Nearly half of employees report that social tools at work help increase their productivity, but more than 30 percent of companies underestimate the value of these tools and often restrict their use, according to new Microsoft research.
The survey, conducted for Microsoft Corp. by research firm Ipsos among 9,908 information workers in 32 countries, also found that 39 percent of employees feel there isn't enough collaboration in their workplaces, and 40 percent believe social tools help foster better teamwork. More surprisingly, 31 percent said they are willing to spend their own money to buy social tools.
"Employees are already bringing their own devices into their workplaces, but now they are increasingly bringing their own services as well," said Charlene Li, founder and analyst at Altimeter Group, a firm that studies social media and other technology trends. "Employees expect to work differently, with tools that feel more modern and connected, but are also reflective of how they interact in their personal lives. Enterprise social represents a new way to work, and organizations embracing these tools are improving collaboration, speeding customer responses and creating competitive advantages."
The research also found distinct differences between countries, sectors and genders as they relate to the levels of productivity, collaboration and communication tools used in today's workplace.
Employees in the Asia-Pacific region were most likely to attribute higher productivity levels to the increased use of social tools, followed by Latin America and Europe. Employees in Latin America, however, were most likely to credit social tools with greater collaboration in the workplace, followed by the Asia-Pacific region and Europe.
Greater proportions of workers in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region are using social tools -- and with greater frequency. In contrast, those in North America and Europe have been slower in adopting many social tools.
Financial services and government employees are most likely to say their company places restrictions on the use of social tools, likely due to the high level of regulation in those sectors.
Moreover, professionals in financial services (74 percent) and government (72 percent) are more likely than those in other fields to say these restrictions are due to security concerns, while those working in retail (59 percent) and travel and hospitality (57 percent) are more likely to blame productivity loss.
Men are more likely than women to attribute higher productivity levels to social tools in a professional setting.
Women are more likely than men to believe their company restricts the use of social tools.
Men are more likely than women to say these restrictions are due to security concerns, while women are more likely to blame productivity loss.
"Just as email accelerated the pace of business in the '90s, enterprise social will be the driver of greater agility and transformation in the 21st century workplace," said Kurt DelBene, president, Microsoft Office Division. "As we look ahead at how collaboration and communications continue to evolve, we believe the tools people use today -- email, instant messaging, voice, videoconferencing, social -- will come together and be deeply integrated into apps in ways that will speed collaboration and truly transform the way people work."
Microsoft envisions enterprise social as a fiber connecting all collaboration tools within an enterprise, not as a separate website or app that must be added into employees' daily mix of activities. As companies start to use social tools such as Yammer, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Lync and Microsoft Dynamics CRM for collaboration, sharing and communicating outside and inside their organizations, they stand to benefit from an increase in team collaboration, employee engagement, organizational connectedness, and the flexibility required to react nimbly and quickly to business changes and demands. Done correctly, enterprise social can drive significant business value by improving how employees connect, share information and work across teams and geographies, as well as beyond the firewall to customers, vendors and other key relationships.
"Enterprise social tools like Yammer have helped Red Robin transform a widespread employee base of nearly 30,000 across 44 states into a more tightly knit workforce focused entirely on team member and guest satisfaction," said Chris Laping, senior vice president of Business Transformation and chief information officer, Red Robin. "Even more importantly, it helps us ensure we reach our workforce -- 87 percent are millennials -- in the right ways for learning and engagement because how they want to be engaged is through social and mobile."