Facebook and LinkedIn and MySpace? Oh my (Analysis)

Large firms more cautious with social media
By Claude Balthazard
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/09/2010

LinkedIn was launched in May 2003, MySpace in August 2003 and Facebook in February 2004. Ever since, employers haven’t known exactly what to make of social networking. A big concern was employees would simply waste time cruising various social networking sites. Although there are many ways of spending work time on non-work activities (such as online shopping), social networking seemed to be of most concern.

Early on, there was widespread discussion of organizations blocking access to various websites, such as various levels of government. But that was a few years ago and we’ve had time to get used to the technology. So where do we stand in regards to social media?

The topic has garnered at least some attention in most organizations (66.3 per cent of respondents to the recent Pulse Survey). The time spent by employees on social media sites during work hours is of at least some concern in 63.9 per cent of organizations. Overall, 55.5 per cent of organizations monitor web usage by employees during work hours; 63.5 per cent have developed a policy or position on the use of social media by employees during work time or on company equipment; and 62.8 per cent have made some move to block access to specific websites.

However, size of organization was an important variable. The proportion of employees with easy access to the Internet during work hours decreased from 89.2 per cent for organizations with fewer than 10 employees to 71.4 per cent for organizations with 5,000 or more employees. The larger the organization, the more the use or abuse of social media by employees was a topic that garnered attention — from 52 per cent for companies with fewer than 10 employees to 73.3 per cent for organizations with more than 5,000 employees.

The larger the organization, the more concern there was about the time spent by employees on social media sites — from 36 per cent for companies with fewer than 10 employees to 73 per cent for organizations with more than 5,000 employees. The larger the organization, the more likely it was to monitor web usage by employees — from 20.8 per cent for companies with fewer than 10 employees to 84.7 per cent for organizations with more than 1,000 employees.

The larger the organization, the more likely it was to have developed a policy or position on the use of social media — from 37.5 per cent for companies with fewer than 10 employees to 78.4 per cent for organizations with more than 5,000 employees. The larger the organization, the more likely it was to block access to any specific websites — from 12.5 per cent for companies with fewer than 10 employees to 76.6 per cent for organizations with more than 5,000 employees.

Overall, 40.7 per cent of organizations are very open to new technology — but the proportion of organizations that are very much open to new technology drops from 64 per cent for organizations with fewer than 10 employees to 35.4 per cent for organizations with 1,000 or more employees.

Interestingly, recruitment through social media seems to be of particular interest to very small organizations (fewer than 10 employees, at 63.6 per cent) and large organizations (1,000 to 5,000 employees, at 43.8 per cent, and 5,000 plus, at 49.5 per cent) but somewhat less for mid-sized organizations (50 to 199, at 29.8 per cent, and 200 to 499, at 30.9 per cent).

The attitude towards employee access to social networking sites is in transition. Many respondents indicated their organizations preferred to take an educational approach rather than a technological one — instructing employees on proper usage of such sites. A number of respondents noted their organization’s position regarding social media websites had softened after an initial ban on such websites.

Claude Balthazard is director of HR excellence and registrar at the Human Resources Professionals Association in Toronto. He can be reached at cbalthazard@hrpa.ca.

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