One of the biggest objections that we hear from CPA firm leaders around the country is that social media can be a big time-waster. People are concerned that by embracing social media as part of their firm’s strategy, they will be encouraging their team members to spend too much time on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. They’re worried that social media will negatively impact productivity and that people will neglect getting their work done. They are afraid that “Social Networking” will turn into “Social Notworking,” a phrase used by Tom Hood, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of CPAs.
The fear that people will waste precious time on social networking when they should be focused on getting their work done has caused many firms to “crack down” on the use of social media sites at work, restricting access and instituting policies that prohibit use. But, as Tom Hood suggests in a short video entitled “Keeping Up With Change,” if you are going to cut off team members’ ability to interact on social networking sites, then you better also be “cracking down” on other time wasting activities such as conducting personal phone calls, playing with smart phones, chatting around the water cooler, taking smoking breaks, etc. In the approximately four-minute video, Tom addresses this issue in addition to security concerns and the fears that social media will negatively affect a firm’s brand image.
Tom points out that if you have an issue with team members wasting time on social media sites, then what you have is a management problem, not a technology or social media problem and I agree one hundred percent! If you have someone on your team who is going to waste significant time engaging in non-business related social networking and neglect their work responsibilities, you have a performance issue —plain and simple. The chances are good that if they didn’t have access to social media sites, they would find other ways to waste time, whether talking with co-workers, taking too many breaks, coming in late, or taking too long to return from a client visit.
Before there was social networking, there was Solitaire. And in a few years there will be countless new ways to waste time. You can’t control them all, you can’t eliminate them all. But you can:
- Set performance expectations so that team members are focused on producing results and meeting their performance and production goals.
- Establish a simple social media policy to ensure that everyone knows what is considered appropriate business use of social media. Here is a link to a list of sample social media policies: http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php. But, I suggest that you aim for a very simple policy and encourage your people to use common sense. For example: don’t post anything with any religious, sexual or political undertones, don’t use profanity and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss or your grandmother to read.
- Address time-wasting in any form by engaging in timely performance management.
Can social networking be a time-waster? Yes. But, lets’ not single it out as enemy number one. There are numerous other ways that our people can waste time. And, social media can, in fact be a tremendous time-saver if you take advantage of its ability to help you manage your contacts and organize and aggregate news and other information that will help you and your entire team stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the profession and latest intelligence on clients, prospects and referral sources.
If you have concerns about how much time people are spending on social networking sites, there’s no need to restrict access and possibly alienate your people in the process. Instead try articulating your social media strategy and establishing guidelines for its use. And when you identify an instance of social media abuse or misuse, treat it as a performance issue and look a little bit deeper to find the root cause.
Please feel free to contact me with any social media questions or concerns you have or post your ideas to the blog. We are 100% social media advocates and want to help you see how the benefits to you and your firm FAR outweigh the costs.