Enterprise social networks promote employee engagement & enhance performance: Study

Enterprise Social Networks like Yammer and Workplace by Facebook promote employee engagement and enhance performance, especially if leadership is engaged, according to ground-breaking new research from Griffith University.

Intensive research from Griffith University’s Business School and School of Applied Psychology found Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) and work-related social media increase employee engagement.

There is also evidence ESNs, or social media for work-related purposes, is associated with higher self-reported employee engagement and work performance and productivity.

The findings were announced at SWOOP Analytics’ annual customer event SWOOP Chat in Sydney.

Researchers suggest work-related social media use promotes employee engagement and enhances employee performance by: ​

  • Increasing communication within the organisation ​
  • Facilitating information and knowledge sharing ​
  • Increasing the accessibility and availability of resources (to facilitate task performance) ​
  • Increasing opportunities for collaboration ​
  • Increasing sense of connection and belonging among employees ​
  • Increasing self-efficacy. ​
Professor Nick Barter.

The Griffith University research, led by Professor Nick Barter and Dr Elliroma Gardiner, found that for ESNs to be successful in facilitating employee engagement and performance, a number of conditions are considered important, including:

  • Leadership’s engagement and use of ESN ​
  • A flat hierarchy ​
  • Trust within the organisation ​
  • An open organisational culture ​
  • Clear guidelines for ESN use

​“We found that ESNs promote employee engagement and it enhances performance, but only if leaders are supportive,” Dr Gardiner said.

“If leaders aren’t engaged, then there isn’t a very strong effect.”

Dr Elliroma Gardiner.

While more research into the impact of ESNs on employee engagement is needed, the study found there is no apparent negative effect from using online social networks at work.

“What this means is there’s not going to be any detrimental impact on the organisation by using ESNs,” Dr Gardiner said.

And it seems engaged employees result in increased revenue for businesses – to the tune of $AUD80,000 to $AUD120,000 higher sales/month/biz unit, according to 2002 meta-analysis of 7,939 business units across 36 companies.

Griffith University research found engaged employees are;​

  • More focused and dedicated to their work​
  • Happier and more satisfied​
  • More likely to be committed to the organisation​
  • Engage in helping behaviours​
  • ​Engagement impacts revenue

The study into the link between ESNs and employee engagement was based on a literature review. After scanning thousands of papers, and reviewing just over 200 in more detail, 16 high quality (peer-reviewed) academic journal articles – five qualitative studies, nine quantitative studies, and two studies using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods – were included in the review.

More peer-reviewed research is needed on the subject and Griffith University is looking for partners to join in further study. Please contact Academic Director at Griffith University, Nick Barter, to join the research if your organisation is using an ESN.

The Griffith University research comes as Forrester Consulting, an independent and objective research-based consultant, found there was a 398% return on investment using Workplace.

The Griffith University research team included Professor Nick Barter (Griffith Business School and Griffith Online), Professor Chris Fleming (Griffith Business School), Dr Elliroma Gardiner (Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing), Dr Sally Lai (School of Applied Psychology), Mego Chen (School of Applied Psychology) and Vivian Wu (Griffith Online).

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