Have you been
Counting the costs, and benefits, of social networking
by CAROl SkyRING-dAUNT, FOUNdER & CEO OF lEARNTEl PTy lTd
ocial networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are in vogue at the moment. They have become established forums for keeping in contact with old acquaintances and meeting new ones, but do they have a place in the workplace? What are the concerns and, on the upside, what are the uses these might have?
CO31 THE STRATEGIC PATH TO CONVERGENCE & COllAbORATION
prODUctivitY A report from SurfControl (now Websense) received a lot of coverage towards the end of 2007 when it claimed that employees are more likely to be whiling away the hours on a social networking site than slaving over a project. The report estimates that if an employee spends an hour each day on Facebook, it costs the
• The reality about productivity and Facebook • Can social network benefit your business • Sensible precautions
company more than $6,200 a year and may be costing Australian businesses $5 billion a year. It found that some employers were restricting employees’ internet use or blocking the sites, but others are establishing protocols for using social websites. In some cases, social networking sites have replaced internal messaging systems and emails.
calendar app with SMS reminders and a built-in to-do list function. There’s an online office app that is a collaborative tool where you can work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and then request collaborative feedback from a group in Facebook. The list goes on. These can be valuable tools for small and medium sized organisations that don’t have the budget or IT infrastructure to While this might be of concern, social set up these types of productivity tools networking sites are not the only way in-house. employees can avoid work. How many jokes are emailed around the office and privacY to friends? How many people shop online Another survey conducted by Sophos or use the internet to research consumer around the same time revealed that goods from cars to DVDs? And how 50% of workers are being blocked from does this stack up against the time the accessing Facebook by their employers, smokers spend around the corner of the who are worried about the website’s building feeding their habit? impact on productivity and security and have put policies or access controls in Social networking tools can actually make place to ban its use in the workplace. employees more efficient and streamline Sophos created an interesting piece communication. Facebook, for example, of ‘research’ where they fabricated a has many work-related apps. These Facebook profile for ‘Freddi Staur’, a range from to-do lists and email to a small green plastic frog who divulged
SEE EVEN MORE INFO AT WWW.STRATEGICPATH.COM.AU CO32
minimal personal information about himself. Freddi sent out 200 random friend requests and 82 people accepted, thereby giving the frog access to their information. Although an interesting exercise, it hardly meets the criteria for research rigour – but what can be drawn from it?
accept random ‘friend’ requests (they understand the issues of privacy) and they’re circumspect with company information. wOrkplace USe Some companies actually encourage their employees to use social networking sites. Flight Centre is one that endorses the use of Facebook. They think it’s a valuable tool when used appropriately, for example to interact with each other and clients to share travel photos and information. At the time of writing the group had 399 members and you must have a valid Flight Centre email address to join this network. The company’s policy requests staff to be respectful of Flight Centre’s reputation when using the company’s name or logo online.
The main concern revolves around the fact that a large number of social networking profile pages contain users’ current employment details, which could be used together with other stolen information by cyber criminals bent on committing corporate fraud, or to infiltrate company networks. To a lesser extent, companies are concerned that employees may be writing material or publishing photographs and videos that may cast the company in an embarrassing light. A quick scan of Facebook shows hundreds of work groups have a presence there Just about anyone can read what’s posted – whether officially sanctioned by the on to social networking sites and much company or not. The IBM network has of what is posted can never be deleted. 33,579 members, NAB has 2,703 and Once something appears on the internet, Telstra has 5,981. The decision to allow it’s almost impossible to remove – even social networking in the workplace after it’s been deleted it will be cached depends entirely on the type of operation somewhere. you’re in and needs to be taken on a On the upside, most employees don’t case-by-case basis. It seems much more
CO33 THE STRATEGIC PATH TO CONVERGENCE & COllAbORATION
AbOUT THE AUTHOR CAROL SKYRING-DAUNT is Founder & CEO of LearnTel Pty Ltd. She has been involved in the design, application and effective use of eCollaboration technologies since 1986. She holds a Dip T; Grad Dip Dist Ed; B Ed & M Ed (Research) and is currently undertaking doctoral studies. She has been published in numerous journals and is a frequent speaker at international conferences. Copies of some of her papers and articles can be downloaded at http://www.learntel.com.au Her blogs are http://caroldaunt.wordpress.com and http://videoconference edublogs.org
appropriate for those at the cutting edge of technology than the local grocery store or pharmacy. Undoubtedly these tools can be highly addictive and distract employees from the purpose of their work.
Most companies understand there’s some personal use of resources by employees at work. They encourage responsible use and acknowledge that people will act responsibly. By responsible they usually mean not spending all day online, not giving out client or company information and respecting the company’s reputation. The important issue is for the company to Social networking is a part of everyday have a policy in place about responsible life for many people and this trend will usage. continue. Companies can capitalise on this by supporting its use with a welltHe fUtUre designed policy. As with everything else All of this is interesting in the light of in the workplace, only those who abuse employees of the future. In her book the privilege should be banned – not Tomorrow’s People, Susan Greenfield everyone. l
addresses the issue of privacy as an oldfashioned notion remembered only by the grandparents of the youth of today. This is the generation that has grown up with Big Brother (the television show – not that of Orwellian fame), MySpace and CCTV recording their every move in public spaces. They don’t perceive any inherent danger in exposing all of their intimate details to anyone who wants to watch and listen. How will today’s workplace policies on social networking sites have to change in the next few years as this group enters the workforce?
SEE EVEN MORE INFO AT WWW.STRATEGICPATH.COM.AU CO34