Opinion: Using social networks to help boost workplace productivity

by External30 Mar 2016
As a result of the rapid uptake of social networks and mobile devices, increasing numbers of organisations are harnessing them as a new and very effective channel to reach their staff. Caroline Falkiner outlines how to make the most of this social uptake.

The ways in which people work are changing across almost every industry sector. Where once full-time-permanent jobs were standard, now casual and part-time positions are becoming the norm.

To cope with these changes, increasing numbers of employees are finding themselves with multiple part-time jobs. While this can help maintain income levels, it creates the challenge of needing to juggle multiple shifts for different employers and in different locations.
There are new challenges arising for employers too. Rather than having a stable, permanent-full-time workforce, they now need to find effective methods of managing a constantly changing number of staff. Rosters need to be created and filled while taking into account other employee commitments, skills, qualifications and required leave.
As a result, maintaining workplace productivity has become a key focus for many organisations. They need to find ways to effectively match their employee resources with ever-changing workloads.Too few staff means lost sales and poor customer service. Whilst too many, means money wasted.
Stores need to be able to quickly increase staff numbers during times of peak demand, such as seasonal sales, while also decreasing them during known quiet periods. 

Effective communication is critical
For this increasingly flexible workplace landscape to work well for both employers and employees, an effective communications platform is critical. Employers need to be able to advise their staff of available shifts and any changes that might occur. Meanwhile, employees need a simple way to let their various employers know when they are available and confirm their attendance.

Traditionally, the rostering systems used in most workplaces have relied on paper-based calendars or the electronic distribution of schedules via email. However, as a result of the rapid uptake of social networks and mobile devices, increasing numbers of organisations are harnessing them as a new and very effective channel to reach their staff.

By linking their central workforce management application to these social networks, employers can inform staff members of shift changes and other details quickly and easily. Staff don't have to worry about logging into an unfamiliar company portal, but instead can use the communication channels they are already using in their personal lives.

Interestingly, this approach to staff communication and scheduling can be achieved with relatively little effort on the part of an employer. An existing workforce management system can be configured to send out alerts via a range of social networks. The employers only have to be sure that any computer code used is HTML5 compliant, so that it can be viewed on any device used by their employees.

If the system is configured correctly, as well as receiving notifications of shifts, employees will also be able to confirm or decline their attendance using the same social network. This avoids the need for employees to respond via email or phone central office staff with their response.

Employee choice is vital
For such a workforce communication and scheduling system to operate effectively, employers must ensure they give employees a choice over which particular service or channel they want to use. While some may decide to make use of Facebook, Twitter or another social platform, others may be more comfortable staying with traditional methods such as IVR or SMS alerts.

If employees are willing, there might even be an opportunity to link shift alert messages with employees' electronic diaries. For example, once a staff member agrees to a shift, details could be automatically added to their Gmail or Outlook diary. As well as minimising missed shifts, this can help employees to ensure they are not double booking with multiple employers.
It should be noted that employers will also need to be sure that any existing workplace agreements can allow the use of such flexibility and communications channels. Checking the legal details ahead of time can avoid difficult situations and challenges further down the track.

By bringing the power of social networks into the workplace, employers can ensure they have the staff on hand to meet demand, and employees can readily monitor and manage their constantly changing workloads. The result is flexibility for employers and regular, scheduled shifts for their staff.

About the author

Caroline Falkiner is the general manager sales and marketing, ComOps