Loosen Up on Employee Use of Social Media at Work

I have worked with several corporations whose fear of losing control of all communications, let alone security, has prompted them to shut down access of all social media from within the company. I can understand that. If I don’t understand something, my first inclination is to stop ‘it’ until I can make some sort of sense out of it. The question is whether or not leadership teams are just stopping it or trying to make sense of it.

While Gartner came out this fall and flat out told IT authorities that “banning access to social media is futile”, the real value is understanding how foundational social networking is to our success at work, and how social media is a critical extension of that.

“While a job may be regarded as an economic transaction, the human brain thinks of the workplace as a social system,” said Carol Rozwell (shown), a VP at Gartner. That’s because organizations ARE SOCIAL SYSTEMS. Not only will employees find a way around social media barriers at work, the reactions to such barriers could lead to an opposite and equal reaction.

The fact is that we want our people communicating. We want them active within both personal and work circles, and frankly, we hope there is sufficient overlap in both of those circles to give our people balanced living while at the same time continuing to build a positive brand for the organization (building positive perception, contributing to corporate and product success, increasing talent pipelines, etc.).

Instead of banning social media in the workplace, find someone on the leadership team with social media vision and make them the champion. If you don’t have one of those, then install one, because society is not going to do a social media u-turn and abandon it. Teach employee groups how to use it, when and where to use it, and how to integrate it into work processes. Give them encouragement and parameters to help them grow your brand, champion a winning culture and harness social media to grow the enterprise. Be transparent about your fears and passionate with your vision.

We could easily see in the next few years that there are dramatic financial and people results between organizations that leverage social media among employees and those that do not. Or we may not. Either way, social media is not going away, and performance will be far better for those leadership teams that figure out how to harness its power and enable their organization.


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