Don’t Make Snap Judgments When Monitoring Employee Social Media Use

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Long gone are the days of trying to sneak social media breaks into your work day.

As Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms become an essential part of business, employees are able to increase their time spent social networking without the worry of the activity being viewed as unproductive.

However, not all employers may be up-to-date on how this activity can actually be considered productive. And with advanced technologies that monitor employees becoming popular, employers need to take a step back before making snap judgments on social networking.

Social networking unproductive? Think again

Marketing skills can serve as a huge advantage in helping companies and employees grow. And marketing today depends heavily on a social media component. Thus, using social media is a major way to strengthen an employee’s marketing skills.

Practicing these skills will help that employee keep up with industry trends, understand how to target the right audience, stay up-to-date with the newest technology, potentially influence key analysts, improve communications skills, and adapt to the ever-changing marketing landscape.

In addition to helping employees contribute to growing the company, social media also helps them to keep up with competitors. Paying close attention to news, tips, and insight on trends from competitors is a great way of staying one step ahead of the game.

Furthermore, paying attention to competitors’ activities, such as trade show participation, types of awards won, which strategy and tactics appeal to their target audience, and new announcements, are all excellent ways of using social media to your company’s advantage.

Social media usage can vary widely

Depending on industry, department, individual responsibilities, etc., statistics on productivity (typically gathered from a website or desktop monitoring service) may be misrepresented because of how often websites are used for each category.

For example, someone who specializes in marketing will utilize social media much more on a daily basis than compared to someone who works in product development. As a result, monitoring site usage should not be categorized the same, as productivity levels are derived from different responsibilities of the individual.

Also, while the Internet is more often than not a critical resource to complete work tasks, it is also usually important for personal matters as well.

For example, scheduling medical appointments, checking up on children’s activities, banking, insurance, etc., all usually need to occur during a typical work day. By allowing employees to access these sites on company computers, the length of interruptions will likely be limited, because employees will be encouraged to remain at work to complete them.

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If a company is monitoring employees, time spent on personal business should be recorded in a way that does not compromise employees’ sensitive personal information.

The business side of shopping and traveling

Similar to social media, travel and shopping sites should not necessarily be categorized as unproductive.

Traveling for meetings, networking events, business seminars, etc. take a decent amount of planning, and making full use of discount travel sites is a great way of reducing company costs. So, when Kayak or Expedia show up in an employee’s history, red flags are not always necessary. Shopping can fall into the same situation – aggressively searching the web for business purchases on sites such as Amazon or Overstock can help the bottom line.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

While it is important to define productivity when it comes to potentially distracting websites, companies should also take into consideration the new era of Internet use and how deeply we rely on it for our personal and professional lives.

In most cases, what may seem unproductive on the surface can actually be explained quite easily. And even when an employee is using the Internet for personal use, companies must decide if restricting that use is actually more time-consuming than allowing it.

Monitoring your employees can deliver extremely useful information to increase productivity. Employers just need to think carefully about how to interpret their employees’ activity, and what restrictions make the most sense for their business.

Herb Axilrod is the founder of Birch Grove Software, the developer of workplace productivity service, ActivTrak. Prior to founding Birch Grove Software, Herb was the lead engineer at Saber Software Corporation. He also has experience as a researcher at Atlantic Richfield’s lab. Herb holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton University and a master’s degree in geosciences from University of Texas at Dallas.

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