Management tends to regard internal social networks as an aid to building and maintaining workplace culture. But their employees are not so sure. As far as they’re concerned, these networks are merely a tool.

Executives and Staff Divided on Role of Social Media in Workplace Culture

Company executives and non-management personnel don’t share the same opinion on the use of social media in the workplace. These are the findings of a study commissioned by the US arm of Deloitte, the international audit and consultancy firm, carried out by Harris Interactive. The difference in perspective centres mainly on the practical impact of social media on the workplace culture. The research shows that 41% of the executives polled think that social media are important in building and maintaining workplace culture, but just 21% of their employees share their view. So does this prove that company culture is largely a matter of opinion? Maybe so, given that the results show 45% of executives claiming social media have a positive influence on the working environment, while only 27% of the staff agree.

Company culture needs the human touch

Similarly, 38% of those in the top suite reckon that using in-company social media increases management transparency. However, this view is shared by only 17% of the employees. According to Punit Renjen, Chairman of Deloitte LLP, which commissioned the survey, these differences of opinion suggest that “executives are possibly using social media as a crutch in building workplace culture and appearing accessible to employees.” He adds: “While business leaders should recognise how people communicate today, they must keep in mind the limits of these technologies,” underlining that the “norms for cultivating culture have not changed, and require managers first and foremost to build trust through face-to-face meetings, live phone calls and personal messages.

Are management and staff on the same wavelength?

Obviously the first step towards an effective workplace culture is a common understanding of the company objectives. But the Harris survey shows that this is still not the case in all companies. Although most respondents all the way up and down the hierarchy regard the workplace culture as the most critical element for a company’s success, 76% of executive personnel still rank ‘commercial strategy’ as the most important factor influencing the work culture, ahead of ‘sharing common values’, seen as the most important factor by 62% of the executives surveyed. Non-management employees on the other hand felt that the two factors were more or less equivalent, with 57% and 55% of responses respectively. As far as Punit Renjen is concerned, “to be an exceptional organisation in today's business climate, organisations must articulate, invest in, and nurture workplace culture now more than ever.” Moreover, “if properly supported, it will transcend any environmental shifts, and serve as the foundation for organisational sustainability and growth,” he argues.