Productivity paradox of social networks

Social networking tends to take a bit of a beating in the mainstream press when it comes to the business value. They seem to ignore the good examples of how organisations use these tools, such as Dow Chemical to encourage their alumni and employees on long term leave to return. In the first three months of usage they had 25,000 referrals, 24 full-time jobs and 40 contract roles filled through the use of a social network (Source Gartner).

Which brings me to two very good articles I read this week. 

First up was from the UK’s HR Zone looked at the benefits social network tools provide organisations in reducing the barriers to communication.

Organisational behaviour research has shown that collaborative Web 2.0 tools are particularly effective where technical knowledge is valued. In complex organisations like multinational corporations, finding someone who possesses highly specific expertise is often difficult. One reason is that expertise remains ‘hidden’ – and consequently unexploited – within organisational structures.

They even go on to quote a UK-based think tank indicating that social networks encourge people to create productive relationships and work the way people do.

The second was from Harvard Business Review on the benefits of social networks, focused around information discovery and sharing. Here we see figures such as 7%, 30% and even 40% improvements in productivty when employees where using communication patterns facilitated by social networks. What CEO doesn’t want 40% more out of their existing workforce!

With all this research being released I hope we will see some more positive articles from the mainstream media.