Facebook, Business amp; Talent

In recent weeks, I have watched the Facebook frenzy in the media and particularly, the blogosphere with Facebook being discussed in the realm of politics, business and technologies. Sprinkled with Facebook facts, personal anecdotes and user experiences. I was finalising my second book, Smart Reward Strategies – Authentically Attract and Retain Talent, which mentions Facebook & the spiked interest in this area came at a great time. 

Given: Social networking is here to stay. Facebook is not the first and I doubt it will be the last in connecting organisations and individuals. Given: Business is about the bottom line. It may be dressed up under a different guise but the bottom line rules. Given: The war for talent. Organisations want to attract and retain the bright young things (any age) Even though my discussion is centred around Facebook and corporates; I submit that it applies to any social networking site and any organisation. The crux of the debate is whether organisations should or should not grant employees’ access to Facebook.

I am going to summarise what is in my opinion, the five big reasons of supporters and detractors in this online face off.

The supporters (mix of technology experts, employees and some in management) put forward the following reasons:

1. Employees waste time anyway from smoke breaks to gossip. Those time wasters are not banned, why ban Facebook? (1)
2. Employees that are blocked from using Facebook, they will use their mobile phones (2)
3. Employers can use Facebook to learn about their employees
4. Employees can use Facebook for business networking and work related stuff
5. Manage staff performance not their surfing on the net

The other side (mix of technology experts, business owners and management) firmly contends that

1. Work is work. Play is Play. Keep your life out of the office
2. Employees will waste paid company time on Facebook (3)
3. Employees will be busy on Facebook and less productive at work
4. The costs of bandwidth
5 Employees get Facebook access on account of their job   (4)
6. There is no business need for employees to use Facebook (5)

The Big Issues

The Facebook debate is more than a passing fad of the month when it comes to business and talent. It strikes at the core of the new work economy – the upheavals in the psychological contract, employment contract and working relationships. The problem is that many SA organisations are living in the Industrial Age when it comes to their relationship with employees, their work and the value attached to it. Sad but a reality. Even though the supporters advance sound reasons for access to Facebook, the challenges faced by the detractors are real and determine their response. The supporters miss the mark in that organisations will seek to control what they perceive as having zero benefit even though employees will find other ways around the system.

To understand why organisations do what they do – you have to look at the hard wiring – organisations based on hierarchy, division of labour, supervision of control et al will automatically default to closing it down or a restricted access approach. Their concerns about employees are the result of conditioning over decades, that treats employees as children, pays for performance when they are really paying for time and can’t see the potential of the individual.  Their arguments about costs are valid when organisations still adopt arcane methods to cost out employees, instead of managing their employment spend and adopting an asset basis & ROI. Outdated assumptions and faulty thinking rules. Trying to drag these organisations to the Facebook side demands a radical shift in the relationship between organisations and the employees working for them. Few organisations are prepared to consider the possibility let alone go down that track. But for those that do, they have a competitive advantage in the war for talent. 


1. Why You Should Let Your Employees Use Facebook (Mike Stopforth)

2. Attention Corporates (Vinny Lingham)

3. Facebook to cost the South African economy more than R100 million over the next 6 months (Vincent Maher)

4. Facebook and the office – Part 2 (Rat Hartley)

5. SA companies block Facebook (News24)

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