Don’t underestimate value of social tools

3 strategies employers can adopt to ensure greater productivity with social media
By Cary Schuler
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/22/2013

Social media can be disruptive when it comes to productivity, with employees surfing personal networks when they should be working. But it can also be beneficial when deployed as a corporate-grade solution to business problems.

Nearly one-half of employees say social tools at work help increase their productivity, but more than 30 per cent of companies underestimate the value of these tools and often restrict their use, according to a 2013 global Microsoft survey of 9,908 information workers.

There is clearly a disconnect when it comes to perceptions around social media. Perhaps more specifically, there is a lack of clarity into the key underpinnings for unlocking its potential in the workplace.

Here are three successful strategies employers have adopted when implementing social media tools:

A highly engaging destination

There are many enterprise efficiency tools and methodologies, but if they are under-utilized, those efficiencies are never realized. Creating a driver for employees to want to engage with these tools is where social media can really make a difference. If you put an engaging front-end on the nuts-and- bolts technologies to improve the user experience, you will achieve significant employee adoption.

Integrating social media alongside HR self-service applications can also eliminate formal training because it functions just like many social media sites people are already familiar with. So while employees are interacting with colleagues in their relevant company networks (such as a product development team network), they can also change their address in the HR system or request vacation days — everything is in one place.

The underlying result of an engaging destination point is productivity. Increased adoption and usage within the destination alleviates HR administration, additional data entry and potential errors in re-keying data.

One example of a destination working effectively is a socially infused online wellness centre. Employers can use this type of hub for all things related to wellness, not only for traditional functionality — such as employees reviewing benefits elections, changing beneficiaries and viewing total rewards statements — but in creating networks for employees who may have similar health, wellness or financial goals.

Types of employee forums range from those trying to increase daily fitness levels to those dealing with stress or grief. A socially infused wellness centre consistently draws high volumes of traffic and, with it, increased usage of related HR or benefits productivity tools.

Capturing, sharing wisdom

Much of an organization’s information is spread among myriad documents — stored in file cabinets, on post-it notes, multiple systems, spreadsheets, media types and across departments, or in the possession of a handful of employees.

Without a means to capture and share this information, the greater employee population is typically left to search out their questions (many of which have been asked and answered hundreds of times before) by finding the source for the information they need. This process can be labour-intensive and sometimes fruitless.

Social media provides the tools to effectively unlock information — enabling new ways to gather important information, catalogue it according to relevant keywords and make it accessible to others who will need it later on.

Often, this type of crowd-sourced information not only uncovers more relevant details over time, it allows individuals and experts to share dialogue around it. An effective example of this is a social channel created for employees to discuss a company’s latest product innovations. The information is accessible from multiple devices or platforms and shared with anyone who wants to learn the details of a specific product. Moreover, information is personalized for the individual who is logging in, based on her credentials.

Through social channels such as wikis, blogs and forums, employees can regularly share their information, feedback and background on product innovations. This type of real-time inquiry tool significantly enhances productivity. Time that may have been wasted hunting down information or people is virtually eliminated, and there is an ever-growing knowledge base created.

Better informed decisions

Typically, HR must rely on limited employee data in the human resources information system (HRIS) or scattered about in other HR systems such as performance, compensation or learning. Disparate data is only part of the challenge — another complex one is not having the ability to collect and correlate the right data to garner insights needed at an exact time and place.

Enter corporate social profiles. As seen with sites such as LinkedIn, rich data can be ascertained through social profiles and used to make decisions around recruiting, for example.

A similar type of social profile — designed for use within an organization — can be used for hefty returns when it comes to supporting key HR goals such as development, succession and HR effectiveness.

One of the most common approaches is leveraging personalized talent profiles to enable employees to share relevant skills, abilities and career aspirations. Languages spoken, for example, was tracked by one organization in the food and beverage industry as it expanded operations into different parts of the world. The company was able to pinpoint a handful of internal candidates who possessed the relevant skills, and these key data points integrated seamlessly with more traditional HR data on their talent profile.

By introducing social data points into traditional models, organizations have new ways of gaining insights that indisputably enhance HR agility and effectiveness.

For each organization, there will be unique challenges and opportunities to be considered, such as employee demographics, corporate culture and cost. Start by identifying the key business goal or problem you are trying to solve, and keep some of these tried-and-true methods in mind to find the right fit for social productivity tools in your organization.

Cary Schuler is co-founder and CEO of cfactor Works in Saskatoon, provider of HR management, communication and social technology. For more information, visit

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