I was speaking to journalist Dermot Corrigan the other morning about Facebook.
He was writing an article for yesterday’s Sunday Business Post on how companies have started blocking access to Facebook for their employees. This is presumably on the back of articles like the one in the Telegraph recently which claimed that:
More than two thirds of employers are banning or restricting the use of Facebook and similar sites over fears that staff are wasting time on them when they should be working
This is an unmitigated load of cobblers frankly, and raises a number of issues, namely:
- If I’m an employer, I either trust my employees, or I don’t trust them. If I trust my employees, there is no need to block sites like Facebook. If I don’t trust my employees, blocking Facebook is the least of my problems!
- If I am an employer I have a responsibility to monitor my employees’ productivity. If it has demonstrably dropped as a direct result of using sites like Facebook then my first step should be to review my firm’s Internet Usage policy. We DO have an Internet Usage policy, don’t we?
- The vast majority of employees are responsible and hard-working. If they spend an hour someday on Facebook or a similar site, they will make that hour up during lunch by staying late, or by taking work home with them
- Speaking of taking work home, as an employer have I ever impinged on my employees time outside of work hours? If so, I can hardly complain if they bring some of their personal life to work!
But, instead of thinking negatively about it, how about turning it around and asking is there a potential benefit from having employees on FaceBook? Absolutely there is.
One asset any employee brings to his/her employer is their network. Conversations in networks result (directly or indirectly) to sales leads, which, if handled properly, result in sales.
Networks build profile and trust which should again bring about an increase in sales.
Networks also help fill vacancies and networks can be leveraged to get answers to difficult questions, reducing time spent on problem solving.
The main asset a company has is its employees. By exposing employees to their peers on channels like Facebook (and blogs, podcasts, etc.) companies get to show just how good their staff are. And if the staff are impressive, the company consequently as their employer, looks good too.
Companies who block sites like Facebook do so out of fear and ignorance – these are the same companies who blocked employee access to email early on, and who blocked access to the web when it started to become popular; for the same reasons now being given for blocking social networking sites.
Eventually these companies will realise that they are losing out and will quietly roll back the ban. However, I suspect that the longer they leave it, the more likely they are to lose their best employees to more progressive companies who allow open access to social networking sites.