Weekly Wrap: Social Media in the Workplace, Legal Outsourcing, Bungled Layoffs

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Jan 21, 2011

Think the battle for acceptance of social media in the workplace is over? Think again.

“With social networking exploding,” The Miami Herald reports, “at some point this year, every business will have to confront the challenge and answer this question: Embrace it or ban it?”

Yes, the struggle over how much to allow employees to use social media in the office never seems to end, because, as the newspaper points out, although “most companies understand the value of connecting with customers online in social networks, some also fear employees will waste work time or worse, reveal confidential information or offend a customer or co-worker. “

Miami Herald workplace writer Cindy Krischer Goodman again digs into the debate over whether (or how much) businesses should allow their workers to utilize social media while on the job. If you thought this debate was largely settled (as I did), it’s not – at least not in South Florida. As she points out:

Technology innovation expert Scott Klososky calls (the) corporate attitude toward social networking a replay of their original response to the Internet. “They blocked the Internet, but it was so powerful they had to quit blocking and change to monitoring.”

Banning it outright might not do good anyway. According to a study by Ruder Finn, a public relations agency, most people are using their handheld devices to connect to the Internet instead of desktop computers, with 91 percent of mobile phone users going online to socialize compared to only 79 percent of desktop users. And, as experts note, if workers are forced onto their handhelds, employers can’t monitor their usage…

So where is all of this going? Will the social media in the workplace battle ever end? The Herald story quotes Klososky, author of Enterprise Social Technology, who says it probably will, especially now that companies are just beginning to understand how big an issue this will become.

“Their young workers are digital natives. They’ve grown up with social networks and see them as tools. When those tools are blocked, they don’t want to work for that company.” Even more, by going a step further and building their own social networks, companies can connect and communicate with staff, crowd source new ideas and encourage collaboration, he says: “It is not a fad anymore. It’s a powerful trend. Strategic companies won’t ban its use, they’ll integrate it.”

There’s a lot more than the workplace battle over social media in the news this week, and here are some other HR and workplace-related items you may have missed while chilling over the King Day holiday. This is a weekly round-up of news, trends, and all sorts of information from the world of HR and talent management. Yes, I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Guess what is now getting outsourced to India? Surprisingly, it’s legal work and other high-skilled activities that call for specialized knowledge, according to The Christian Science Monitor. “Developments within India’s outsourcing industry have also made the country a more compelling destination for legal work. Though most of the outsourcing in India is considered “low-value process outsourcing,” where special skills are not necessary (think: call centers), the fastest growth is in companies offering high-skilled work requiring specialized knowledge. Everything from medicine to engineering – to lawyers – is being outsourced to India now.”
  • MySpace shows how not to lay off employees. It didn’t come as a surprise that MySpace got rid of 500 employees this week because that had been rumored for weeks. What did shock people was how poorly it was handled. “Of particular irritation,” says, “is a letter sent out to those who lost their jobs: “I want to personally thank you for your dedication and commitment to MySpace,” the letter begins. Just one problem – “It’s just a xerox copy,” a former employee tells TechCrunch. It’s that kind of attention to detail – oh, and failure to deal with the threat from Facebook – that might have done the once high-flying MySpace in.
  • Diversity at the Huffington Post? Don’t ask, don’t tell. Diversity is still a big issue for a lot of organizations despite what some see as slippage during the Great Recession. But just don’t ask the liberal-leaning website The Huffington Post about the diversity of its staff. “For at least the last two years, Ariana Huffington’s pioneering, buzz-creating website has posted photos of its staff holiday party, and a casual glance shows few people of color,” Media Bistro and Richard Prince point out. “That might explain the skepticism that greets declarations of commitments to diversity from HuffPost and others that won’t say exactly how diverse they are. They don’t seem to believe that the old Ronald Reagan line — “Trust but verify” — applies to them.”
  • Meet the most powerful women in Silicon Valley. I love “best of” or “top 10” lists, so this ranking of the Top 10 most powerful women in the Silicon Valley by San Jose Mercury News columnist Chris O’Brien is a good one – especially since this high-tech incubator is all about innovation and job growth. Here’s one surprising thing O’Brien discovered: “In putting this list together, what I found is that many of the most powerful women aren’t CEOs. They are second-in-commands, or leaders of major divisions. In fact, there is only one female CEO in the entire SV150: Yahoo’s Carol Bartz. As such, their power is different, sometimes more subtle and often exercised behind the scenes.”