Social Networking – friend or rumour-mill?

The open-ness of social networking may help improve communication if used wisely. Contrary to expectations there is evidence that where social networking has been implemented in businesses, incidences of bad behaviour are remarkably low.

Networking within an organisation, offers the opportunity for employers to communicate in ways that have not been known before. Implementing social networking, and making it work, can focus minds on how to get employees to communicate.

In many cases social networking is being driven by employees themselves. Colleagues who are friends set up their own groups and can do so whether or not the organisation participates. Unlike computers, fax and mobile phones, where companies adopted the technology first, social networking has been taken up by individuals already and many employers are pedalling hard to catch up.

An internal social network breaks down the “silo culture” (where employees in different departments rarely talk to each other) and spreads knowledge around the organisation. When Tata Consultancy Services in India set up an online question and answer forum they found time and again invaluable contributions from employees working outside their strict job descriptions.

Over the last decade there has been a significant trend towards open-ness and less privacy. This often concerns employers and business owners – they fear commercial information leaking out of the organisation. But this can happen anyway. However, unlike conventional “leaks”, social media leaves an “audit trail” – so that is a serious inhibition. Sound policies are also good protection and the evidence to date is that horror stories are few.

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