Is Facebook a Right or a Privilege at Work?

By Lydia Dishman,

For Generation Y, access to the Web is as essential as air, water, food and shelter.

According to the 2011 Cisco Systems “Connected World Technology Report,” a whopping one of every three college students and employees surveyed globally believes the Internet is a fundamental resource. So it’s no surprise that having access to Facebook and Twitter is considered essential when deciding on where they’ll work. More than 40 percent of young adults surveyed worldwide said they would accept a job offer for less money if they had more access to social media at work.

The following is a transcript of an interview with Michael Crom, Chief Learning Officer at Dale Carnegie Training, a global performance improvement, assessment training and solutions company, who offered insights on how the digital world is changing the workplace. The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Is it true in your experience, that workers are willing to take lower pay in order to have access to social media at work?

At Dale Carnegie I haven’t seen evidence that people are willing to take a lower salary in exchange for access. Obviously, I have seen reports that Generation Y values social media access. I would see them not really trading salary but perhaps some other benefits.

What percentage of employers still ban access?

A 2009 Robert Half survey stated that 54 percent of employers were banning access. That just sounds enormous to me. As social media has increased in popularity there is no way to tell how accurate that number remains, but that is the best reference point I have.

Do employers miss out on a certain tech-savvy worker by banning access to social media?

I do think employers that ban it are missing out. Our current generation is very connected 24/7. The truth is most of us has 3G and 4G on our phones so whether the company bans it, we will just have it on our own device.

If they do ban it they could lose some fantastic applicants and, if companies have it, they can pick up some important candidates if that is an issue for [the candidate]. I just hired a fellow to be general manager of my digital division. He is very social media savvy and has this enormous connected database of people within the industry. So he quickly brought in a number of team members [through LinkedIn]. He is always aware of trends and opportunities that open up. It has been fun to watch.

How hard could giving staff access hit productivity?

It can be an issue. I read that 87 percent of Facebook users are using it for online games. If they are playing at the office you have an issue. Management has to have trust that staff won’t use social media for non-business activities. It is always possible that it could hinder productivity, but the other side as I mentioned before, is that it could prove to be useful.

It’s the boss’s job to speak to individuals on a case-by-case basis. As we discussed, employees will have their phone or iPad so they have ways to access even without access through the company. I trust my employees to do the right thing.

Should social media in the workplace be a right or a privilege?

Ultimately, it is a privilege. But you have to take it industry-by-industry and company-by-company. Some are required to be on top of social media 24/7, while for others it is just a means of procrastination.

How can employers design and implement a social media policy?

They must take account what type of industry they are in and perhaps even the job role. It’s also important to note that it is one way employees receive breaking news. For example, in PR or sales, social media should be unrestricted, but look at how to harness it. On other hand financial firms or banks should limit access to personal sites.

People should use channels in a professional manner and good taste should prevail. We see time and time again how not to do it. In our book, How To Win Friends and Influence People In The Digital Age, we have examples of where people messed up and it costs them their jobs. From the waitress who complained about not getting a big enough tip after servicing a large group to a teacher who compared students to prison inmates, the consequences are significant to those who go beyond good taste.

Should job seekers highlight social media skills in their resumes or applications, and if so, what's the best way to do that?

I would encourage highlighting the most relevant skills. If the type of job would be benefited by social media expertise, understanding the market or generational needs, I would definitely highlight it. If you have your own website or are a professional tweeter, certainly include that. Many employers are doing name searches on the web, so your social media profiles may come up anyway.

Social media is very powerful very important, it helps you identify with people and understand when we don’t have the chance to be face-to-face. The danger today is not seeing people face-to-face so there is value to seeing a bigger picture.

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