July 2014
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TD Magazine

The Social Media Skills Gap

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rooting out organizations' remaining distrust of social media starts with training.

Social media has potential for improving organizational performance and driving business, but new research from VitalSmarts, a corporate training solutions provider, found that many organizations persist in discouraging its use in the workplace.

David Maxfield, vice president of VitalSmarts and co-author of Change Anything and Influencer, calls blanket prohibitions or blocking of social media at work a misuse of the technology. "Currently, many leaders and employees label social media a time waster. This reputation makes it risky [for employees] to use social media—even in effective ways."

VitalSmarts's research found that while 77 percent of survey respondents indicated that they use social media to connect with colleagues at work or within their professions, 35 percent said their use of social media has undermined a relationship at work. Still, nearly twice as many (61 percent) said it resulted in new or better work relationships, and 32 percent said they use it to further work-related projects, tasks, and ideas, or to solve problems.


Employees who do use social technology to improve their performance on the job often do it without help from their organizations. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents said that their organizations do nothing to encourage using social media to get work done, and 75 percent of organizations do not provide training on how to use social media.

Risks associated with allowing social media in the workplace can be minimized with proper training, says Maxfield. This also will help improve the technology's reputation with many organizations. He recommends training leaders first, and then encouraging them to model positive and productive use of social media.

About the Author

Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Florida.

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