Social Media: The boon and bane for HR

Social media can be used to grow a business effectively when monitored and used effectively. However, it can also result in many lost working hours for corporations as employees succumb to distractions on social networking sites.

An article recently published by reports that companies with over 1,000 employees lose up to US$10 million each year to the use of social media in the workplace. Employees in larger companies are spending over an hour a day on various social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, playing games, Chatting with friends, viewing their photos and profiles, and updating information of their own.

All these activities translates into precious lost working hours for the corporation, which translates into up to US$10 million in unearned revenue, unjustified wages and other miscellaneous resource costs.

This is a huge bane for companies, especially middle-sized ones that rely greatly on employee contributions and man-hours. In highly competitive industries such as finance, service or IT, companies cannot afford to lose human resource to social networking distractions and therefore lose out to more focused and driven competitors.

Their actions go mostly undetected due to the size of the corporation and its organizational structure. Employers are unaccustomed to dealing with this new shift in workplace dynamics, especially since social media has only been a fixture in daily life for a few years. Therefore, they do not see that a large, diluted organizational structure is one of the reasons for rampant use of social media in the workplace. They do not check on their employees as long as the assignments are completed and the work is satisfactory.

Therefore employers have to create a culture of excellence in the company, where employees are given incentives for additional work and achievements. This will push employees to do beyond the basic requirement, and better, more motivating key performance indicators (KPIs) will help them overcome the simple distraction of social networking sites. This put more urgency for HR department and organization to implement good performance management process and system, employee development, training management to optimize the talent in the organization.

Some employers may want to monitor employee usage of social networking sites more closely. A network analyzer, or a packet sniffer, can be installed to allow employers to capture information going through the network systems, therefore assessing the level of work various employees do. Other measures include only allowing sites such as Facebook and Twitter to be accessible only during certain times of the day, for example, during lunchtime. It may seem extreme, but in an unintentional experiment recently published, the Internet connection of a medium-sized company went down and employees immediately posted productivity gains of up to 50%. Employers should consider carefully the appropriate HR guidelines and policies before adopting any of these measures as there are implications for different industries or countries.

There is also the possibility that social media, when monitored and used carefully, can help a business. Information about the business can be posted up online for promotion purposes: to generate interest and buzz. As long as  confidential information is not leaked out to the public that could harm sales and help competitors, such as details about unreleased products, responsible social media used by employees in the company’s interest could do wonders, exposing it to a new market and bringing in more consumers. It can also be used as a platform to connect the company with the existing customers, a tool to improve communications and boost employees’ morale if it is used as a platform to connect all the employees in a company especially when the employees are spanned across the region or the globe.

Social media is here to stay, it is for us to harness the power and manage the potential harm it can do the organization.


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