Doubts Over Role of Social Media in Building Workplace Culture

June 14, 2012 /

While social media continues to change the way people connect personally and professionally, doubts are hovering oversss its impact on building culture in the workplace, according to Deloitte’s new “Core Values and Beliefs” survey conducted online by Harris Interactive.

The survey was commissioned by the Office of the Chairman to examine the connection between workplace culture and business strategy, and their impact on building and sustaining exceptional organizations.

Examining perspectives on culture and business strategy, 41 percent of executives participating in the study believe social networking helps to build and maintain workplace culture, while only 21 percent of employees have the same view.

Moreover, business leaders and employees widely differ on whether social media has a positive effect on workplace culture (45 percent and 27 percent, respectively) or allows for increased management transparency (38 percent and 17 percent, respectively).

“Our research suggests executives are possibly using social media as a crutch in building workplace culture and appearing accessible to employees,” says Punit Renjen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP, who commissioned the survey. “While business leaders should recognize how people communicate today, particularly Millennials, they must keep in mind the limits of these technologies. The norms for cultivating culture have not changed, and require managers to build trust through face-to-face meetings, live phone calls and personal messages.”

The majority of all respondents indicate that culture is important to business success. However, the study indicates executives tend to prioritize a clearly defined business strategy (76 percent) above clearly defined and communicated core values and beliefs (62 percent), whereas employees value them equally (57 percent and 55 percent, respectively). Renjen believes this suggests business leaders should be looking at their organizations through a wider lens and considering both sides of the ledger: core values and beliefs as well as strategy as essential to long-term sustainability.

“Leadership changes and evolving marketplace conditions can significantly impact business strategy,” continues Renjen. “To be an exceptional organization in today’s business climate, organizations must articulate, invest in, and nurture workplace culture now more than ever. If properly supported, it will transcend any environmental shifts, and serve as the foundation for organizational sustainability and growth.”

The research shows a correlation between employees who say their companies have clearly articulated and lived culture and those who are “happy at work” and feel “valued by their company.” Additionally, they indicate that their organizations have a “history of strong business performance.”

In considering the elements of workplace culture, executives rank competitive compensation (62 percent) and financial performance (65 percent) among the top factors influencing culture on the job. Conversely employees say the intangibles – regular and candid communication (50 percent) and access to management (47 percent) – outweigh the tangibles – compensation (33 percent) and financial performance (24 percent).

The study also points out differences in the degree to which executives and employees perceive culture as being expressed in their organizations – with executives generally giving their organizations stronger scores.

Renjen concludes: “Leaders who understand the importance of the intangible elements contributing to workplace culture become sensitive to what makes their organization truly special. That is how they define core values and beliefs that are unique, simple, leader-led, repetitive and embedded – transforming themselves from good to exceptional.”

Harris Interactive® fielded the employee survey online in the United States on behalf of Deloitte from March 5-8, 2012, interviewing a nationwide sample of 1,005 U.S. residents aged 18 years or older who are employed full time in a company with 100 employees or more. Company size was weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the larger universe of employers in the United States. Harris also conducted the survey within the United States between February 27 – March 9, 2012 among a total of 303 corporate executives. Company revenue and number of employees were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the larger universe of companies with revenue of $1B or more.


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