The ROI of Having Employees on Social Networks

At the App Gap blog, Matthew Hodgson notes that “effective teams have both strong task-based behavior as well as good social cohesion.” This means they both work well and play well together, and individual performers also value the performance of the team.
When I think about some of the good corporate experiences I’ve had working with very focused, productive, sharing teams, this certainly rings true. However, he notes, many companies are struggling with the idea that employee social interaction has a business benefit. In many places, this relates not only to the team going out for beers on a Friday after work, but also the team’s ability to network with others, via social networks and services.

The ROI of being social at work | The AppGap

MIT research shows that 40% of creative teams productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others to discover, gather, and internalise information. In other MIT studies, research shows that employees with the most extensive digital networks are 7% more productive than their colleagues. Furthermore, those with the most cohesive face-to-face networks are 30% more productive.

This reinforces similar research…that highlights the importance of these networks because they “strongly influence information diffusion … and access to novel information”. Availability of these networks, their research shows, is a highly significant predictor of worker productivity.

Note the above quote – people with the most cohesive face-to-face networks are 30%! more productive.

Now, I’ve been writing about the way to leverage your live connections to find more virtual connections, to gain new, important live connections for at least a year now. We know that people who are agile in-person networkers, and who can use their online connections to have more in-person meetings can gain success. Now, we see there’s research backing that concept, and productivity gains that show a real ROI for that online networking.

When I spoke at a meeting of 15 Chief Communications Officers last year, most of them told me they blocked Facebook, Blogs, and many other social tools at the firewall. I questioned whether they were really blocking these tools – or if they were just forcing their employees to access them less efficiently – via their iPhones, Blackberries, and other devices. Less efficiently because the mobile connection would be slower, and the typing would be slower – meaning employees would spend more time to do their social interactions. The evidence above suggests that companies could gain productivity from some employees by letting this social interaction happen on their regular computers. 

I’m not saying “don’t monitor how this impacts your company” and “let people play on Facebook all day.” But it may be time to trust employees to be adults, let them access more sites on “work time,” weed out those who abuse the privilege and see if new, positive connections arise that help your company. Think of it as a test. Will your organization pass?

2 thoughts on “The ROI of Having Employees on Social Networks”

  1. Howard,

    I totally agree with your last paragraph. It seems that large organizations choose to block sites when they could just as easily monitor and report on usage. Then usage becomes a conversation between manager and employee, allowing middle management to actually manage… there's a concept. 🙂

    -chris

  2. Chris – agreed. I remember in 1994 or 5 I had to get a form signed so I could have Internet access at work. It's 2009. If employers won't let employees have access, they'll use their own devices – taking time and effort to do so.

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