Embrace Diversity in the Social Media Age


By Anca Aroneanu, CHRP and Christine McLeod, CHRP

Diversity is defined as “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety.”

Variety itself is the spice of life—something that extends to today’s workplace. We can now speak our mind, complain, celebrate, share, and learn instantly through a variety of tools. That variety is considerable and loaded with potential for organizations and individuals alike.

The Evolution of Connectivity

The business world has changed and continues to do so—especially the way we connect. We used to communicate face to face alone. Then came the telegraph; next the telephone. Then email revolutionized the workplace. Instant messaging quickened the scenario considerably. We no longer had to get up from our desk to talk to someone. Cell phones emerged the size of shoe boxes and quickly shrank is size while growing in usage: smart phones.

THEN came social media.

Do you know how many social media tools there are out there? I don’t. The number changes every day. Only a decade ago, most of us had only had one phone and one email address at work. If you needed something from a colleague, the decision to call or email was relatively easy. Now, employees can choose from any one of many tools to communicate and collaborate.

Moreover, the word ‘social’ does not negate the fact that there are tools for all facets of business: social advertising and marketing, analytics, employee facing, customer facing, and the list goes on and on.

Facing Down the Fear Factor

So why are some companies terrified of social media?

Perhaps it’s a numbers game and some business leaders are feeling a bit intimidated. There IS power in numbers and the number of employees conversing online grows daily. To think of this is terms of ‘the company’ vs. social media is both destabilizing for any internal culture—and pointless. Good luck overpowering something that multiplies faster than you can say ‘social media.’

Regardless, some companies have decided to take the avoidance and denial route. ‘Social media is distracting our employees so we are going to ban everyone from using it at work.’ But wait—employees have smartphones WITH social media tools on them. ‘Okay then, we will ban employees from using their smartphones at work.’

Tying Tools to Productivity

But how effective is this mentality? This is obviously not a productive dialogue for any organization. The telephone used to be viewed as a distraction, as was email.
In fact, email is still one of the biggest enemies of productivity. A survey of corporate email users done by Osterman Research showed that on average, we spend 2.5 hours working with email.

However, while it may feel productive to put emails into folders, respond and delete—that’s not productivity. Labour productivity is defined as the amount of goods and services produced by one hour of labour. When email is checked, nothing is produced.

Even worse, if employees spend more than a quarter of the work day on email, how does collaboration prosper? Two or more brains are better than one. Unfortunately, even if the workplace is dynamically diverse, the majority of those valuable contributions are stifled by such routines as email management. Email has a definite function, but is a poor reflection of the social media’s productivity potential.

Nonetheless, social media has just as often been painted with the ‘time-wasting’ brush. Logically, it makes sense to assume that with more online tools productivity should decrease even further, but this is not the case. Microsoft has recently completed a two year study and found that employees who use social media are more productive.

Furthermore, employees noted that management underestimates the benefits of using social tools and that they could perform their jobs better if management was more supportive of social tools.

Banning social tools is clearly not the answer if organizations expect high productivity, collaboration, and engagement.

If You Can’t Beat Them…

Many companies are already embracing social media and seeing results. They are using social media tools at every level from marketing to HR, and as a result, have gained exposure, increased sales and developed their brand image.

However, as mentioned, there are so many tools available. How do you choose? What’s best for your organization.

A simple internet search brings up a ton of articles on different tools available and how to choose the best one. The truth is it doesn’t matter what social tool(s) you use. Just pick one (or several) and see where it takes you. Like any other tool you use in your organization, its effectiveness needs to be gauged according to how it helps achieve agreed upon company goals, you have to evaluate its effectiveness in helping you achieve company strategic goals.

Moreover, when the same technologies are put to use by teams working together, the results can even surpass strategic expectations. The collaborative effectiveness unleashed by social tools is best served by a quick anecdote.

And if you are allowing people to work together, you will be amazed at what they can achieve (and no micromanaging required!)

I have always been told that the best way to persuade someone is to use an example. I will give you two!

Why Social Media Works

As the event coordinator for Impact99, I am part of a national team and not one member of our team lives less than an hour apart. How do we get anything done? While we certainly don’t have a central office, we are always in touch. We have regular team meetings using Google Hangouts. We discuss and debate topics using Twitter, Facebook, and the Impact99 Blog.

Ninety-nine per cent of our communication takes place on social platforms. Last year, we used 37 Signals and BaseCamp. This year, we collaborate on Sendgine. We have ‘trains’ for all the different aspects of Impact99. We can share files, comment on posts, and create ‘to do’ lists. What I love about working on Sendgine is that I never feel like I’m ‘out of the loop.’ There is complete transparency and clarity in everything we do. While virtual, it has been the best environment I have ever worked in. Social tools = motivation and engagement.

Social media tools increase collaboration and productivity in today’s diverse work environments. The corporate landscape is changing. Just as we embrace diversity with our human resources, it’s time to apply this acceptance to social tools as a means of unlocking the potential of that diversity.

It does not matter which tool you use, but if your organization is living in denial, it will not be able to do so for long. Competition, collaboration and innovation are key to any business success—and social media is both a driver and a provider in these crucial areas. Don’t be afraid of diversity and change—engage with social media.

Anca Aroneau, CHRP is event coordinator for Impact 99 (impact99.ca) and Christine McLeod, CHRP is Impact 999s chief possibilities officer.

(PeopleTalk Fall 2013)

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