Vincent posted a story about how large corporates in South Africa are clamping down in their employees’ use of social networking sites and services like Facebook, Amatomu and blogs. When they didn’t get the result they wanted after months of warnings and threats, they reduced the relevant employees’ salaries significantly to apparently reflect the amount of time they were really committing to their work. The result is a series of massive protests with the usual “one bullet …” slogans and an interesting one “Free our faces”. This last slogan, to me, captures the essence of my difficulty with the action taken by these corporates.
Before I get into that let me point out that I do believe that employees should be paid for the work they do. If an employee doesn’t work then he/she shouldn’t be paid. Nothing complicated there. On the other hand these corporates are just revealing their ignorance of the benefits of social networking and what they really have in their organisations. These employees represent a small percentage of South Africans who are using social networking tools and a potentially valuable resource for those companies if only they directed those employees better. One of the trends that gave rise to the social media movement (aka Web 2.0) was ordinary employees giving feedback to customers through forums (fora?), blogs and other public spaces on the Web. There were no corporate programs back then to encourage these employees to do this (as far as I am aware), they just did it and the response was fantastic.
My suggestion to these large corporates is to take a good look at these employees they are penalising and rather encourage them to direct their energy that they invest in social networking sites into using those social networking sites (and the many others on the Web) to productively talk about their employers and to their customers. Just penalising them and closing off access to social networking sites from within just shows that these companies really don’t understand what is going on on the Web and the potential value of these tools. In other words, they are missing an opportunity here.