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New Clearswift report shows differing global attitudes to social media

September 2011 by Clearswift

Clearswift, the software security company, unveiled its latest annual research report, WorkLifeWeb 2011, outlining global attitudes towards social media and personal technology in today’s workplace. This year’s research has highlighted a new phase in the social media journey as businesses across the globe clampdown following recent high profile data breaches; 68% of companies now monitor employee internet activity and 56% block access to some sites.

An overwhelming sense of caution is emanating from businesses when it comes to social media. In Clearswift’s 2010 study just 9% of companies globally engaged in blocking employee access to social media sites, yet in the latest research this figure has risen to 19%. Blocking is most evident in Germany (23%) and Australia (21%). The only exception is the United States, with 30% of companies actively encouraging their employees to use social media tools.

In addition, 87% of companies in the survey are so concerned about security and data loss that it is preventing technology adoption; this fear is most evident in Japan (92%). However, managers still see social media as being critical to future success, particularly in relation to communication, with 54% citing web collaboration as a pivotal tool, and one in four companies planning to invest more in social media this year than last. The push for investment is strongest in the United States, where 44% expect to invest, and the UK, where 31% expect to do so. It is weakest in Germany (18%) and Japan (13%).

The ‘Director’s Dilemma’

A ‘socianomic paradox’ has emerged; on the one hand 80% of managers acknowledge the business benefits that social media tools generate, yet a paralysis has set in due to security fears, resulting in a new dilemma for many regional boardrooms. In fact, 48% of managers have proactively identified social media usage as an issue of concern at management level. In the United States and Australia, managerial concern is as high as 66% and 54% respectively. Due to a lower level of usage, Japan’s level of concern is 34%. This concern is undoubtedly leading to a less proactive approach to social media and collaboration, with control and compliance (58%) driving the security stance of the majority of companies.

Paradoxically, 41% of companies globally agree that the benefits of social media outweigh the drawbacks. This rises to 48% in the UK and 58% in the United States. Even in Japan, where attitudes towards social media are more sceptical, 28% agree. However, only one in seven companies globally are using it as a tool for growth.

Social media stalemate

Globally, there is clearly a growing attitudinal divide between workers and managers about the use of social media in the workplace: 48% of managers say that social media is either allowed or encouraged within their organisation, but only 25% of employees agree. As the consumerisation of IT becomes more widespread, particularly with the introduction of the iPad and other tablets in the last 12 months, there is confusion between management and workers about the use of personal devices at work; 60% of companies state that they allow or encourage use, but only 40% of workers think this is the case. Interestingly, 23% of employees believe that social media and the use of personal devices are leading to an extension of the working day. This can in part be explained by distraction, with 70% of employees stating that email and social networking affects concentration.

Security disconnect

In terms of security and social media, the differing opinions of employees and employers are particularly pronounced. Within management there is widespread concern about social media usage; 57% express security fears, 48% are worried about the loss of confidential data via employees, and 43% are concerned about data loss via external hacking. In fact, 50% of managers believe employees are oblivious to security concerns. Concern about security-indifferent employees seems to be on the rise, at 57% for the four core markets in 2011, up from 51% in 2010.

The fears of managers are well placed as 21% of employees admit to not thinking about security at all when they use the web and email and 31% state that they believe security to be an employer responsibility. This tendency is most noticeable in Australia, where 38% see the company as solely responsible, while only 21% of Japanese employees express this attitude.

However, if a company was to introduce stricter social media guidelines, the employee backlash would be significant: 26% would become demotivated, 14% would work around the policy and 3% would consider leaving.

Andrew Wyatt, Chief Operating Officer, Clearswift, said: “It is clear that we have seen some significant changes in attitude to social media in the last twelve months. Businesses have reacted to the series of high profile data leaks and have become increasingly nervous about its usage in the workplace. Rather than embracing new channels of communication, companies have clamped down and become overtly defensive which is consequently stifling potential avenues of growth. However, the research also provides evidence that businesses do recognise the importance of new technologies which leads me to believe that this is a knee jerk reaction rather than a long term trend.”

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