We have seen a rapid increase in the adoption of social media for personal use over the past 10 years, with 79% of online adults now using Facebook. It was only a matter of time before businesses started to jump on the bandwagon and introduce social media into the workplace. The question is, “How much are companies truly embracing an ‘online social culture’ and what does it mean for employees?”
In our January whitepaper, we discussed three levels of online social interaction. Most organisations fall into one of these categories:
No or Limited Use Technology is not provided for adhoc groups to form and exchange information on any topics around work or more social activities.
Interaction around Work Topics Technology provided to enable work-based interaction focused on work topics, projects or other work related matters.
Wider Interaction In addition to work topics, use of online technologies is also encouraged to support work-related social activities e.g. clubs, sporting teams & events.
Let’s take a closer look at the type of organisations that fall into these categories. For companies who have ‘no or limited use’ of online social interaction, the root of this can be traced back to the workplace culture and management style. Companies with strict control over employees and a controlling management style often view workplace social interaction as ‘wasting time’ at the expense of real work. There is often a lack of trust internally in this type of organisation and these companies are usually stringently governed by policies and guidelines.
The next level up brings us to ‘interaction around work topics.’ Organisations in this category are using digital platforms for communicating internally and there is an increased likelihood that employees are already using similar platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, outside of work. Employees use online social interaction to share company news and updates on their intranet sites. They also use the intranet for debating internal hot topics and projects, with some organisations sharing internal hashtags for various discussions. Employee praise pages that are located on the intranet are also a good way of encouraging workplace social interactions.
Going beyond communication around work topics, the next level shows online interaction between employees for wider social topics. Examples of this include organisations setting up pages on their intranet sites specifically for interests outside of work, such as sports clubs, film groups, social events. There are even examples of more obscure hobbies, such as ultimate frisbee and clock clubs! This type of organisation generally has higher levels of internal collaboration and there is less ‘micro-managing’ of employees.
Of course, there will always be concerns around online social interactions driving an increase in bullying, inappropriate messages and generally poor behaviour. Most organisations apply the same policies for behaviour in the workplace to the online environment and in some ways, this makes any misconduct issues easier to trace.
The overarching factor for the level of online social interaction in the workplace is based on the level of trust that managers have in their employees to adopt this sort of technology in a responsible manner. Of course, this may not always be applicable to all organisations, but it is certainly identified as a common trait in the majority of companies.