October 22, 2014

Small Business Advice

A relaxed social-media policy at work may be best for business

“Being social, even outside the confines of the company, makes workers more comfortable and happy.” ~Kevin Rice, AT Kearney

Jerry Osteryoung | 6/11/2012
I was recently consulting with a company when the CEO made a comment about how many of her employees were using social media networks instead of working. After walking through the office to talk to her staff, she had become concerned about how much time they seemed to be spending on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, despite the fact that many were continuously saying they are overworked. In light of this, she wanted to pull the plug on all social network access.

Jerry Osteryoung
Jerry Osteryoung
After hearing this business owner’s experience, I was convinced that the best strategy was to prohibit access to all social networking sites during the work day. However, after doing some research and talking to others in the field as I prepared for this column, my posture has changed dramatically. I am a new convert to the school of thought that allowing social networking use is good business policy.

A study conducted by an industrial research firm recently showed that 50 percent of the large firms surveyed allow their employees to access social media, and they predict that will grow to 70 percent in a couple of years. Obviously the trend among large companies is to allow employees access to these sites.

While the percentage of small firms permitting social media use is much lower, I really feel they need to follow the larger corporations’ lead and consider opening this up to their employees.

With the advent of smart phones, your staff has the capability of accessing social media even if you prohibit it on the computer system. In the end, the same amount of time will be consumed.

For those who are unconvinced by the “they are going to do it anyway” argument, look at it this way. It is increasingly commonplace for your employees to put in workdays much longer than the standard eight hours as they continue to work from home long after they have left the office. Many of your employees feel that they deserve a break after working on an in-depth analysis of some aspect of your business, and more and more companies have made the decision to permit social media access in order to compensate their staff for this personal time.

Another common occurrence is for employees to have their personal e-mails delivered to their company account, which means they are spending some of their work time answering personal e-mails. As these observations show, your staff is using your IT resources for personal purposes in so many different ways these days. This is just the world we live in, and it must be accepted if we want to keep our staff happy.

An open policy about social networking is also a great recruiting tool for new and younger employees. These Gen Y folks think of computers and technology as their birthright, and being denied this creates some difficult situations.

Now, does this mean that you allow workers to use social media for an inordinate amount of time? Of course not. There is a big difference between a reasonable amount of use and abusing the privilege.

Though having a policy permitting open access makes it more difficult to let an employee go on the basis of excessive use of the web and social media, good management practices should be able to handle this situation in the majority of cases.

Now go out and consider implementing a policy that allows use of social media and the web. There is no question in my mind that this is good policy for both the company and the employee.

You can do this!

Go to Links Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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