Hyderabad: Information Technology (IT) firms are taking a leaf out of social networking portals such as Facebook, MySpace and Orkut they had once held in so much suspicion that they made the online platforms off-limits to employees.
Companies such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), Satyam Computer Services Ltd, Wipro Ltd, IBM (India) Pvt Ltd and Dell (India) Pvt Ltd are introducing new social networking initiatives as they attempt to contain employee turnover, improve internal communications and promote teamwork.
“Blogging and the ensuing online dialogue is fast emerging as an important tool for engagement and learning. To leverage this, we are using social networking technologies to enable our employees to collaborate and innovate,” IBM India country manager for Lotus software Chetan Yardi said.
Many Indian IT companies are replicating popular social networking sites such as Orkut to promote employee interaction
“We have seen that internal blogs lead to healthy discussions around research and development thus contributing to the improvement of our products, processes and policies,” Yardi added. IBM has more than 4,000 active blogs by employees on its internal platform, BlogCentral.
Not too long ago, some IT firms had even banned employees from online social networks that feature voice and text chat, messaging, email, video, file sharing, blogging and discussion groups. Opponents were afraid of sensitive internal information being leaked, says Srinivasu Chintapalli, vice-president, networking and systems, Satyam Computer Services.
Time spent on such social networking sites hurt employees’ efficiency, the opponents claimed. But that has changed, with a number of IT enterprises replicating social networks for in-house use by employees on their corporate networks and intranets.
To promote employee interaction and create a sense of corporate identity, Dell has an online employee community on Facebook. While this helps the employees connect outside the office space, the company is also in the process of creating a similar platform for internal use by the employees, said Rajiv Ahuja, Dell communications director for the Asia Pacific region. “Our primary aim behind using social computing in workspace is to increase the level of engagement with all of our employees regardless of where they sit in the organization and thus create a better work environment for them,” Rajiv added.
Companies that have implemented in-house social networking initiatives are seeing continuously increasing levels of participation from staff younger than 30 years of age while participation rates have remained more or less stagnant among the older staff.
“Our social networking tools like blogs, chat and instant messaging have attained a 100% penetration among the younger staff but the over-40 age group are less active,” vice-president and chief technology officer of TCS, K. Ananth Krishnan, said.
Wipro’s general manager for human resources (HR), Veena Padmanabhan, says the company has an internal employee portal called Channel W. “Our internal discussion and blog platform on Channel W has a user participation of around 30,000 staff. It has higher proportion of our younger staff among its users. We make use of the experience and knowledge of older staff to reach out and engage with the users of Channel W,” she added .
The way HR managers see it, having a Facebook or Orkut type internal corporate directory with profiles of employees detailing their skills and expertise make it easy for project managers to identify and use the right talent to execute projects.
TCS is developing an interactive corporate directory called My Site and says it has got a robust response from its employees. Ananth Krishnan said that on My Site, employees will have options to create a buddy list like in all the major social networking platforms. Ananth says that such a facility “will also enable employees to look up and connect with others having shared interests and thus create a better bonding among employees irrespective of hierarchy.”
Hosting and sharing videos, along the lines of social networking giants like YouTube is the latest among corporate initiatives. Dell and TCS are already in the process implementing such platforms internally.
Enthused by the positive staff response as well as the increasing intake of younger staff, companies are planning to scale up and integrate more such tools into day-to-day operations. “We think that the use of social networking tools will become more and more important as our workforce becomes younger and as we attract new and younger talent,” Dell’s Ahuja said.