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CIPD research misses the point on social business

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CIPD research misses the point on social business

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Social business is undoubtedly a popular topic, and it’s probably a good indicator that it’s reaching the mainstream when professional bodies start taking notice.  Earlier this autumn the Chartered Management Institute themed their national conference around what it called Management 2.0, whilst the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) hosted a Social Media in HR conference this week.

To coincide with this event they released a report on social business, called Social technology, social business?.  The report saw 2,000 employees surveyed to determine the role social plays in their work life.  The headline stat is that whilst 76% of us use social media in our personal lives, just 26% use it for work.

Other findings from the research include:

  • Social media is much more likely to be used for networking and collaboration externally than within the organisation.
  • Amongst organisations that do use social media internally, only 11 per cent of employees say it is used a great deal for gathering views from employees and 18 per cent say it is used a great deal for collaboration, whereas 48% per cent say it is used a great deal for staff updates.
  • 8 in 10 respondents said their organisation does not make any use of social media to provide learning and development opportunities to staff. By contrast, a third of employees who use social media cite knowledge sharing (34%) and learning (32%) among their top uses.
  • The research found broad support for the notion that social media can improve efficiency in terms of getting information to the right people at the right time, but found equal support for the view that it leads to information overload. This suggests that in most organisations our mastery of the technology is not yet developed enough to make social media a very reliable communication tool across the board.
  • In an accompanying survey of more than 500 HR professionals, three in ten respondents (29%) reported that their organisations had disciplined or dismissed employees for misuse of social media in the last year. By far the most common reason for this was posting inappropriate comments.
  • According to HR professionals, the most common reason for restricting or banning social media was IT security, followed closely by concerns about employee productivity. This points to either a lack of trust or a view that social media is superfluous to people’s jobs.


Jonny Gifford, research adviser at the CIPD, comments: “For the moment, the claims made by social media advocates who predicted widespread transformation of our workplaces and working lives appear exaggerated, but the impact of social media in the workplace is likely to grow as more people interact with it. When you look at the number of young people already using social media, it does look set to become a bigger part of how we work in the future.”

All of which kinda misses the point doesn’t it?  The report seems largely to focus on externally focused social networks and whether employees are using Facebook or Twitter for work.  There’s no mention for instance of using the kind of crowdsourced performance appraisal applications pioneered by Work.com for instance.  There’s no mention of the idea jam style events pioneered by IBM that are now spreading throughout the corporate world.  There’s no mention of open innovation competitions run either internally or externally.

Instead it seems merely to trot out a few of the same old cliches around access to social networking at work and that young people seem to use such things more than older employees.  It’s hard to tell whether the organisations surveyed are the reason for this or whether the questions they were asked didn’t un-earth the real extent of usage.

Either way, in my rather naive expectation that such bodies should act as thought leaders in their field, the CIPD report was all rather disappointing.

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