Weekly Wrap: The Tide Seems to Have Turned For Social Media on the Job

I’m a sucker for research and data, and I write a lot about surveys that strike me as particularly interesting or insightful.

Here’s another one, courtesy of a new Robert Half Technology survey, and although the news isn’t particularly earth-shattering, it does show the great strides organizations are making when it comes to employees and social media.

The headline news is this: More companies are permitting social networking on the job, with more than half of the chief information officers surveyed (51 percent) saying that they now permit employees to use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook on the job as long as it’s for business purposes.

This is up from just 19 percent of companies that permitted it in 2009, but while businesses may be more open to the business applications of social media, more than one out of three (31 percent) organizations still prohibit it completely at the office.

Personal use of social media on the job? Not much allowed

The CIOs were asked, “Which of the following most closely describes your company’s policy on visiting social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, while at work?” Here’s how they answered:

  • Prohibited completely — 31 percent (54 percent prohibited completely in 2009);
  • Permitted for business purposes only — 51 percent (19 percent in 2009);
  • Permitted for limited personal use — 14 percent (surprisingly, was 16 percent back in ’09);
  • Permitted for any type of personal use — 4 percent (also very surprisingly, was 10 percent two years ago).

The surveys were developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. They were based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees.

A natural progression of social media policies?

“Companies recognize the value of using social media for brand building, whether it’s marketing a product, offering customer service, gathering information, or simply listening to what fans and followers have to say,” said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a press release about the survey.

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Reed noted, however, that companies draw the line at workers’ excessive personal use of social media. “Employees need to become familiar with their companies’ policies on Web use and adhere to them,” Reed said.

My take on this, especially the surprising numbers in the survey that seemed to regress a little about personal use of social media at work, is that a lot more organizations have developed social media policies and have a much deeper level of awareness of what workers can and should be doing with social media on the job. That’s why the personal use permission has fallen while the use of it for business purposes has skyrocketed.

Managers, executives, and HR pros, like their employees who utilize social media, are simply much more aware of the pluses and minuses of it and have developed clear polices around that — such as the smart and specific social media policy that was just put into place at Edmunds.com.

Automated expense reports and unused vacation

Of course, there’s more in the news this week than how more organizations are embracing social media. Here are some other HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of HR and talent management. Yes, I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Unemployed workers lack critical skills. We keep hearing about how so many of the unemployed can’t find jobs because their skills aren’t up to date, and here’s more evidence of that, courtesy of the Sacramento Bee. “The (Sacramento) region’s jobless rate stands just shy of 12 percent, but a new report released Wednesday says Sacramento businesses are struggling to find qualified hires in sectors that business leaders say are key to the region’s economic recovery. The reason, according to a survey by national nonprofit business group America’s Edge, is an ever-widening “skills gap” in Sacramento and statewide. Fewer and fewer workers have the technical and “soft” skills needed to compete in the marketplace, the group concludes.”
  • Americans sitting on huge chunks of unused vacation. Most workers in the U.S. don’t use much of their paid vacation — and the numbers are adding up. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Not only do American workers get less vacation time than workers in other industrialized countries, but they also opt to take fewer days off. The average employed American worker got 18 vacation days last year, but only used 14 of those desirable days off, according to a 2010 survey by Expedia.com. … Meanwhile, those four forfeited days of vacation per person add up quickly. Altogether, Americans gave up 448 million earned but unused vacation days in 2010. Considering the average wage of $39,208 for a full-time worker — that’s $67.5 billion worth of time.”
  • Less active workers packing on the pounds. The sedentary nature of the U.S. workforce is starting to take its toll, The New York Times’ Well blog says, and it is having a huge impact on employee wellness. “A sweeping review of shifts in the labor force since 1960 suggests that a sizable portion of the national weight gain can be explained by declining physical activity during the workday. Jobs requiring moderate physical activity, which accounted for 50 percent of the labor market in 1960, have plummeted to just 20 percent. The remaining 80 percent of jobs, the researchers report, are sedentary or require only light activity. The shift translates to an average decline of about 120 to 140 calories a day in physical activity, closely matching the nation’s steady weight gain over the past five decades, according to the report, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One.”
  • “Expense reports that don’t suck.” Hate doing expense reports? I do too, but help is on the way in the form of a new way to automate the process. A story in Slate says that, “Expense reporting seems like the last bastion of the American economy that hasn’t yielded to the information age. Every month, businesspersons at pretty much every company in America spend hours tracking down everything they’ve spent on meals and travel and then filling out reams of forms to get reimbursed. … (but) Expensify, a two-year-old startup whose website and mobile apps will revolutionize how you do your expenses. Expensify’s motto is: “Expense reports that don’t suck,” which is a high bar. For the most part, the company delivers. It does so by automating every part of the expense-reporting process both for submitters and for companies that need to reimburse their workers.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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