Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Response to article "Figure Put on Facebook’s Cost to Australian Employers"

This article was published on http://www.idm.net.au/storypages/story-work.asp?id=9181, it creates an interesting discussion around the pros and cons of social networking.

January 7, 2008: The negative side of social networking in business has reared its head again this week, with a new study claiming that on average, Facebook costs employers upwards of $2700 a year for each employee using the service.

Conducted by the online career site Linkme.com.au, the survey asked 2800 Facebook if they used the service while at work, with almost half of this number admitting that they did.
According to Linkme.com.au development manager Paul Tyrrell, with the average Australian salary of $54,132, a mere two hours per week of Facebook use translates to a cost of $2708 per employee. 20 percent of those surveyed claimed to spend more than two hours per week on the site, while Tyrrell believes that the actual average time spent on the service is likely to be much higher.

Social networking is slowly coming of age in the business world, however, it is still teetering between being a benefit and a curse for employers. Some recognise the benefits the new communications channel brings, while others have banned it to stop their employees being tempted to procrastinate.

Unfortunately, at least according to this survey, procrastination seems to be winning out over building professional contacts at the moment, with over three quarters of those surveyed admitting that they use the service purely to chat, share photos and play games with their friends.

The million dollar question here is does facebook and social networking cost or contribute to business productivity.

In the case of the article, the positive benefit side of the social networking equation is not discussed and maybe this is something that you would like to discuss further or potentially do another article on.

The challenge that technology is bringing along for the ride is the complete blurring of personal and work life. Using facebook at work is just an instance of the new world of work that the internet has created. The challenge for the organisation is to adapt to this and other news way of work such as mobility, flexible working arrangements and globalisation of the workforce. It is companies who are flexible that will turn these technological innovations into improvements in business productivity and thus create competitive advantage.

If we take for example the theme of information overload in the workplace, nearly half of all labour costs are now allocated to employees performing so-called ‘Information work’. A typical information worker spends up to a 25% of their time searching for the right information to complete a given task, this translates into $5,3 00 per employee. So potentially an organisational focus on information management and enterprise search could see significant business productivity benefits.

If we couple the idea of information overload (and we need to given the amount of new technical information is currently doubling every 2 years and by 2010 expected to double every 72 hours http://www.slideshare.net/jbrenman/shift-happens-33834 slides 49,52) with social networking it is possible we could turn applications like facebook to our advantage.

The issue we have is a lot of expertise and information for an organisation is not yet maintained in the corporate intranet, it’s usually in the head of our beloved employees. What about if we could use social networking components to actually surface who these people are and build communities around them. That we can collaborate with the right people at the right time. Through social networking concepts there is real scope for us to be connected at large and surely that’s got to be a good thing for the organisation.

The worker is an extension of the person and that person is a social animal. This is equally important in a professional environment as it is a social life. We want to connect with different people, learn from different people and social networking components now provide this en masse. My speculation is that it goes beyond that, at the end of the day we are on a journey of discovery, as well as the social networking for sharing photos and playing games it’s just as likely as its contributing to the next generation of really innovative thinking.