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Worker Social Media Usage High in the Workplace, Survey Shows

Of the employees surveyed by talent management software-maker SilkRoad, 43 percent worked for organizations that allowed total access to social media, 24 percent said access was monitored, and 16 percent had social media access blocked by their employer.

October 3, 2012

Most workers are tweeting and using Facebook as well as other forms of social media during the workday, and employers should use that to their advantage, a new survey by SilkRoad finds.

The study, titled Social Media & Workplace Collaboration, was released Oct. 3 and finds three-quarters of employees use their personal mobile devices to access social media at least once a day while on the job, and 60 percent use it several times each workday. The survey by SilkRoad, a Chicago-based company that specializes in talent management software, gathered online responses from 1,100 employees in fields such as health care, retail and not-for-profits.

Allowing and even encouraging employee usage of social media can benefit an organization. Having an active social media presence allows employees to "connect with customers and let them find out what's being said in the public domain," says Brian Platz, chief operating officer of SilkRoad. That presence also can be used as a job-recruiting tool.

Of the employees surveyed, 43 percent worked for organizations that allowed total access to social media, 24 percent said access was monitored and 16 percent had social media access blocked by their employer.

But the survey found regardless of how the employer treated social media, "there was no difference between light and heavy use at companies with monitored, blocked or restricted sites. Employees across the board are using personal social media frequently."

Twitter and Facebook are most popular, accessed by 70 percent and 65 percent of respondents, respectively. Less than 20 percent used corporate intranet sites.

Platz recommends organizations make use of social media to foster in-house cooperation. The majority of respondents rely on email. "We believe email is a very inefficient way of collaborating and sharing."

About 40 percent of those surveyed share work-related content via social media, and less than 30 percent use it to collaborate to "drive new ideas and innovative thinking," the survey says.

Social media can also be an important way to capture employee knowledge. With employees frequently changing jobs, "It becomes critical to become productive and up to speed as soon as possible," Platz says.

Despite the widespread usage of social media, few organizations have social media policies in place. Less than one-quarter of those surveyed work for a company with a specific policy, while nearly one-quarter say they have no policy. At other organizations it's part of the general guidelines for the use of technology.

Platz says there's no one-size-fits-all approach to social media guidelines. In certain arenas, such as law and financial services, employers should be cautious because of compliance and legal issues.

At the same time, organizations need to make sure their policies don't conflict with privacy, freedom of speech and fair employment laws.

Susan Ladika is a writer based in Tampa, Florida. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com