I read an article titled “54% of Companies Ban Facebook, Twitter at Work” the other week and was quite surprised to find the number was that high.

Whenever the question comes up of about using social networking tools at work – the common debate tends to be focused around productivity. That is many people from a management perspective take the thinking that using tools like Facebook takes people away from doing the tasks that they are employed to do and ends up costing the company money. Users of Social Networks however counter that with the thought that it is by using tools like Facebook they are actually able to do the job they do and that social networking tools help the company do business and make money.

One point I think many people forget about in this debate is how this affects a companies ability to Recruit and Attract Candidates. The war for talent is becoming increasingly competitive and when I see statistics that companies do not allow Twitter/Facebook at work I wonder if companies are doing all they can to attract and retain top employees in their company.

With an increasingly competitive ‘war for talent’ candidates have access to more job opportunities now than ever before. In the next 10-15 years we are going to see a shift in the demographics of our workforce. As we see more of Generation Y (and soon Generation Z) enter the workplace – companies are going to have to adapt to the technology the new working population uses or companies may struggle to be seen an ‘employer of choice’ by top candidates. Social Networking tools are becoming part of our daily lives, similar to the uptake of mobile phones in the 1990′s.

If a candidate is deciding whether your company is the right workplace for them what message does a ban on social networks send? Inadvertanltly companies who ban this technology may be giving off signals to candidates that:

  • Management does not trust their staff to do their job?
  • Management will watch over your shoulder to make sure you are doing only what you have been hired to do?
  • Does it promote your company as a forward thinking organisation always looking to improve or as a company stuck in its ways and policies?
  • Your company is more concerned about manging risk, than doing new business in new ways?

Yes – I do agree Managers need to make sure that there are boundaries with what employees can and can not do at work and that managers do need to measure productivity – however a Social Media Policy outlining what is acceptable and what is not acceptable use of social networking tools would certainly clear up any confusion instead of just putting a ban on all sites. More often than not if you trust your employees to do their job you will get much better results than if you micro-manage them and watch their every tweet.

Candidates at all levels from Graduates to C- Level Candidates are much more savvy these days about which companies they want to work for. Top Candidates want to work in a working environment that is trustful, built on respect, and allows people to be successful in their roles. By banning these sites at work, you are taking away an Employees tools and you may be closing on the door on some fantastic candidates that use these tools as part of their day. Candidates may decline an offer from your company in favour of a company that has a Social Media Policy and allows online access. Employers give people access to a phone line…these online networks are similar tools to a phone… they give your Employees the ability to talk to your clients and customers.

As far as the productivity debate goes – I think the use of social networking tools in the workplace has far more positives and potential than negatives (as long as you do not spend 8 hrs a day playing mafia wars).

This article was originally published on the Blog – David’s Journal on Tap

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