Study Shows Value of Internal Social Networks

A Kellogg School study found positive effects of an internal social networking system at a major credit card company.

Leveraging-social-mediaAs more companies implement enterprise social media tools, Paul Leonardi, a professor of communication at Northwestern University, wanted to evaluate their usefulness. The credit card company was installing "A-Life," and Leonardi compared two groups, marketing and operations, to see the impact. The marketing group was given access to the system, while the operations group was not. Before the six-month period, employees were asked who within the organization knew what-an important question for knowledge management and for getting work done.

After using the site rather than email, the marketing group reported a 31% improvement to find information and a 71% improvement in finding people who knew those with needed information.

Perhaps most interesting is that younger employees were the most skeptical of the system, as a Kellogg article explains:

"...he found that use differed by age: younger employees across the company were generally more skeptical of the tool. 'So many young people use social media tools'-like Facebook and Twitter-' their lives daily,' and those tools are really for social, non-work-related communication, says Leonardi. This, he believes, made it harder for younger employees to embrace social technology in the workplace.  'They would say, "Oh, I don't want to be posting things my boss would see." … On the other hand, the senior employees didn't have that same concern. For them, the technology was another mode for communicating about work-related matters.'"

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • What, if any, social networking tools have you used at work? What do you see as the benefits and potential pitfalls?
  • Are you surprised at the results about younger employees? Why or why not?