Survey: 75% of Workers Are Accessing Social Media While on the Job

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Do you have a social media policy for your workplace?

If you don’t, you better get cracking, because as this new survey from SilkRoad clearly shows, there’s a good chance that your employees are using social media on the job. In fact, in some cases they are doing so despite the organization’s best efforts to block them from doing so.

Titled Social Media and Workplace 2012 Report, the top-line finding that jumped out at me was this: 75 percent of workers access social media on the job from their personal mobile devices at least once a day (and 60 percent access it multiple times a day), despite the fact that only 43 percent of them work in organizations where social media access is completely open.

Yes, that’s a pretty good indication that when workers are motivated, they’ll do what they want to do no matter how much the much the company tries to stop them.

Companies struggle with social media policies

Here are a few more of the key findings from the research:

  • Companies’ efforts to guide employee use of social technology are mixed: Only 23 percent of workers received a specific social media policy from their employer, and the same percentage reported having no policy at all. Just 17 percent were issued informal guidelines, and less than 10 percent received social media training.
  • Twitter is the most popular social media site accessed at work: 70 percent use Twitter and 65 percent use Facebook, while only 19 percent use corporate intranets.
  • Virtually no employers are asking for social media passwords: Despite the media and political buzz around the topic, 97 percent of respondents said that their employer or potential employer had not yet asked employees for social media passwords.
  • Employees use personal mobile devices frequently during work hours to access social media: 60 percent check social media multiple times throughout the day on their mobile devices, and 75 percent say they check it at least once a day or more.
  • Interacting with co-workers was the primary motivator for social media engagement at work: 49 percent of respondents said that connecting with co-workers was the top reason to use social media while at work. The second and third most popular reasons were connecting with others on a fun social platform (47 percent) followed by connecting with customers (44 percent).

“Companies can no longer ignore social tools, nor the ways that their employees use them to share and access information,” said W. Edward Vesely, chief marketing officer of SilkRoad, in comments from the executive summary.

He added: “These new technologies can be used to create business value, share information, engage employees — and even create dialogue with customers and prospects.”

How HR should view social “activity”

Some of the analysis in the Social Media and Workplace 2012 Report’s executive summary is interesting, too:

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Findings show that employees use social media at work because they seek “connections” most of all — whether those are with co-workers or customers. What’s more, results indicate that organizations implementing social projects in the workplace should incorporate the “fun factor” into their plans. Gamification or reward systems, contests, and play might be key ways to engage and motivate employees. …

Human resources professionals take note: Given the popularity of social media in the workplace, HR should view “social” activity as an opportunity to advance the organization, capitalizing on employees’ enthusiasm. This might involve embedding social media into learning activities, or using a social platform to promote the company to prospective hires and orient new employees.”

SilkRoad is a leading provider of cloud-based social talent management solutions. The Social Media and Workplace 2012 Report was conducted from July-August 2012 through an online survey amongst a sample of 1,105 employees of corporations and not-for-profit organizations across the U.S.. Of the respondents, 33 percent came from organizations having more than 1,000 employees, 44 percent were from Generation X, 44 percent were Millennials, and 12 percent were Baby Boomers.

Ignore social media at your own peril

There’s a lot of interesting information in this survey, but the larger message is the important one: social media is pervasive in the lives of your employees, particularly the younger ones, and they are going to find a way to utilize it whether your organization allows it or not.

And, it is an important issue for your organization to get into — again, whether they want to or not. This comment from the report’s executive summary made that point very clear:

Organizations are engaged in a complex balancing act concerning social media, as they weigh the competitive advantages while juggling issues of law, policy, and employee access. The impact of social media on business agility, the proliferation of innovative social applications for industry, and the bright spotlight on worker productivity and social technology are just a few of the vital considerations for companies, as they define their approaches to social media.”

In other words, the message to management and their organizations is this: ignore social media, and a forward-thinking social media policy, at your own peril, because your employees are going to use it whether you like it or not.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.