Alcohol, adult content and social media....at work

We've talked before about our take on social media in the workplace.

Recently, Computer World released an article that seemingly contradicts our advice to employers about how to handle this issue.  Here's the skinny on the article's findings:

  1. 54% of U.S. companies have banned employees from social networking.
  2. 19% of employers allow social networking for business purposes only.
  3. 16% allow limited personal use.
  4. 10% of 1,400 CIO's said companies allow full access to social networking during work hours.
  5. Employee productivity drops 1.5% at companies that allow full access to Facebook.
  6. 1 in 33 workers said they use Facebook only while at work.
  7. 87% said they had no clear business reason for using Facebook.

(Deep breath)

Organizational decision makers can use stats like these to embrace this change instead of generating more of the same (bureaucracy) for innovators to wade through. Here's our suggested approach, point-by-point, per the list above:

  1. Social media is now the most popular online activity in the world and categorized by many as a revolution tantamount to the printing press.  What do you expect to gain from banning it? Disgruntled employees? A less meaningful connection with peers and customers? A less modernized environment? While you're at it, could you add banning alcohol to your cause? (Let us know how that works out for you.)
  2. This just further underscores the lack of understanding organizations have about social media. There is no work | personal divide. People are, and will increasingly, live their lives and do business online...more and more at the same time.
  3. Can someone please define "limited personal use"? Three tweets per day? You'd end up spending most of your time policing instead of leveraging the technology for research, innovation and customer connection.
  4. This is the enlightened group. Congratulations, your employees will respect you for it.
  5. Employee productivity will ebb and flow, social media or no social media. We don't disagree that the initial learning curve (and novelty) will take time from the day-to-day. It's up to the employer to set guidelines and illustrate how to best leverage social media, and to even go so far as to illustrate this with tangible examples that propagate all the way through the organization.  (And btw, is this 1.5% in addition to or more/less than the inevitable percent of employees who surf the web, play online games, look at adult content, or chat with their mom or girl/boyfriend for a percentage of the day?)
  6. Hmmmmm....Many people only use business tools while at work doing business. Since they're already there, why not show them the path that pays dividends for the organization and allow that message to spread??  Further, the personal brands of your employees are now instrinsically linked to your organization's brand, so, personal use does = business impact.
  7. Most organizations have training and PD programs for just about everything under the sun. Why not social media? You've trained them to use your internal portal, your finance system, your HR system, your phone system, and extensively on topics such as health and safety, and respect in the workplace...why not a training program on existing successfully the global village and how it can help drive marketing and relationship-building?

Bottom line.

The way we communicate and connect with one another has changed forever. Do we deny that social media is changing work, changing habits, changing lives?  Nope.  But ask the music industry one last time how the head in the sand technique worked out for them. Prohibiting activity = death.

Social media is a beautiful thing...really. All you have to do to get started is show up...and bring a friend.