Should We Be “Social” at Work?

Companies are aware of and understand they must embrace social media externally with their clients but also internally to engage their employees and inspire collaboration. However, some leaders are still wary of social media as a time-waster, and, despite the numerous companies we hear about everyday using social media, many companies have still not adopted it for legal and productivity reasons. They think their staff members will constantly be updating their Facebook status or tweeting and re-tweeting items all day long. But, what about using these tools or like tools behind the firewall for business purposes?

The fact is people want to communicate this way, and it’s not just for the younger generations. Seniors are the fastest growing population on Facebook. Whether you allow access to “Facebook” or you implement a Facebook-like application behind your firewall, this is an efficient, easy-to-use and engaging way to get people to share what they are working on, report on their availability for other projects and connect and build relationships with people inside the company. We used to encourage connecting with people at a training class or through the company softball team. This is no different; it just involves a computer or Blackberry to do the connecting.

Here are five steps to ensure “social” isn’t viewed as non-productive “socializing”:

  1. Don’t call your internal People Profiles tool “Facebook”; call it “PeopleFinder”, “Connections”, “BluePages” (if you’re IBM). These may sounds similar but don’t conjure the “Facebook” image necessarily. Or, if you implement NewsGator Social Sites, call them “communities” instead. Brand it something that doesn’t imply these tools are a time-waster.
  2. Don’t necessarily call these tools “social media” when pitching them to senior leadership. Call them “collaboration tools”, “team builders”, or, better yet, “efficiency enablers”.
  3. Establish business purposes for why tools like this are needed. A common one I’ve heard is: “The younger generations expect it, and if we want to attract talent we need to have these tools.” While this might be true, I have found that this isn’t always compelling enough as leaders often ask: “What about the 75% of our population that isn’t 23 years old?” Good reasons include: Understanding a person’s area of expertise and experience leads to better staffing of projects; being able to tell when someone is or isn’t available instantly saves time in making decisions or getting answers; connecting people to people speeds up problem solving and helps new people establish relationships faster thus decreasing their ramp-up time.
  4. Try to get one leader on your side. Determine who would be the most willing to not only approve and champion the effort but be one of the first people with a profile.
  5. To help with legal and leadership hesitations, create a decent policy around using these tools and ensure there will be a dedicated activity monitor. A Good Policy Example: IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines