article » Want To Be A More Productive Employee? Get on Social Networks.

Want To Be A More Productive Employee? Get on Social Networks.

April 1, 2013
3 min read

Do you Tweet, Pin, or use Facebook and LinkedIn at work? Don’t feel guilty about it – be proud! You’re becoming a more productive employee.

Two recent studies suggest that plugging into social apps and networks makes employees more productive at work. The studies – one by the start-up “Big Data” firm Evolv and the other by a Warwick Business School professor – each tracked workers’ use of social media alongside their performance at work, and found that digital connectivity appeared to boost metrics like productivity and retention.

Evolv’s study focused on hourly workers in the U.S., such as call center staff. From a sample size of 39,112, the employees who used one to four social networking sites on a weekly basis stayed at their jobs longer than their peers. The ultra-social set – those who regularly used more than five social networks – demonstrated higher sales in less time than their colleagues, in a second experiment with a sample size of 4,991.

“The fact that they’re better at handling customer interactions may stem from the fact that they’re inherently more social people,” Evolv suggested in its conclusions.

Meanwhile, Joe Nandhakumar, a Professor at Warwick Business School, has been studying the same phenomenon among white-collar workers. In his research on leading tech companies in the UK, Finland and Germany, Professor Nandhakumar found that employees who used various types of social media and digital modes of communication were more creative and collaborative at work, and thus more productive.

“For example,” Professor Nandhakumar says, “when they need to provide certain solutions to customers’ specific needs, design engineers from different locations use the social media capabilities integrated into their ES (enterprise systems), to interact and discuss ways of effectively configuring products.”

This cuts out a lot of the time-consuming processes involved in meeting those needs. “The users felt that they are moving from being transaction and process-focused to being more interaction-oriented and people-centered,” Nandhakumar said.

These conclusions aren’t surprising. As I’ve said on this blog in the past, we now operate in a social economy, where our knowledge is our currency. So improving your speed in answering work-related questions will have a huge impact on your productivity and effectiveness as an employee.

Most workers waste an average of 74 minutes per day trying to contact partners or customers and 67 minutes per day trying to find business information in roundabout ways, according to a whitepaper by business communications company Fonality and research firm Webtorials, who conducted their research on small and mid-size businesses worldwide. But the socially connected employees that Evolv and Nandhakumar studied know the benefits of using social networks to search for answers to their questions.

Yet, according to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, most companies aren’t taking advantage of this shortcut nearly enough. “While 72 percent of companies use social technologies in some way, very few are anywhere near to achieving the full potential benefit,” the firm concluded in its report The Social Economy.

If companies fully implemented social technologies, McKinsey says, certain industries could raise productivity by 20 to 25 percent. The industries posed to benefit most are made up of what McKinsey calls “interaction workers,” which it defines as high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals.

The average “interaction worker” spends around 28 percent of his or her workweek just managing e-mail, and almost 20 percent sifting through internal information or seeking expert input from colleagues, the report found. But, “when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information.”

Thirty-five percent. Just think of what you could do with thirty-five percent more time in the week!

Social networks’ immediate benefit to companies is clear: more connected workers can lead to higher productivity and increased efficiency. But employees need to know how to take advantage of sharing information in a safe and secure manner. Perhaps that’s why according to Future Workplace’s Multiple Generations @ Work survey, the newest generations of workers see social media access at work as a necessity. Our survey found that sixty percent of Millennials and almost eighty percent of Generation 2020 (the youngest sample, now in high school and college) said that by the year 2020, “social media literacy will be required of all employees.”

And they expect their future employers to keep pace with that prediction. For many companies, failing to do so could mean missing out on the best talent these generations have to offer.

Readers, does your company use social media internally? Has your company tracked impact on employee productivity?

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