NEW DELHI: When most companies are blocking employee access to social media networks, a few are going the other extreme. They are encouraging their staffers to be on social media, even running contests around Facebook, WhatsApp and Dubsmash.
At the office of travel startup Stayzilla, which does ‘Airbnb-style’ rentals, critical decisions aren’t taken in board meetings. The entire company is practically run on a group on WhatsApp. “I run the company on a group called ‘Stayzilla Nutmegs’on WhatsApp,” says Yogendra Vasupal, the company’s CEO, who is based in Chennai. His team members are in Bengaluru and other cities.
Using social media internally for this 550-employee strong company helps break traditional workplace hierarchies as well as bring in transparency.
Which is why when the company’s information technology engineers wanted to block Facebook on the office servers, Vasupal put his foot down. At Google’s Gurgaon office, employees don’t always communicate using words. Three young Googlers are planning to meet at around 1 pm every day after ‘pinging’ each other on G-talk.
For Google as well as several startups, embracing social media at the workplace is a way to engage and encourage internal communication among a young workforce. Besides, it’s a good way to dissolve hierarchies and open up communication channels.
Bigger companies will need to figure out ways to leverage social media instead of banning it, says Prasenjit Bhattacharya, CEO of Great Place to Work Institute. “The smarter companies are already opening up to various platforms and using LinkedIn and Facebook to promote their official groups and pages. Having an in-house intra-net system and employee marital sites were a start,” he says.
According to him, low-cost carrier IndiGo Airlines has a Twitter feed board in its office so that anything that is being said about the airline on the media, is visible to all.
At Noida-based online marketplace IndiaMART’s 1,200-strong office, employees were given a contest to use mobile app Dubsmash to create short selfie videos. The best videos, they said, would receive prizes. Stayzilla also organises activities like photo booths and Dubsmash at the office which are transferable to social mediums.
Grocery website PepperTap has various employee engagement activities through social media, too. Team PepperTap coordinates their Friday ‘fun activities’ using WhatsApp across its teams in Hyderabad and Delhi.
The Sequoia Capital and SAIF Partners funded, PepperTap, a hyper-local grocery delivery services player, is making sure its employees are well connected on all things social.
The company has set up not only fun WhatsApp groups for its employees, but also a Facebook page to vote on what employees want to do on a Friday evening. It could be anything from deciding on what game to play or what activity to participate in on a Friday evening. Its co-founder Navneet Singh encourages employees to get onto social platforms at work so as not to make the work environment ‘claustrophobic’.
“Our employees have enough work to do. We don’t believe in blocking social media. We, in fact, encourage activities around social media as they promote peer interaction and give a great opportunity for downtime on Fridays when we have contests and games,” says Singh.
Internal Facebook groups are also a trend. Fashion website Fashionandyou has an internal Facebook page to post all internal activities and pictures for ‘Friday Fun Day’ and ‘Wacky Wednesdays’.
Similarly, Stayzilla has a Facebook Group, ‘Stayzilla Rocks’, for staff only. They encourage employee participation and put up photographs on this to vote on various contests.
Most companies feel it is important for their employees to be engaged on social media because their average age is younger. IndiaMart, for instance, has an average employee age of 25. “We want our staff to be more techsavvy.
Last year we ran a selfie contest and this year we have a Dubsmash contest. We don’t restrict any access to social media; we’ve even created WhatsApp groups for employees to stay in touch,” says Sumit Bedi, vice president, marketing, IndiaMART. Nearly 85 per cent of employees at social media and digital marketing agency Autumn Worldwide say people at the workplace access social media through their phones. “India is a young country and employers must acknowledge and embrace social media in the workplace,” says co-founder Anusha Shetty.
Another clothes website Voonik, which has close to 100 employees now, has a WhatsApp group ‘Fun@Voonik’. The company also had contests which are movie dialogue-led Dubsmash videos for new recruits. This helps new employees break the ice, be themselves and understand the culture of the organisation. It’s not all about a humdrum routine at these workplaces anymore.