Facebook as a Workplace Tool?

Thursday, February 25, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

(Photo: Robert S. Donovan)

Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool? The answer may surprise you…
With so many virtual teams scattered and far flung around the globe we need to find a way to cultivate the team bonding experience achieved in an office. In today’s mobile workforce the sense of presence is limited which in turn decreases the opportunity for team bonding, communication and trust. Sure we all have email, phones and other means of communication; but what opportunity do we have to really get to know each other? What can be done to stifle the disconnect and bring people closer together? The answer is…Facebook.

Why Facebook?
What’s lacking in the virtual workforce is the personal bonding which typically occurs when colleagues work side-by-side day after day. Relationships develop; people learn about one another, hear about family life and gain perspective of each others personal interests. A bond is a close personal relationship that forms between people working toward shared goals using collaborative efforts. So how do you duplicate this in a virtual team environment?

How Do I Get Started?
Start by creating a Facebook group for your team. If you company is large make sure you pare it down to only include the members of your team directly. Be sure to incorporate your team identity and include basic information to the group such as:

  • Links to company site and other team sites.
  • Newsletter.
  • Upcoming events including: Webinars, conferences and other programs where someone from your team will be present.
  • Update your group or fan page on a regular basis with helpful information.
  • Answer FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions).

What Should Each Team Member Post?
Now you have your group set up and you are ready for your team to join the group and start posting. If any of your team members are new to Facebook here are some guidelines to assist them in determining the content they should share:

  • Individual bio’s
  • Background
  • Education
  • Work history
  • Areas of expertise
  • Certifications
  • Training
  • Work Goals
  • Family happenings
  • Personal Interests
  • Pictures
  • Personal Goals
  • _
    At first they may be apprehensive about contributing personal information to the group, let’s face it many people are a little uneasy about tipping their cards. Make clear to them you would not expect them to share any information they would not otherwise discuss if they were in an office setting. Explain to them you are working to create a more personal, humanizing dimension to people who are otherwise perceived as distant and unconnected. It is also significant to note to your virtual team there are many security settings on Facebook allowing them to pare down the information they choose to share with the group.

    What Should Each Team Member Avoid?
    How do you know what is appropriate? Of course it is imperative for people to know the boundaries of acceptable material. Set specific guidelines and add to them as needed, to start…

    • All information should be non-proprietary.
    • Be respectful of the company, brand, and reputation.
    • Avoid rumors and gossip.
    • Steer clear of stories or photos which may seem provocative or make others in the group uncomfortable.
    • Set guidelines for the amount of time spent online.

    Why Incorporate Facebook at All?

    “We think it could be valuable when used in an appropriate way.” – Haydn Long, spokesperson for Flight Centre

    Employers are embracing Facebook and believe it can help build a sense of community amongst employees and help foster bonds with clients. A spokesperson for Facebook stated, “Facebook is an incredibly efficient way for people with real-world connections to share information and communicate, including among people who work together.” Among other things Facebook is a good way to…

    • Increase trust: Colleagues get to know one another, then like each other and when they like each other they trust each other.
    • Immerse a new employee into the group by getting to know the interests of their counterparts.
    • Have long term employees gain further insight to their colleagues.
    • Allow for a connection and create a sense of presence you would otherwise find in an office environment.
    • Stay up-to-date as people’s interests change.

    Let’s face it remote employees are spread far and wide across the globe today and if you are looking to bolster loyalty to the company and generate a team atmosphere it is crucial you embrace the technologies available to your workforce. Rather than forbidding these tools as many employers do find ways to utilize them as functional workplace mechanisms.

    Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool; what are your thoughts?

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