[author: Ché Blackwood, XpertHR Assistant Editor]
A new study has found that employees are happier and more engaged in organizations that incorporate social media into the office. While an employer may ban employee access to Facebook while in the office, many employers are embracing the advantages of utilizing private Internal Social Media (ISM) systems onto company networks.
Last week's HR Technology Conference showcased the benefits of ISMs, and speakers Laurie Ledford, SVP and CHRO, and Ben Brooks, VP/Practice Leader, of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. emphasized the importance of these small, inclusive networks during their session, "Marsh Transforms Itself With Social Technology". Brooks explained that aside from their popularity among younger workers, ISMs:
Promote positive "real-life" relationships between employees;
Enable easy sharing of information between different departments and offices; and
Strengthen employee commitment to company values.
Other benefits, such as longer job retention and increased employee productivity, make the growing ISM trend hard to ignore.
As beneficial as ISMs are to employers, they carry with them greater employer responsibility in terms of maintaining the system's use, training employees and ensuring that the service is being used as effectively as possible.
Millennials, or "Digital Natives", as they are often called, tend to quickly embrace internal networking systems, while older members of the workforce may require more training and support on the functionality and benefits of adopting such networks. However once properly trained, Ledford explained that members of the older generations are more prone to use ISMs for blogging and sharing information than their younger counterparts, a surprising trend that encourages in-office training and strengthens relationships between employees previously separated by perceived generational gaps.
Revised social media policies, the implementation of online etiquette rules and practical objectives for the system also need to be created and distributed by employers to promote and monitor the use of an ISM.
While there are many ISMs to choose from, Microsoft's Yammer and Salesforce's Chatter are two of the most popular and easiest networks to set up and use. Both offer web-based collaborative work spaces and are Freemium communications hubs, meaning they are free to employers but charge for premium (non-basic) features.
While the two differ slightly, Yammer blocks any administrative control to their free users whereas Chatter does not; both allow for seamless communication, sharing and collaboration amongst employees. Smaller organizations, or those desiring to test out an ISM before investing in one, can benefit from the simplicity of such inexpensive networks and the subsequent boost in office morale.
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