The times, they are a-changing. This is part of my reply to someone who commented that “our generation survived work without social media, you can too.” Of course we can survive without social media. Heck, Mahatma Gandhi is said to have survived 21 days of total starvation at age 74, subsisting only on small sips of water. But do you know what we’re hearing when you block our precious social media sites?
- You don’t trust us enough to be productive
- You don’t recognize how life-changing social media is
- You don’t realize that social media offers a wealth of resources that wouldn’t have been as easy to get to a few years ago—resources that could spark ideas and innovation
- You can’t take a break, so all your employees can’t take a break either
- You’re the only one who can stream videos on YouTube, since you can afford a 24/7 data connection
- You’re an old stodge who can’t relate
- You refuse to adapt for stubborn reasons
For Pro-Blockers, this all sounds like the rambling complaints of a rebellious teenager, I’m sure. But you have to open your eyes to the fact that social media has become a part of many people’s lives— not just Gen Y mind you—and all the more so as mobile becomes even more explosive.
Social media has permeated our lives so much that to a study by American Express revealed that 39% of Millennials won’t work at companies that block Facebook. You can’t fight social media, and it’s stupid to do so, given all the research that shows that social media can be beneficial.
- SMBs use social media to seek advice on technology purchases, says Pingdom
- A Society for New Communications Research study shows that professionals use social media for decision-making, building the company brand, recruiting, and collaboration.
- Social media is used for engagement, alignment, and innovation, as this blog post from RingCentral shows
- Your customers are on social media. comScore data says that 98% of the US online population use social media sites. Worldwide, 6 out of every 10 people use social networks and forums.
- And more social media statistics for 2012 here
Of course, we recognize that some employees aren’t tactful or professional enough to keep their lid on when it comes to company matters. And then there’s the issue of high bandwidth to boot. If this is your problem as the boss, then here are some more reasonable resolutions that would enable you to have a bit more control over employee behaviour on social media sites:
- Conduct proper social media training, so you can leverage social media for your company AND make it clear on the get-go what employees are allowed or not allowed to say on social media sites
- Give consequences to people who are unproductive. Don’t mete out a blanket punishment for every employee. As Stop Blocking! contends, making sure that employees are productive is the supervisor’s job. Blocking everyone kills employee engagement and drops employee trust to zero.
- Get more bandwidth. This is one case where the investment is actually worth it.
- Hire employees that actually correspond to your company culture, like Zappos did.
- Let up a little. If some of your employees are on social media, it doesn’t mean that they’re out to badmouth you or your company—unless you’re a horrible boss.
It’s true that social media can be a distraction, but did you know that 43% of workplace distractions come from telephone calls, talking with co-workers, and ad hoc meetings? Does this mean that we should ban these too? As this insightful article on techdirt points out, how we use technology is a choice. If people are going to use it in a way that leads to unproductivity, that’s their prerogative and they have to deal with the consequences.