Why You Must Not Block Employees from Social Networks

Think your workers are just wasting company time cruising Facebook and Twitter? Think again. Gen Y workers need access to social media 24/7.
October 04, 2012

Companies of all sizes still fear social media, yet it can serve as a major recruiting tool to attract Generation Y employees. Ten years from now, companies who aren't enabling social networks in the workplace will be deemed irrelevant and their Gen Y talent pool will suffer as a result.

A new survey on workplace Web access by OfficeTeam reports that 53 percent of employees say their company doesn't block social networking sites. For those workers who are blocked, 22 percent admit to use their own personal mobile device as a workaround. Companies tend to worry about security, privacy and a loss of productivity. This is especially common in both the financial and healthcare industries, where data is more strictly regulated.

Many companies still don't understand that if you ban social media use in the workplace, Gen Y won't want to work for you. The 2011 Cisco Connected World Study shows that more than half of college students wouldn't accept a job offer, or would accept it and find a way to circumvent corporate policy, if they couldn't access social networking sites. Two out of five respondents said they would accept a lower paying job that had more flexibility with regard to social networking. The Great Place to Work Institute reports that none of the top one hundred companies to work for block social media access at the office. Here are the top reasons why companies should enable it:

1. It builds morale. Companies that enable social media use are seen as trusting. Employees want to be trusted with their daily activities and are more productive as a result. In addition, younger employees don't' separate work and life, or personal and professional, like older generations. They want to be connected to the people around them, including family and friends, wherever they are. Employees need a mental break from work and companies should put more emphasis on results than when and where work is done.

2. It builds connections. Business gets done through people so it's foolish to block people from accessing their own networks to find information and solve problems. Social networks make it easy for employees to tap into their co-worker connections, as well as their external ones. They may know a subject matter expert that can walk them through a problem or a co-worker in a different country than can be of service.

3. It builds social media expertise. The best way to learn social media tools is by using and experimenting with them. To have a 21st-century company, your organization must be integrated with social networks. By encouraging hands-on experience, Gen Y will see it as a learning tool. With new social networks appearing daily, it's imperative that your company is aware of what's going on and figures out which tools can be most beneficial.

4. It builds a stronger marketing platform. You can tap your employees to help market your company through social networks, allow them to refer candidates and more. For instance, your employees can share how happy they are working for your company on their social profile. It looks great, is good branding and can help you fill your talent pipeline. The possibilities are endless.

Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career expert and the founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting company. He is also the international bestselling author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and was named to the Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 list in 2010. Subscribe to his Personal Branding Blog for more advice.

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