Employers address costs, benefits of social media in workplace
The social media revolution is here, and time to act is a fingertip away.
Online forums like Facebook and Twitter pervade the cyber-sphere, they engulf all businesses and civic entities in their paths. Question is: are they tools for enhancement or time-wasters?
"It's a necessary evil," said Brandon Foster, creative director for local staffing agency Eli Daniel Group. "Cities and businesses need to deal with social media evolving and niche marketing."
One way to deal, at least in the workplace, is by monitoring employees' productivity -- also online. WorkMeter.com, launched in the D-FW area in late-2010, does just that.
Andre Angel, one of the company's founders, several years ago realized the prevalence of social media -- on laptops, company computers, iPads, smart phones -- and saw their potential for "evil," or time-wasting, but also as business assets.
WorkMeter, which relies on a team of 15 Software as a Service (SaaS) industry partners, originally launched in 2008 in Barcelona, Spain, before expanding to hundreds of all-sized companies and government institutions in the Netherlands, Italy, Norway and Dallas.
The web-based application allows employers and employees to measure daily workplace productivity, through charts and summaries that represent one's routine in areas such as sites visited and time spent at each site. Depending on the company using the software, WorkMeter deems how much time spent using certain social media is productive.
"It's reality that in the age of what we call knowledge workers, they're connected to these sites almost 100 percent of the time," Angel said. "When most of us get to social media during the work day, all we're doing is taking a mental break. The problem is we forget how many mental breaks we take."
Recent studies that measured employees' use of social media and online sites like Craigslist and eBay named Facebook as the No. 1 time-waster, Angel said. WorkMeter measured "tens of thousands" of employees around the world, he said, and found that most spend close to half their time online in non-work-related activity throughout the day.
"We waste time without even thinking about it," he said. "Nobody's trying to waste time, and most of us want to improve what we're doing and learning, but sometimes we just do what's comfortable and forget."
Eli Daniel Group, which offices in Allen, staffs and recruits employees for temporary and permanent placement at all-sized companies. It is developing a new, online division that will focus on using social media and web design for reputation management and niche marketing, which Foster said have become essential in this online age.
Social media provide oft-controllable vehicles for companies to enhance their brand and constantly connect to other businesses, thus why many are creating in-between positions devoted to such connections, he said.
Employees can use social media for needed mental breaks, as long as they're kept in check. Monitoring their online activity is a process some employers have adopted, to the point of "spying," he said.
Eli Daniel Group participated in an one-month trial of WorkMeter earlier this year, allowing the employer and employee access to their activity.
WorkMeter users can set up the application as loosely or as privacy-invasive as they'd like, though Angel said the company recommends employers involve their employees and allow them to monitor their own activity.
"Don't treat your employees like kids, essentially sending them to their rooms by locking some of these websites," he said of employers who block access to certain social media. "Allow them access, but give them tools to measure what they're doing."
WorkMeter enables employers to group employees by department or other criteria, which makes for easy configuration of productivity maps and enables clear visibility of team activity. Each department can set an expected activity level expressed in hours/days and an expected productivity level expressed as a percentage, and minimum thresholds for activity and productivity are displayed in charts for daily review.
Award mechanisms allow for certain employees or groups to get badges for productivity, thus potentially promoting positive morale for certain workers, teams or departments, Angel said.
Based on a sample of thousands of employees around the world who have implemented WorkMeter into their workplace, companies have seen 30 to 40 percent improvements in productivity when using the program, he said.
"We as humans are very habitual, and what WorkMeter does is allow you to change your habits by giving constant feedback," Angel said. "This is how we change -- we look at feedback in our daily lives, and based on that feedback, we adjust our behavior."
And adjust companies must when it comes to using, not abusing, social media in the workplace. College graduates and a younger flux of employees sometimes end up "interviewing the employer" about their social media policies, even declining a job if such policies are too stringent or invasive, Angel said.
Claiming oneself as a "social media expert" can prove baseless at a time when five-minute attention spans and 7 year olds with iPhones dominate the culture, when the line between making necessary business connections and being off task is as fine as one mouse-click.
Social media -- and their undeniable influence on personal and professional realms -- are already a revolution. And one that's changing as quickly as a Facebook status or TweetDeck.
"CEOs know there is a major culture shift among us," Foster said. "It's always changing, and they're trying to keep up."
Copyright © 2013 - Star Local News