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Can Social Media Improve Your Productivity?

(Yes - But quick before the boss sees you!)


We have all witnessed the following in a movie, or perhaps even in real life.

The scene: A large open office in a tech company, newspaper, or swanky start up. A young hipster in his office cubicle is cruising Facebook or the Internet and, apparently not paying attention to his job, when the music intensifies, the camera zooms in, we hear footsteps and quelle horreur, his boss walks up from behind and seemingly catches him in the act of not working. Our young protagonist quickly minimizes his screen, so his boss doesn’t see what he wasn’t doing and tries his best to act busy and engaged, and to not look ashamed. Occasionally the movie script has the boss make some snide comment indicating her disdain, and clearly stating she thinks the employee is a slacker, but she’ll let it go THIS TIME.

It is time for the movies to rewrite that script, as recent studies now indicate that employees who use social media and the internet for personal use at work are in fact more productive than those who don’t. But aren’t they slacking off? Breaking internet use policies? Perhaps, but doesn’t every employer want to increase their productivity?

The studies – one by the start-up “Big Data” firm Evolv and the other by a Warwick Business School professor – each tracked workers’ use of social media alongside their performance at work, and found that digital connectivity appeared to boost metrics like productivity and retention. Perhaps it is as simple as allowing your employees to be social, which makes them happier, and therefore more connected to their life and thus their work. Social media breaks perhaps act as mental palate cleansers, helping workers with a quick mood enhancer, allowing them to return to the task at hand refreshed. So your employees are happy, your policies are in place, but how to further use social media tools to increase your agency’s productivity?

Here are some easy to implement ideas:

  • Set up an internal Facebook group to promote staff wellness. HR could accept suggestions, offer contests, link resources and post topics like nutrition and fitness for discussion.
  • Advertise job positions through Twitter, Linked In as well as job boards. Ask employees to re-post, tweet the agencies job postings on their own sites to expand the reach to a bigger network.

These may seem easy to deploy strategies to improve productivity, but there are some very creative thinkers using social media in innovative ways that actually improve their internal resources and communications.

One firm used social media to produce a platform across their multinational organization for employees to create an internal resource of their own skill sets. This would be effective in any size agency. The following excerpt from their blog explains exactly how they did this.

“Unisys launched “My Site” to allow employees to build their personal credentials and network of colleagues, they built a feature called “Ask Me About” that allows Unisys employees to locate experts across the organization by creating hashtags for their skills and key topics they want to collaborate on with other employees. So far, in the first 18 months, 15,000 Unisys employees world-wide (out of 23,000) have built profiles and created hashtags describing their expertise.”

Unisys is definitely onto something. They can now maximize their own social capital effectively and have increased and expanded their knowledge base.

According to a big study by McKinsey “two thirds of the value creation opportunity afforded by social technologies lies in improving communications and collaboration within and across enterprises. By adopting these organizational technologies, we estimate that companies could raise the productivity of knowledge workers by 20 - 25 %. However, realizing such gains will require significant transformations in management practices and organizational behaviour. Social technologies can enable organizations to become fully networked enterprises – networked in both a technical AND in a behavioral sense”.

So perhaps the next generation of movie-goers will instead see the boss walking up to their employee who is actively using social media at work and saying” Good for you Jenson, it’s nice to see someone channeling their energy into something so productive”.

Want to know more?

A great all-around website on everything social media.

A paper on social media and productivity.

The full McKinsey Global Institute Report : Unlocking Value and Productivity through social technologies.

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