Thursday, 18 August 2011

Social Networking in Business

A couple of weeks ago I read an article that claimed that more than two-thirds of UK workers believe access to social networking sites should be banned in the workplace (Employees call for social networking to be banned in the workplace).  I was surprised that such a large amount of those surveyed felt that social networking should be entirely eliminated from their working lives.

It is estimated that Facebook has 110 million unique UK visits a month, while Twitter has 12 million unique UK visits a month – needless to say the growth of these sites has been monumental in the past few years (

There is no doubt that organisations across the country will be losing vital man-hours every day to employees checking their friends’ latest photo albums or tweeting about what they’re going to be having for lunch.  However, a blanket ban of social networking in the workplace would be detrimental to any organisation.  Personal use should be kept in check, but any company looking to ignore social networking will miss out on a range of benefits.

It is becoming more and more common for HR teams to devise a social networking policy, and one which gives the right amount of freedom to the relevant people can pay off for the whole business.  Businesses need to look at how social media can improve their businesses, rather than focussing on the damage it can cause.

The most obvious area where social networking pays dividends is in marketing a business.  Businesses of any size can open a Facebook or Twitter account, build up a following of potential customers, and relay their message in a succinct and direct manner.  Not only that, but the power of analytics means that trends amongst followers can be regularly analysed and acted upon in real time.

For the most part, social networking is free, and gives an organisation the opportunity to converse with their customers directly.  This can be extremely positive – for example a consumer-facing organisation can address complaints directly and personally, showing high levels of customer service quickly and easily.  However, as with anything there can be negatives – for example an employee using a twitter account linked with the business to tweet about their drunken antics the night before.

The recent case of Newcastle United's Joey Barton using Twitter to vent his spleen about his employer highlights (albeit in the parallel reality that modern-day footballers operate within) the problems that can arise between employer and employee.  This is a topic we will look to address in a future blog, but we would be interested to hear your thoughts on how it could have been handled better.

With social networking being such a new (and ever-developing) tool, it will continue to prove a challenge to those looking to regulate its use in a business.  However if it is done correctly, the pros will almost certainly outweigh the cons.

Chris Johnstone
Exclusive Human Resources

Does your organisation have a social networking policy?  If not, is it something that you think is needed?  We would be really interested to hear your thoughts on it.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Are You World Class?

Are you world class? How would you know? How can you assess ‘world class-ness’? What are the signs?

I’ve worked with world class individuals and organisations for the last 15 years or so. During that time I have been fortunate to have worked with Olympians, gold medallists, world record holders and championship winning teams. In sport it is pretty easy to assess ‘world class-ness’. Normally it is accompanied by medals and trophies. In business it is a little tougher. Although there are awards, accolades and league tables, often these don’t tell the whole story. I’ve found genuinely world class operators who are almost unknown outside of their field. They are squirrelled away out of the public glare. They stand out as being world class, not because they have awards, but simply because they absolutely excel in their field. Simply put, they are the best at what they do.

Recently, I have been looking into those subtle but profound differences between world class people and the rest. As part of my research, I have interviewed a group of people who are truly world class in their respective fields. These people come from a diverse range of disciplines, from Michelin starred chefs to elite mountaineers, the world’s finest adventure racers, CEOs of world leading organisations and Olympic finalists. I’ve seen some characteristics that bind them all and noticed a few of the tell-tale signs that help identify them as ‘world class’.

Here is one question that can help us to assess how close we are to these world class people.

What would you say if someone offered to help your organisation become world class?

Would you say, ‘we’re already pretty good at what we do, thanks’? Would you say, ‘we’re already world class’, or ‘I think we’re okay as we are’? Would you say, ‘sounds great but we don’t have the budget for that’ or ‘that sounds like a great idea but we have a business to run’?

Interestingly, when I ask junior athletes to rate their performance on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being perfect), many score themselves at 9. A world class athlete, when asked the same question, often scores the performance between 4 and 6 out of 10. Does that mean the junior athlete is better? Of course not, but it shows a trait of world class people. They are never satisfied with their performance and are always looking to improve. Even those who are world leaders know that they need to improve at a faster rate than those around them, if they want to remain at the top. They know they need to take advantage of everything that will help them to stay ahead.

World class people never seem to say. ‘oh, that’ll do’; that’s not how world class people think. They don’t tend to accept 98 or 99%. They will do whatever they can to get those extra couple of per cent. They realise that, at the very top, there is a great deal of effort (and sometimes expense) required to gain tiny margins. Many people would feel that the time, effort or expense outweighed the gain. That is often the difference. Most people won’t do what it takes to that extra 1 or 2 per cent. World class people will.

So, what do you think? Are you world class? 

If you are dedicated to being the best you can possibly be, and aspire to being world class in your field, you will want to be part of the exclusive group of businesses on The Podium Programme

Simon Hartley
Executive Coach

If your business could benefit from being part of The Podium Programme, please call our Leadership and Development team on 0191 2155400 or 0113 2430900 or email to find out more.