Social Media Gets ‘Collaborative’ in the Workplace

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Reports have shown that the use of Twitter, Facebook, and blogging by the nation’s largest companies surged last year, but social media still has a bad rap in the workplace as a time-waster. A new article published in Human Resource Development Review asserts managers who rethink their approach to these tools will realize some great benefits:

Organizational leaders and managers may emphasize the word social in social media and fear that the tools will be used purely for nonproductive, non-work- related activities. However, when using these tools, the importance of the contexts of work versus personal cannot be overlooked. Already, employees have drawn a distinction between social media tools by using Facebook for personal matters and LinkedIn for professional matters, for instance. Therefore, to prevent such misunderstanding or misconceptions, the term collaborative media has been proposed to describe any cover_HRDR_defaultsocial media tool used for productive work-related endeavors and efforts, specifically within the context of workplace learning. By changing the term social media to one that more accurately describes the intended purpose of these tools, it is more likely that organizational leaders and managers will consider the implementation of these tools to foster informal learning among organizational members.

If the tools are accurately framed as those used for collaboration on projects, the quick retrieval of information to assist with a problem, or the broadcasting of pertinent organizational knowledge, such leaders will be more apt to view collaborative media as useful and necessary tools supporting organizational objectives and goals rather than a means for distraction and decreased productivity.

The paper by Kristopher J. Thomas and Mesut Akdere, both of the University of Wisconsin, “Social Media as Collaborative Media in Workplace Learning,” is forthcoming in Human Resource Development Review (HRDR) and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section. Click here to get updates about the latest research from HRDR.

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