model, social media creates a dynamic real-time open data flow, which is regularly updated and thus drives the workplace mechanics at a far more progressive rate. The due presence of sites like Wikileaks and moves by the government across the globe to make public data available is also thrusting the companies to review their processes, systems and structures.
Even the use of existing platforms like intranets, chat forums, Facebook and Twitter is driving to another level like ’enterprise wikis’ and ‘enterprise social networks’ (Fig.3).
Fig.3.JIVE-An example of Enterprise social network (Source: http://www.informationweek.com/enterprise/enterprise-social-networks-a-guided-tour/d/d-id/1102536?)
A virtual world is being created to let the employees discuss their work related issues and thus to develop cooperative approach towards a common business problem. In the world of fragmented workplaces, it provides the trade unions a medium to connect and communicate with the young employees, who are more comfortable using social media. Due to increasing technical connectivity across geographies, trade unions are becoming sophisticated to use the social media for various campaigns and to link with one another. On the front of settling the disputes, social media has already challenged the traditional approach .It is impacting the power of collective bargaining and the balance of power between the employers and the employees. Social media is thus acting as a platform to raise the voice of the employees. Some labor movement networks like Labour Start and UnionBook have already put social media in action.
But there is also a flip side to it. On one hand the ease of accessing information reinforces transparency and hence helps to subdue any conflict or dispute but on the other hand if the organization is somehow unable to respond properly to the policy of open data, the spark of controversy is ignited.
Consensus on the policies and norms of using the social media in the workplace is still emerging. But the increased use of social media and its acceptability cannot be ignored by the employers as well as employees. Employees need to know the consequences of defaming the business and employers need to recognize the opportunity to increase productivity through effective use of social media at the workplace. The final policy needs to be implemented with consensus of the all parties involved.
The dynamic universe of social media provides a plethora of opportunities-companies only have to know how to grab it!
This article has been authored by Vivek Kumar from IIM Indore