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UK businesses as anti-social networks?

Wednesday 01 March 2017

Article by UC EXPO Media Partner, Information Age. For many, today’s social experience is firmly rooted in the everyday lives of many employees and is often a medium for daily communication and increasingly, collaboration.

Workers recognise the value of sharing skills, ideas and collaborating online. However, despite this some employers seem to have taken an exception to this norm and overlooked the daily habits of employees by banning social platforms and perpetuating an oppressive, and subsequently negative attitude to social media – an intrinsic part of their lives.

After some new research into the culture of ‘Digital Dexterity’, Rioch UK found that Facebook has been banned by half of British bosses and 34% of employees surveyed said that they have had Twitter banned at work.

Despite blanket bans on increasingly important social tools, 44% of workers said they believe that social networks and collaboration technologies will help improve employee workplace relationships.

In an age where millennials are well-known for being unafraid to change jobs to find the right environment, businesses must be wary of both attracting and keeping a valuable pool of talent.

There is plenty of research that supports the understanding that millennials are willing to move on if a business cannot meet their expectations. For a generation labelled ‘digital natives’ – technology is high on that list.

The digital dexterity crisis

For businesses preparing to dominate the digital marketplace, improving workforce digital dexterity is now a major priority. This means creating an office culture fit for sharing ideas and skills across social, video and digital platforms.

Outlawing sites like Facebook demonstrates a draconian approach to social media and prevents the next generation from working with tools which form a key part of their daily lives.

Instead businesses should be looking to benefit from this behaviour by embracing this shift in technology.

The main challenge with this troubling approach to digital dexterity, is the subsequent lack of collaboration that results from minimising communication channels.

Over a third of employees (37%) said that they would move to jobs that offered improved digital skills which ultimately provides the opportunity to participate in the workplace via a means more aligned with their daily activity.

Driving digital dexterity in the workplace is critical for building a long-term skilled workforce that can adapt to changing practices.

There is a clear need for a more strategic approach to technology from businesses that must acknowledge the role that social plays in encouraging stronger workplace interactions. If not, they risk outlawing employees and reducing staff retention in one fail swoop.

The pioneering workplace

A company’s most valuable asset remains its employees. However, the new wave of employees has brought with it a fresh approach to work and as such has been a welcome addition to the workforce.

Trends such as the consumerisation of IT and the ubiquity of social media has ensured that new joiners are often adept at using tech and can quickly embed themselves into workplace operations with these existing skills.

Employees consider improving digital dexterity as a critical factor in future career development and will influence their decision making around choosing the right company to work for.

As such, responsible leadership today should be about arming employees with the right tools and work styles that best suit them. Employees should be allowed to embrace their own digital work styles to add the most value to the business – an approach which sees everyone win.

In order to achieve this equilibrium, businesses need to embrace collaboration by overturning all-inclusive bans on social and collaborative tools. They must use this opportunity to reimagine the future workplace and how better collaboration and innovation might be achieved.

Employers also need to be thinking about driving the technology advancement by building out a strategic plan to include its workforce through investment in training. Lastly, your people are your power – put them first.

Any strategic approach to technology should be well thought out with your people in mind. Once they are on-board, the rest is just about ironing out the kinks.

Businesses clearly still have significant work to do to ensure that the technology is integrated into the workplace in the right way.

This means that more attention must be given not just to technology investment but the practical application and delivery of it, including how it will help employees do their jobs better every day.

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