Overview

Social technologies used in the workplace are making it easier for workers to perform activities such as find information, share information , connect to others , find experts , find answers to questions, and infer workplace affect and emotion. HCI and social computing research in this area have advanced our understanding of technology in the workplace, but there remain several areas ripe for further investigation.

An output of various social technologies used in organizations is the massive amount of user-generated content. This content can be mined, through techniques such as sentiment analysis to infer the “affective health” of an organization, topic extraction to understand the voice of the organization, or social network analysis to identify influencers and understand information spread. More fine-grained analysis could lead to identifying factors that predict outcomes such as attrition, anxiety and stress, job satisfaction, and engagement with the organization. This can provide decision makers with useful insights, perhaps actionable in a timely manner. However, there is still much noise in social data due to its scale and complexity, and accuracy remains an issue. Furthermore, workers may not feel comfortable with their public social media content being mined and used by Human Resource (HR) departments, and in some countries (e.g. European Union) dealing with employee data requires explicit approval by work councils and employee consent. How can an organization gain insights from the considerable social content generated by its own employees while respecting their privacy?

Social technologies, such as LinkedIn or Twitter, have also transformed the process of workforce recruiting. From job ads and information on the internet to online application forms, holistic e-recruiting system architectures and career presences in social networking platforms, the “e” in e-recruiting has substantially transformed how employer and prospective employee interact. This has led to substantially changed workforce and organizational behavior on internal and external job markets.

Thus, organizations are facing several challenges. They need to implement an effective and efficient recruiting, retaining and talent management process to be successful in the competition for talent. They also need to train their workers. Social learning allows workers to learn from each other, as well as from self-paced material such as online videos. How effective is this form of learning? What types of tools can facilitate better ways of training the workforce?

The demographics of the workforce are changing. The younger generation, known as Millennials in the United States, is entering the workforce. These ‘born digital’ individuals will bring their own practices and routines to work. Instead of the 9 to 5 workday in a traditional office, they will want to work from any location at any time using a multitude of devices. A recent study found that 40% of college students aged 18-23, and 45% of young professionals under the age of 30 across 14 countries would accept lower paying jobs if they had more access to social media, more choice in the use of devices at work, and more flexibility in working remotely.

Crowdsourcing allows organizations to tap into pools of expertise both inside and outside the company. Organizations are creating contests similar to TopCoder to solve problems and attract talent. These types of initiatives can lead to different employment models. For example, an organization can have a base workforce of traditional employees, supplemented by choosing from a ‘global talent cloud’ of qualified workers that can be hired as needed. How can organizations intelligently source talent, assign the right workers to the right job, incentivize them enough to be motivated and evaluate their work?

Organizations are also experimenting with ‘crowdfunding’ initiatives similar to Kickstarter. Instead of having management decide which projects receive funding, crowdfunding democratizes the process. Do these types of initiatives create more connection between workers and the organization they work for? Or, can empowering employees lead to higher job satisfaction and improve morale?

The preponderance of digital technologies used in the workplace has led to an instrumented workforce. A worker’s skills, relationships, experience, and results are available digitally and can conceivably be used to create a profile of that worker. Can such a profile be used to measure the reputation and influence of a worker? Can this be used as a real time performance appraisal system supplanting traditional performance evaluations? What issues arise if such a system is used as an influencing factor on performance, pay, career, and recognition?

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