Early December the Charted Institute for Personal Development (CIPD) released a new report called Social Technology – Social Business (#CIPDsocial13).
Rather than an advocacy for the use of social media and collaborative tools in the workplace, this report sounds generally quite sceptical (conservative?) and seems to underline a general lack of maturity when it comes to the adoption of social technologies at work.
I have tried to gather a few interesting highlights here below, followed by some more subjective thoughts.
Who use SoMe at work?
Just a quarter of UK employees (26%) use social media for work, compared with three-quarters (76%) who use it for personal purposes.
Most active users are :
– Senior leaders (53% of whom use social media for work)
– Digital Natives / 18–24-year-olds (42%)
– Voluntary sector employees (38%)
A lack of access to social media at work is not an impediment for most people. Half (50%) of UK employees report that they have some access to social media at work (double the number who currently make use of it).
Pros of SoMe for work: help get the right information to the right people (49% of social media users agreeing) Cons: lead to information overload (48%).
Collaboration: 50% of social media ‘work users’ say that it aids external collaboration, compared with 28% for collaboration inside
L&D: 78% state that their organisations don’t use social media to deliver learning and development.
In the meantime learning ranks fairly highly among reasons workers use social media, although it is interesting to note that they are just as likely to help others’ learning by sharing useful or interesting knowledge as to focus on their own.
Thus, the main benefit of social media as a learning tool lies not in hosting formally designed tools and programmes, but supporting informal learning.
Almost half (47%) of employees who use social media for work on a daily basis see a great deal of benefit, but among non-users, who make up three-quarters of UK employees, the proportion is nearer 1 in 20 (6%). Thus, while an overall judgement would be that social media has made little contribution to the world of work, this may change as more people interact with it.
SoMe use vs. Seniority
CIPD found a clear relationship between professional social media use and seniority. Over half of senior leaders use social media for work, compared with a third of managers and a fifth of non-managers. Much of this difference is due to the professional networking senior leaders do outside the organisation and specifically through LinkedIn.
Senior leaders are more externally focused. Senior leaders are more likely to comment on forums and post blogs or articles. Although it seems that senior leaders have not taken on board the argument that social media is an important leadership tool.
Younger users tend to be more socially and less professionally focused in how they use social media. They use social media more to communicate with colleagues and chat with people in real time and slightly less to communicate with professional contacts outside the organisation.
Managers are more likely to develop meaningful new connections through social media and to have used social media to look for a job.
The relative lack of interest in using social media for work can be taken in two ways: employees have yet to understand its value, or the advocates have overestimated its value.
We may also want to question how the survey was actually set up (which social media and collaborative tools were included or not, which industries were represented or not…).
Personally I would tend to think there is a massive need for education around SoMe in the workplace in general (not talking about high tech start ups obviously). How SoMe can become more relevant (and therefore be used more widely) at work?
A lot of energy has certainly been spend on how to adopt and integrate SoMe as an external marketing tool in order to grow a business, now it’s probably high time to look at how SoMe can help “grow the people” and develop a “smarter workforce”…
Part of that education/maturity process could focus on :
– Senior Leaders: help them realise the potential of SoMe as a leadership and engagement tool internally. See Julian Stodd’s Social Leadership model.
With regard to this unexpected high representation of Senior Leaders among active users, I am also wondering if they are actively present on LinkedIn (and Twitter) or if their accounts are actually managed by external/internal PR teams…
– Young users : show them the potential of SoMe for professional development and cultural integration, not just as a tool “to chat and share pictures” (being digital native doesn’t necessarily mean one can differentiate purposes between a Facebook and a Yammer)
– Managers : investigate with them how SoMe can help them “fix their problems”. Not only SoMe can help them connect, but it could also help them better collaborate, locate expertise faster, work remotely, work on their continuous development…
Risk of information overload: knowledge is not a product any more but a process (see G. Siemens). One of the main recommendations in that dynamic and self-directed process is to place FILTERS, to separate signals from noise (see PKM model by Harold Jarche).
Technology Mastery & Digital Literacy: Disruptive character of social technologies is a reason for fear but can also be their force. We need to understand the risks, as we won’t probably be able to get rid of them. Like in each practice it requires some discipline and patience. But also a certain level of tolerance for potential mistakes and clumsiness.
Implementing SoME only as a “tool” won’t bring the magic solution to a more open, transparent and dynamic workplace though… And one of the bigger dangers would probably be to “push” SoMe (as yet another top-down communications channel) to employees and force them to “do social”.
Working on attitudes, mindset and social/collaborative/networking skills for a real cultural change might require more courage, time, resources, inspiration and vision.