Social media tools keep employees’ heads in the game

Once thought to be a major distraction to productivity and employee performance, social media is now being credited with keeping the employees engaged with their tasks.

A survey performed by Buck Consultants and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation found that reduced communications budgets and resources are making employers leverage social media tools, such as company blogs and discussion boards, to keep their workforce engaged.

“Communicating for optimal employee engagement is always a timely topic, but even more so during challenging economic times,” Robin McCasland, a director in Buck Consultants’ communication practice and 2009-2010 chair of IABC Research Foundation, said in a statement.

Organizational mandates and the economic downturn were the most common reasons for why more than half of the survey respondents reported a decrease of 35 percent of communications budgets. To fill this gap, managers are increasingly turning to social media and collaborative tools.

Nearly 80 percent (79%) of respondents said they use social media to frequently engage employees and foster productivity. Tools such as company blogs and discussion boards even outranked e-mail (75 percent) as means of keeping employees’ heads in the game. “It’s encouraging to see the rising popularity of social media in employee communication,” said Julie Freeman, ABC, APR, president of IABC. “Companies are moving away from the one-way communication model where they would send out information hoping people would read it. Using the various social media tools, companies can now engage employees in discussions and foster conversations between teams across geographic and other boundaries.”

Twitter and Facebook account for around 20 percent of respondants’ communications strategy, but according to the report, organizations are planning to use those and similar tools even more in the future.

Ms. McCasland says the survey results provide an opportunity for employers to understand how their employees use social media in the workplace, as well as an opportunity to have greater influence in delivering message that encourage employees to contribute within the larger business.

The ramifications could be similar for employees in state and federal government. As reported last week, Generation Y employees are presenting managers with an entirely different staffing situation. One where multi-tasking, especially between communication channels is second nature for most employees between the ages of 18 and 30.

The survey results of nearly 1,500 participants representing a broad industry and geographical range will be released by IABC in San Francisco today.

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