Article (November-2021)


Turn the threat in to opportunity

Mihir Gosalia

Designation : -  

Organization : -  Mumbai


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Social media can be a powerful communication tool for employees, helping them to collaborate, share ideas and solve problems. Research studies have shown that more than 80% of employees think that social media can improve work relationships and 60% of employees believe that social media supports their decision-making processes. These studies affirm that majority of workers connect with colleagues on social media, even during work hours. This is also seen in the case study during conversation between HR Malti and Team Lead wherein the team lead confidently responds to Malti's question that she is reading too much on a probable issue that may surface due to increased use of social media sites by employees during working hours thereby causing delays to projects and loss of productivity by losing valuable company time. Team Lead clarified to Malti that they are not at all misusing social media, rather using it as a tool to enhance their knowledge by speaking to working professionals in other companies for solutions that they themselves are not able to solve, basically are collaborating together to achieve solutions which is the future of work going forward, post pandemic. Team Lead drove home the point to Malti that such type of professional networking helps them in achieving and completing the tasks in time which in turn is ultimately benefitting the company only.

Moreover, it seems that the concerns of Meher Sen, the newly joined product manager at Monkey IT solutions are misguided. He is carrying the baggage of his social media experience from his earlier company wherein some employee had recorded an official conversation held between him and his manager and posted it on social media that ultimately brought bad name to the company. After that, the company decided to block all the social media/networking sites and prohibited employees for its use during duty hours. Company also brought in new social media usage policy for its employees wherein they were restricted to post any message in official capacity at any networking sites about company affairs or business or any happening. Communication department was created and after their approval only things were allowed to go on air. Sen wanted the same policy here also in the new organisation. This is a typical development in any organisation wherein whenever a new manager joins, he or she wants to bring in changes that they were doing or following in their previous companies. They want the same thing to be repeated in the new organisation as well rather than spending time & understanding work culture of the new organisation, how things work there, how it is different from previous organisations, how it is beneficial to them, what new things they can learn and what they should unlearn from the past.

Social media doesn't reduce productivity nearly as much as it kills employee retention. Effects of social media depend on who employees interact with. Employees who interact with their colleagues share meaningful work experiences. Employees who engage in online social interactions with coworkers through social media blogs tend to be more motivated and come up with innovative ideas which is exactly what is required for Monkey IT solutions, a technology driven company.

Hence I agree with its HR policies that are progressive, sensitive and responsive to employee needs and thereby there are no restrictions on employees for using social networking sites even during working hours. This has resulted in the employees being frequently active and live on networking sites also while working on their projects. The work culture was vibrant and with a high degree of trust. The employees were motivated, less distracted & productive. I don't think there was any complaint from the client side regarding end user delay in their requirements & or it not being met as per the specifications due to employee behaviour or misconduct. Rather the company was growing, its headcount had scaled to 300 in HO, had plans to open new offices in other IT hubs like Pune and Bengaluru and some of its digital marketing campaigns had earned good name for the organisation.

I feel that the problem is not with the Social Media policies or the employees of Monkey IT solutions but rather with Meher Sen. The problem is more person - oriented rather than a process or policy related. Meher is telling to HR Malti that she appears conditioned & informing that the things which were not harmful in past cannot be a guarantee that will not be in future too. Rather, Meher Sen should have a hard look at himself in the mirror before commenting such statements to others. Just because he had some bad experience in his previous companies w.r.t. employees misusing social media sites to tarnish image of company, it does not necessarily mean that it will happen in his new organisation also i.e. Monkey IT solutions. I support HR Malti that in tech driven IT companies, the work atmosphere should be free, vibrant & open because that it when employees are at their productive best and will be able to give tangible outputs to the clients that will be beneficial. You cannot have a culture of micromanagement and control which is what Meher Sen was accustomed of having it around. Malti is justified in her apprehension that if HR decides to block the use of social media sites during office hours it may back fire and there may be serious discontentment among employees.

Employees who engage in online social interactions with co-workers through social media blogstend to be more motivated and may tend to come up with innovative ideas. The effects of social media depend on who employees interact with and for what purpose; employees who interact with their colleagues share meaningful work experiences and also to up-skill themselves e.g. LinkedIn also offers a great learning platform to learn the relevant skills one needs to build the experiences.

Having stated all of the above, research studies have also shown that employees using social media were more likely to leave an organisation. This may be because they were more likely to engage with potential new employers than their less social peers. Employees using social media for work take an interest in other organisations they find on social media, compared to employees using social media only for leisure. These employees engage in some key activities including researching new organisations and making new work connections. This presents a dilemma for HR managers, Functional Line Managers and the organisation too as employees using social media at work are more engaged and more productive, but they are also more likely to leave the company. This is seen in the case study aptly titled as "Double-edge - Be or not be". The ball was now in Malti's court to take a call. She temporarily resolved the situation by having a dialogue with the Team Lead and understanding the entire context. So far she had only listened to Meher Sen's version of story. Now she heard the Team Lead's story version too. Having been satisfied by the response given by Team Lead, she concluded by cautiously instructing the team lead to take care that the company does not get a feeling or warning signs that its facility is being abused. Malti trusted the story version of the team lead as long as they were delivering the customer's requirements and timeline's were met.

This problem can be addressed by implementing solutions that neutralize the employee retention risk caused by social media. Social media training should be done to make employees focus on positive social media behaviours, like collaboration, which can increase satisfaction and attachment, countering turnover risks.

HR can also look at turning this threat into an opportunity by creating social media groups in which employees will be more likely to collaborate and less likely to share withdrawal Intentions or have discussions on political issues resulting into mutual conflicts in teams ultimately affecting company work (as seen in the case study here). HR can use social media to have a positive influence on the employees by recognizing employees' accomplishments and giving visibility to employees' success stories. This approach if implemented can also serve as a recruiting tool because if, on one side, the use of social media can make the employees leave the organisation or have other harmful effects, on the other side, the same use of social media from employees of other organisations could also attract them to Monkey IT solutions.

Mihir Gosalia