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Social Media In The Workplace, For the Workplace

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Business productivity is on the rise, thanks in part to social media. But are these improvements really due to new technology or a shift in company cultures?

An article from Human Resource Executive Online explains:

[A] proprietary social network has encouraged vital bits of knowledge that had previously sat hidden in different pockets of the organization to bubble to the surface, where they can be shared among employees…

“The things that were typically sequestered on employees’ hard drives and [in their] email bins are now available to everyone.”

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© Flickr user timpatterson

The piece explains more on a featured tool from an international insurance broker:

Marsh’s social network is called Marsh University, or MU for short. Launched in 2010, MU — which offers tools for blogging, online discussions, video presentations, search and the like — lets Marsh’s 26,000 employees harness the experience and brainpower of their colleagues to get work done. More than 350 employee-discussion groups are now active on MU, says [VP Ben] Brooks, who oversees the network.

To some, this may sound like a revolutionary concept. But if you pay attention to how the issues are described, the problem is not a lack of technology but patterns of culture and workflow.

For example, information is “typically sequestered on employees’ hard drives and [in their] email bins.” But that’s not because it couldn’t have been kept in shared locations before. Rather, one must ask if the company culture effectively encouraged people to keep information secret.

This is a major problem in many organizations. People sometimes feel that if they train the people around them, they may lose their jobs. And if we’re all sorting and filing the same emails that come to us into our own personal email storage systems, how much non-productive time is the company paying for?

The big revolution of social media inside the company is the notion that sharing with colleagues is a benefit, not a risk. The potential issues of social media are truly opportunities. As Chief Human Resource Officer Laurie Ledford notes:

“The point is, if someone says something incorrect, then we can have a conversation out loud about it and adjust that,” says Ledford, adding that the firm’s existing social-media policy prohibiting offensive or deliberately misleading material applies to MU as well. “If they’re posting it in our forums, then they’re probably saying it to colleagues in their office or even to clients. This lets us uncover false rumors and set the record straight.”

Or in summary: social media in the workplace, for the workplace.

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