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by Alex Palmer | January 30, 2013
While Twitter and Facebook may strike employers as time wasters that distract their workers from actually doing their jobs, a new study finds reasons to embrace social media usage at work. A report from Baylor University published in The European Journal of Information Systems, found that internal social media programs can offer a range of positive effects on employee attitude and performance.

The research focused specifically on a financial institution that launched a social network whereby its information technology (IT) employees could create their own profiles and connect with other members of the organization to discuss both work issues and non-work discussions. Prior to the social network’s establishment, the company had a turnover of as much as 60 to 70 percent in its IT department, particularly among its new hires who would join the team, gain the training, and then leave.

“They launched it in 2007 to 2008, when few people besides college students even knew about Facebook,” says Hope Koch, an associate professor at Baylor and the author of the study. “It became a main marketing point for new hires, [this fact] that they had an internal Facebook at a time when CEOs were just figuring out what social networking was and in a lot of cases banning it.” 

Koch and her research team spent time at the company’s office, interviewing management as well as new hires and workers who had been with the company for years, learning about the system and impact on workers. 

They found that the social network provided a number of benefits. New hires found it helpful in getting acclimated to the company and gaining introductions to their peers. It also proved to be an effective way to gain social capital with older workers who typically joined the network later in order to mentor incoming new hires. 

On a day-to-day basis, workers reported that interactions on the network improved their relations and engagement at work. It also saved mid-level managers time since employees with questions were able to reach out directly to in-house experts on whatever IT topic for which they needed information. 

The company saw the impact most clearly in a significant drop in its new-hire turnover.

“One of the lessons from this is: don’t be so quick to apply stigma to social media as a time waster,” says Koch. “Companies should be a little more open to implementing this kind of system.”