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How social networking is changing Corporate India

Last updated on: May 28, 2010 13:02 IST

How social networking is changing Corporate India

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A tweet here, a facebook comment there and blogs all over were forcing corporates to sit up and take note of social networking sites as employees resort to this powerful cyberspace tool to air grievances, make suggestions and lobby for their demands, in a changing workplace landscape.

"The Internet is buzzing with social media as employees nowadays are increasingly using social networking sites to air their thoughts with their peer groups," said Kamal Karanth, MD, Kelly Services, a leading staffing company.

"The importance of social networking sites is evident from the fact that every employee is networked through some such sites like Orkut, Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter these days and spends at least two three hours on an average weekly to communicate through these web tools," he adds.

"Blogs have become a great way to build and demonstrate thought leadership," said Rajan Kohli, chief marketing officer, IT business at Wipro.

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The popularity of these web tools have led corporates to launch official blogs and social networking sites to keep open the channel of communication and use it as a feedback mechanism to fine tune policies, to be attune to employee needs, to receive feedback and to incorporate suggestions.

"We have a blog and this blog on one hand is a forum for us to share with everyone various initiatives and developments of the organisation and it also allows employees to give an expression to their thoughts, suggestions and creative talents," said Rituparna Chakraborty - vice president and co-founder, TeamLease Services, a leading staffing firm.

"We also have an official facebook page and can be followed on Twitter," he said.

An Infosys official said, "We have blogs on the Infosys Internet, where employees share their views, thoughts and concerns on company related matters.

We also have a presence on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube where we constantly update our employees and public on various initiatives and activities being undertaken at Infosys."

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The impact of social networking sites was apparent as some of the corporates used these as barometers to judge introduction of new workpractice, policies and HR initiatives.

Some of them even set up teams to monitor these sites and used them as feedback. These sites even were sometimes powerful enough to impact managerial decisions, leading to modification or slightly tweaking of work practices.

"If not all, many of the expressions do influence managerial decisions. We have a dedicated editorial team which monitors each and every response across the three online platforms we have and the same is passed on to relevant functional teams for appropriate action or to initiate a change process," said Chakraborty.

A leading IT major recently had to effect some salary change following an uproar on social networking sites to the company's decision to restructure positions of employees as part of a new HR initiative.

The restructuring had resulted in some of the employees being placed lower than their current positions. Several chose the web to air their frustration.

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A leading company has set up a special team within the HR department to simply monitor these sites. An official of the company said that it was forced to have dedicated team as its channels were overloaded with daily hits and responses.

"Wherever we believe that the suggested feedback and modification can help a larger audience and greater cause within the organisation, we definitely consider them and put them into practice," Chakraborty said.

Some suggestions were innovative, useful and helpful in organisational development.

"At Infosys, we encourage our employees to raise concerns and provide constructive feedback through our internal channels.

Our ability to react effectively to comments on external sites is limited as we often do not know the identity of the person posting. However, we do take feedback from these sites constructively and make changes based on feedback," the spokesperson of the firm said.

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Infosys also has set up a Managers Network, a communication platform where employees connect with their peers, have discussions, seek suggestions, information or just chat about the latest happenings.

"This has been an exclusive networking forum for the manager population at Infosys and it has been successful in creating a community that discusses/shares information and collaborates on various issues," the spokesperson said.

However, though these web tools were great communicators, sometimes they were also used to wash dirty linen in public or to get even with a current boss or an ex-boss or an irksome colleague or senior staff or senior management, or sometimes simply to draw attention to an issue that has been ignored.

According to Kamal, web tools could sometimes be used by employees to get even. "Sometimes it could be a genuine case which may have gone public after direct channels have failed and the experience was too bad to be left behind.

We have seen a couple of cases outside our organisation where some issues which were already in the management's notice have been addressed only after appearing on these sites."

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Chakraborty said the firm has had no such instances of former employees using the sites to air their grievances.

While there is no attempt to disapprove any grievances or negative feedback through moderation, the firm ensures that no abusive material goes live on these spaces.

Many believe that social networking sites are turning into powerful tool for lobbying. "In the contemporary parlance they are a powerful tool for garnering support on any issue.

Time would tell if they can be the white collar workforce's voice or Gen Y's lobbying force of tomorrow. But the indicators are there towards the same", said Kamal.

"It would graduate to be the voice of tomorrow's transparent work place and will redefine the way employees connect with their organisations."



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