Why IT can help the

Employees who are allowed to use social media tools andsmart phones at work are far more likely to advocate for their company’s products,services and working environment, according to a new Forrester Research Inc.report.

The research firm polled 2,784 North American employeesacross a variety of business verticals to measure employee advocacy. Forresterasked employees to grade themselves on a 10-point scale as to how likely theywere to recommend their company’s products to a friend as well as how likelythey would be to recommend a job to people outside the company.

It found that when employees were permitted to use socialmedia tools at work, 48 per cent of those respondents said they promoted theircompany’s wares with 27 per cent indicating that they did not.  Similar numbers were seen among employees whowere allowed to use smart phones at work, with 42 per cent classified as promotersand 30 per cent as detractors.

But these numbers drastically changed among responding employees who were notallowed to use social media tools and smart phones.

Among employees working at organizations that ban social networking tools, 31per cent were promoters and 45 per cent were detractors. While at organizationsthat prohibit smart phones, 30 per cent of respondents were promoters and 46per cent were detractors.

“This should be very eye opening for senior leaders within large companies,”said Matthew Brown, a research director serving content and collaborationprofessionals at Forrester.

“If you’re an IT leader in a company that really looks todifferentiate on service experiences and how your company is supportingcustomers, this data should be an eye opener.”

He added that this type of data could be exactly what manybusiness leaders need to see when debating whether or not to bring these newtechnologies into the workplace.

The researcher said that historically companies have gone for the “easy answer”when it comes to enabling empowering technologies such as social networkingtools or mobile devices.

“They either turn them on or turn them off,” Brown said,referencing to a one-sized fits all approach.

Instead, he argued, organizations need to take a risk-based approach whensetting policies for social networking and smart phone use.

For IT staff working as content and collaboration professionals, Brown advisesa close working relationship with the decision-makers in HR, customer serviceand executive management to help build a “systemic enterprise-wide program”that educates and equips the workforce on the importance social technologiesand mobile devices have on corporate culture and talent management.

The Forrester report comes just a few weeks after a 500-person Telus/Rotman surveyrevealed although one in four Canadian organizations actively blocked access tosocial networking sites for security reasons, these companies do not experienceany improvement in security.

According to Walid Hejazi, a professor of business economics at the Univeristyof Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, some organizations that block accessto social networking sites actually bring productivity and security issues uponthemselves as employees spend valuable time trying to circumvent the block orsurf the sites through their mobile devices.

He said organizations should ideally allow social networkingaccess and put into place extensive education programs to ensure that employeesknow how to use the sites responsibly. And that doesn’t mean just telling youremployees to “go on Facebook and be careful,” Hejazi said.

He added that employees should be advised that even a fewunrelated Facebook or Twitter messages at the wrong time may lead to negativeconsequences.

“Especially in the financial sector, the fact that you’retalking on Facebook about nothing can send a signal to a lot of signals to yourcompetitors,” Hejazi said.