Social Media Today: Limiting Employee Access Complicates Company’s Success in Marketplace

By RYAN RIVERA

As Facebook, Twitter and other social media have become an integral part of our personal and public lives, companies face decisions of how to manage these media sites, juggling employee productivity, company communications and brand awareness all at once.

There is no denying it: social media is a powerful tool. Facebook alone was reported to have reached one billion members worldwide by Sept. 14, 2012. That is one-seventh the human population of the entire planet.

But the question of social media’s effect on work productivity remains, and companies are faced with the dilemma of how to limit personal access to social media, yet use that very same media to increase sales and brand awareness, as well as to improve communications internally and externally.

According to president of Heraeus Noblelight, Ruben Rivera, his company started monitoring social media traffic on company computers three years ago.

“Our IT department was starting to monitor social network activity and the amount of time spent on Facebook had jumped dramatically from virtually nothing to at least 10 percent of the employees time being spent on Facebook,” said Rivera.

Heraeus Noblelight is a German engineering group that produces a wide variety of technologies. The Buford branch manufactures light sources such as infrared and ultraviolet light-emitting diode, commonly known as an LED.

Heraeus Network administrator, Curtis Key, found that employees accessed social media networks like Facebook mostly in the morning and afternoon. Since then, Heraeus has almost completely blocked access to Facebook, and other social media sites, like Twitter, are also either completely off limits or have restricted access. Employees who used social media during businesses hours were not punished.

“We did not reprimand nor did we single out one person as being more active on social media than another, we just shut it down,” said Rivera.

After the social media sites Facebook and Twitter were blocked, Rivera observed an increase in employee productivity. Facebook is currently only permitted for use by human resources.

“HR personnel were granted permission for Facebook use to screen candidates,” said Key.

Candidates are screened through their Facebook profiles that are inspected by human resources. If a candidate has vulgar content or photos of alcohol or drug use on their Facebook page, then the candidate will not be considered for employment.

Facebook and Twitter may be blocked almost entirely on the Heraeus work network, but some social media sites and other non-work specific sites are permitted for certain situations.

“We did not block LinkedIn because we use it to gather resumes on people to find job candidates for potential employment,” said Rivera.

Although Facebook is blocked, the company feels it would be a useful tool to increase sales through a Heraeus Facebook page. It would currently be too difficult to monitor Facebook, according to Rivera, so for now it will remain open only to human resources. Originally sites like eBay were also blocked, but the blocks were removed for the engineers who use it to order parts.

Heraeus no longer has a problem with employees using Facebook on company time, however, Rivera feels there is another social media outlet to consider blocking: streaming music. Rivera noticed after Facebook and Twitter were blocked more employees were using music streaming sites like Pandora to pass the time. Heraeus is considering blocking these sites too because they consume much of the network’s bandwidth.

Overall productivity has improved at Heraeus due in large part to the restriction of non-work related social media sites.

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