Thursday, October 29, 2009

Point-and-click productivity

Research finds Web 2.0 social media are infiltrating the workplace, can add to employee effectiveness
Employee Benefit News
By Lydell C. Bridgeford
June 15, 2009
…Social media pundits argue that more employers need to make employees' interest in Web 2.0 tools work for them by investing in technology that allows workers to engage in social media conversations.
Social networks, blogs, microblogs (Twitter), text messaging, wikis and gaming technology all have the potential to improve workers' productivity and the marketing of benefits programs. And, keeping in mind that cost is a particular concern for employers right now, observers also point out that employees do not have to be tech-savvy to use social media tools, and the technology does not eat away at the IT budget.
Research confirms that workers are using social media tools at home to access information that they desire. Therefore, employers should be able to leverage those tools in their communication strategies, says Ken Groh, vice president of Human Capital at Aon Consulting.
Social media footprint
Aon recently studied how workers used Web 2.0 media at home and at work. Researchers surveyed more than 8,000 employers in the private and public sectors.
Aon analysts find that, despite employers' belief that Web 2.0 media may detract from productivity, workers — both millennials (born 1980 and later) and nonmillennials — are leveraging the technology to perform their jobs.
For example, 65% of nonmillennials and 72% of millennials report using their company's intranet for their job duties, while 25% of nonmillennials and 38% of millennials utilize text messaging for work purposes.
In addition, 46% of nonmillennials and 48% of millennials use instant messaging as part of their job assignments, while 13% of nonmillennials and 20% of millennials belong to job-related social networks. About 8% of nonmillennials and 13% of millennials use blogs in a work-related context. …
"Web 2.0 is still a relatively unknown quantity for many companies," says Michael Rudnick, senior technology consultant at Watson Wyatt. "However, the move toward Web 2.0 is an inevitable shift."
Watson Wyatt finds that companies are using a variety of Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking (23%), podcasts (19%), blogs (21%) or wikis (15%) to communicate internally with their employees. …
An information-centered society
Web 2.0 social media offers great opportunity to tap into new markets, reach new customers and create a more seamless working environment — if employees are given the tools and training to use them effectively, says Dr. Jennifer Bott, a marketing and management associate professor at Ball State University. "The technology will become a critical partner in achieving success in the leaner marketplace," she adds.
Bott and her team find that some employers are willing to pay higher salaries to new hires skilled in Web. 2.0 technologies.
About 67% of companies are inclined to add a 1% to 4% increase to salaries for applicants who possess those skills. Of the 229 employers polled, 23% are willing to ante up 5% to 8% more.
"[B]usinesses place a high value on employees who are comfortable in working with communication technologies that are rapidly changing," says Bott, a co-author of the study, "Emerging Media: Prevalence and Impact in the Workplace."
Overall, the survey reveals that 93% of employers believe it is somewhat or very important for employees to have knowledge about e-mail software, mobile computing, podcasts, digital audio or media players, mobile communication devices, instant messaging and interactive Web pages and blogs.
Training, monitoring is essential
The social media spectrum creates a workplace where employees have access to a constant stream of timely information about the company's benefits programs and business objectives. They can also provide instant feedback about those programs and objectives. …
As the use of new digital and media devices begins to dominate the workplace, companies have found it necessary to implement policies to control e-mail use (adapted by 89% of respondents) and Internet surfing (79%), while 67% said they monitor privacy abuse, and 60% expressed concerns about security, according to the survey by Ball State University.
Despite the demand for employees with social media skills, 77% of those polled provide little or no media training to current employees. …
"One of the pitfalls in rolling out social media tools in the workplace is that employers will just drop it on employees and expect them to use it," says Groh.
Companies will need to help workers to understand, first of all, how to use the technology and how to apply it within the context of their job duties, Groh explains.
For example, "if you roll out instant messaging, people will pretty much learn how to use it on their own, but will they understand how to use the full power of the technology?"

Associate Editor Kathleen Koster contributed to this report.