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A mixture of ignorance, fear and leadership distrust is preventing many employers from embracing social media in the workplace, research has found.The innovative study, conducted by Silverman Research and Unilever, created an online network to harness the wisdom of the crowd and discover the main barriers to wider take up of social technologies at work.The ‘Social Media Garden’ experiment saw 644 people from more than 30 countries discussing how they use social web tools at work and why they thought organisations were not making more of them.The results showed that most of the participants (70 per cent) did not think using social media makes people less productive, although researchers said that participants were “more likely” to be involved in social media than the population at large.Interestingly, 51 per cent agreed that their organisation had embraced online networks for use in people practices, yet only 31 per cent thought that HR was best placed to take the lead on using it.Participants highlighted 16 barriers, identified through text analysis, which prevent employers making use of tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to engage with employees and customers.Researchers narrowed this long list down to four main issues by asking participants to rate each other’s comments according to whether they agreed with a comment and how insightful they thought a remark was to establish consensus opinions.From this, the four main barriers revealed were: difficulty in creating a business case; a lack of knowledge and understanding of social media; a failure of leadership to accept new ways of working; and a fear of the unknown.These finding matched the most commonly used words in the text analysis: for example, ‘knowledge’ or ‘understanding’ was found in 35 per cent of comments, leadership in 27 per cent, and ‘loss of control’, ‘fear’ or ‘resources’ in 19 per cent of comments each.Top rated commenter in the experiment, Phil Woodford, a company director, said: “Using social media successfully requires an investment of time and human resources. If organisations cannot see or quantify an immediate and obvious return, they get nervous. “Social media is profoundly democratic. This takes power away from managers, marketers, HR professionals and others within the organisation, which might be expected to sponsor its growth. Business owners and managers who are resistant to change probably won't be convinced and there's little that can be done to shape their attitudes. The world will simply change around them.”
Kate Henwood, an HR business partner and another top rated commenter in the study, said: “I believe organisations need to embrace social media to encourage communication and collaboration to help deliver more with less. Too many organisations think that technology is the be-all and end-all for encouraging successful collaboration. Whilst technology is a key ingredient, so too is strong leadership role modelling the right behaviours, empowering their people to be involved. “Leaders need to let go - allow those who are more used to seeing the benefits of social media to try new ways in organisations, don't be afraid of trying new things and if these don't work, don't punish people - move on and try something else.”To view the full report and find out more about the methodology visit www.silvermanresearch.com.
This is really interesting research. I work for an employee communications agency, Caburn Hope, and the concerns raised in this article and the barriers to using social media are ones we've heard many times. But there are also huge benefits and expectations of employees are changing to include social media, this equally cannot be ignored.<br/><br/>It needs to be managed properly but most importantly, business leaders need to be educated about digital culture. Deloitte ran a very successful digital mentoring scheme between digital natives (frequently younger and graduate employees) and business leaders. Really successful both as an education strategy but also as building bridges across the business.<br/><br/>HR are the 'voice' and conduit of businesses, absolutely have a role to play in this, but shouldn't be shy about saying so and stepping out of their comfort zone to try out new technology.