Social media has been significantly influencing different aspects of our professional and personal lives. While organizations have been focusing on leveraging social media for their business growth and promotion, they have overlooked the potential of social media for effective communication at the workplace and for improving and strengthening employee-to-employee relationships. Most organizations are aware of the role social media can play in bringing their workforce closer together and enhance collaboration and communication between employees. Social media platforms can simplify the process of information sharing besides encouraging enhanced employee engagement.
Prejudice against media in organizations
The interest of organizations to harness social media often stems from the fear of its misuse by employees. Organizations are of the opinion that providing their workforce with the freedom to use social media at the workplace can reduce their efficiency and productivity levels significantly. They believe that employees are likely to spend a major part of their working hours interacting with their friends and updating their status on social networking sites, at the organization’s expense. In fact, many organizations have completely banned access to social media websites for their employees, which in most cases can prove totally counterproductive. Moreover, most of the employees would be using social media through their smartphones, so banning social media websites on the corporate network might not actually work.
So rather than focusing their energies on trying to curb social media usage of employees at the workplace, it is important for organizations to find the best ways to use social for effective communication at the workplace.
How social media impacts communication at the workplace
There are several ways in which social media platforms can help in improving workplace communication and contribute to developing a positive work culture. The most important of these methods are discussed in brief as follows.
The various social media platforms provide an informal environment for employees to connect and interact, as persons. This makes it easier for co-workers to connect with each other and work towards building strong bonds. Employees find it easier to share their ideas and opinions with someone at the workplace, with whom they already interact freely on social media. This, in turn, results in better coordination and collaboration between the employees, especially those working in different teams within the organization. An example of this could be that employees in different teams may figure out from Facebook that they share the same hobbies or interests.
Using social media to recognize employee efforts and achievements helps in adding value to the entire process besides opening up channels of communication between co-workers. Being congratulated by their peers helps to enhance employee motivation levels significantly and increases willingness to interact with and reach out to less familiar co-workers. This results in breaking barriers between individuals and teams, besides enhancing the overall engagement of the workforce. For example, when someone shares a post on LinkedIn or Facebook about a recognition that he or she received at the workplace, gets a lot of attention (read as likes and comments) from coworkers and even ex-colleagues.
Many times employees find it difficult to discuss work-related problems with their peers or even supervisors in the stressful environment of the workplace. For such people, social media sites provide a perfect platform to discuss any such issues on a one-to-one basis or even in a group chat with the concerned people. The relaxed environment of social networking sites makes it easier for them to hold an informal conversation about really serious issues. A significant chunk of the corporate workforce might be already doing this over WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
Organizations can also consider building internal social networks to enhance corporate communication that could save both time and money. These internal networks can be used for conducting online meetings, carrying out discussions, etc. This can facilitate faster decision making and also enhance the overall productivity and profitability of the workforce. It can also be an effective forum to increase employee involvement by seeking opinions and feedback. WhatsApp and other social media platforms are often being used for communication and collaboration by most organizations.
Social media can prove to be a treasure trove of information for interested employees, which they can then share with their co-workers to spread the knowledge. They can connect with experts to get support on the most challenging aspects of a project to ensure its successful completion. By sharing this information with their teams, they can spread the knowledge further. This, in turn, can help in developing the capability and effectiveness of the workforce. Posting articles of common interest by colleagues on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook does definitely help in improving the organization’s overall knowledge and capability.
Social media can offer employees an opportunity to relax and refresh their minds without venturing too far from their workstation. They can choose to enjoy such breaks as frequently as they like without disturbing their co-workers or indulging in other useless activities. Most importantly any data gathered during such breaks, including jokes, news updates, and any other fun information can be used by them to improve employee communication at the workplace. This information can be used by employees to share a laugh, improve general knowledge and even to simply entertain one-another. It can help in creating an informal work environment and make employees more comfortable to spend long hours at work.
Rather than banning social media in the workplace completely, organizations should aim to make social media an integral part of the internal communication policy as it can provide a multitude of benefits to the organization. It is important for organizations to set the boundaries for the usage of social media – the dos’ and the don’ts as part of the policy and monitor the usage. Social media is here to stay and is already an important aspect of almost every employee’s personal life.
Most organizations have overlooked the potential of social media for effective communication at the workplace – they should harness social media to enhance the sense of freedom and flexibility among employees; and develop a great workplace culture based on mutual trust, understanding, and team spirit.
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