Are UK businesses putting a lid on social networks?

44 per cent of workers believe that social networks will help strengthen and enhance workplace relationships, yet most offices ban Facebook and Twitter. Ricoh UK's Chas Maloney outlines the opportunities that the effective use of social media presents.

Social media has had a lasting impact on the way we communicate in the 21st century. Every day, whether it is with friends, or family, colleagues, or acquaintances, the way we interact online has changed the parameters of how we humans communicate today. Both in business, and in our private lives, social has, without doubt, changed the game.

In the workplace, workers have recognised the value social adds to the sharing of skills, ideas, and, collaboration between colleagues. However, employers appear to have taken a different stance by placing blanket bans on a multitude of the social media platforms that are used by their employees on a daily basis.

At Ricoh we decided to conduct some extensive research into how employers can improve their workforce’s ‘digital dexterity’ and equip their employees with the tools, technology and cultural environment they need to grow and flourish. The research discovered that 44 per cent of workers believe that social networks and collaboration technologies will help strengthen and enhance workplace relationships.

Despite this, nearly half (46 per cent) of UK workers said that Facebook was banned in their workplace. This was closely followed by the likes of Twitter (34 per cent); Instagram (31 per cent); Snapchat (31 per cent); and, WhatsApp (29 per cent). This is known as outlawing collaboration. This workplace collaboration should be embraced, not curtailed.

The outlawing of sites like Facebook not only represents a somewhat draconian approach but also results in a two-pronged negative impact on digital dexterity. These tools form a staple medium of communication for the next generation, outlawing them only serves to narrow communication channels among employees.

A crisis of ‘digital dexterity’

For businesses attempting to flourish in the digital marketplace, improving workforce digital dexterity should be a firm priority. Interestingly, over a third of employees (37 per cent) also said that they would move to jobs that offered improved digital skills in a manner more aligned to their daily activity.

Businesses should not take these figures lightly. Both attracting and retaining the right pool of talent is harder than ever in today’s digital age. Market trends highlight the high propensity of millennials to jump ship if they do not believe that a business meets their expectations. This generation – labelled ‘digital natives’ – places technology high up on their list of priorities.

Fostering digital in the workplace is essential for building a highly skilled and loyal workforce. As our research reveals, UK workers have confidence in their employers to drive change and the confidence that a greater use of technology can bring people together. However, businesses must recognise the need to look upon both the benefits that technology can bring to the workplace more strategically, and how social can bolster workplace interactions.

The workplace of the future

Despite the confusion over the complexities of technology, investment and fluctuating working models, a company’s most valuable asset remain its employees. For example, the new wave of millennial employees has brought with it a fresh approach to work and as such has been a welcome addition to the workforce. Trends such as the consumerisation of IT and the ubiquity of social media have ensured that this collection of new joiners are well rehearsed in using tech and can quickly integrate themselves into the workplace. The value that employees place on improving digital dexterity is a key determinant in their future career choices.

Company leadership should be geared towards providing employees with the tools they need to help them embrace their own digital approach to business. This will provide them with a platform to contribute as much as possible to the value of the business, meaning a win-win for both the employees and the employer.

However, employees will not simply wait around for businesses to acknowledge how technology can drive workplace change. A reversal of blanket bans on social and collaboration tools must be implemented to bring employees closer together. Crucially, employers must establish a strategic plan and offer suitable training and investment to ensure their workforce is part of it.

Businesses clearly still have significant work to do to ensure that technology is deployed as effectively as possible in the workplace. The key is for employees to be front and centre of businesses’ approach. They are, after all, their greatest asset.

Chas Moloney is director at Ricoh UK.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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