Joshua-Michéle Ross from O’Reilly Radar blogged about a real challenge that social media practitioners face and that’s the negative perception of social media as the domain of workplace slackers. Employers have a real concern about the impact of social media on employee productivity but as Ross rightly points out, social media is not the only distraction at the workplace,
The fact is that there are already tons of other outside distractions at work ranging from instant message, email, workplace socializing and the never ending cigarette break – so this is not a new problem – but an old concern applied to a new technology…
That’s a great point, but what makes social media so unique and different from other common workplace distractions is that it’s a highly visible media. One could IM all day long or surf the web and not be subject to any scrutiny but send out one too many tweets and you’re likely to be branded a slacker.
Much of this negativity can be traced back to conventional (misguided) productivity measures, lack of social media training, and company culture.
#1 When managers don’t trust their employees to do the job and use number of hours worked as the key measure of productivity instead of results, there is higher likelihood that social media will be perceived negatively. In such an environment, every minute away from the job is considered a waste and much more effort is expended on “looking busy”. However, at companies where results trump number of hours worked, the case for social media is made much more easily because it’s easier to track productivity when it’s tied to a tangible outcome.
#2 The second challenge is related to lack of understanding of social media and related training. The best analogy is email, which is a great productivity tool for employees who know how to use it, but there are others who are overwhelmed by it quite easily. Without formalized social media training, employees are much more likely to waste time on social media networks because they don’t know how to balance social media engagement with their core job function.
#3 Last and most important challenge is that a social media-centric culture requires a mindshift that has to be driven from the top. Here’s where senior management must set an example. In many companies, the senior management doesn’t pro-actively engage in social media, thereby fueling the perception that social media is for slackers and not for busy professionals. When a highly visible executive starts engaging in social media, it paves the way for rest of the organization and provides an example of how to manage social networking efficiently in the workplace.
Company cultures and attitudes don’t change overnight but understanding the barriers will go a long way towards to bringing them down.