A question on the minds of every team leader or human resource head today is whether to let employees access social media at work or not. Individuals who have attained success using social platforms are in favour of allowing its use.

Online retailer Zappos has its employees use Twitter to communicate with customers about their shared love of footwear. Google has used social media effectively to talk about their employee welfare practices and showcase the great working conditions they provide.

Other large brands like Coca-Cola, Ford, GM, Adobe and Cisco also use social media to engage with consumers. So, should other companies follow the trend?

Boon or bane?

The hype surrounding social media and the compelling desire for individuals to share their lives on such platforms is strong enough for companies to start factoring social media access as a motivational tool.

Companies have always invented and reinvented tools and methods to keep their employees purposefully driven. The research on bottom-line benefits of employee engagement is clear: Towers Perrin and leading HR consulting firms have found that companies with engaged employees boosted operating income by 19 per cent compared to a fall of 33 per cent in others.

So, why not turn social media access into a motivational tool and a means of channelling the thought leader in your employees? Freedom will come with inherent risks, but these can be managed by putting some guidelines in place.

Your employees are present on these social networks and are talking about your company. They are talking about the work environment, their lives, their ambitions and networking with each other. By joining this conversation, a company can instantly connect with its employees and foster a more open workplace.

Here are ways to help companies tread the social media path effectively:

1. Establish a well-defined strategy

Do not think that by just opening up your company to employees through social media, you have won the battle. Social media, after all, is just a tool. Before you venture into it, figure out the manner of your presence.

Decisions about your overall social media strategy need to be driven by variables such as the need for privacy, employee engagement objectives and the scale of the project. Make the right calls and you will have in place a system ready to deliver results.

2. Set clear-cut objectives, communicate them and review

Your social media objectives need to be clearly in line with your HR objectives. The objective can be to improve collaborative innovation, bring employees closer or both. Tying that in can be a challenge. Therefore, you need to educate employees right at the onset of its value and how it can help them learn, grow and do their jobs better.

Let them know that if they take this endeavour seriously, it benefits all. To do this, clear objectives need to be drawn up with constant reviews involving employees, to see if they are being achieved. Always be on the lookout for new initiatives that can be added, as keeping things relevant with a medium as dynamic as social media becomes very important.

3. Choose the right tools

From blogs to internal social networks, there are a whole host of tools available to a company. For instance, blogs can foster inter-departmental bonhomie and increase awareness levels of various organisational functions. Picking the right tools, and making them interactive and relevant is where the challenge lies. Staying flexible, updated and proactive becomes key here.

Investing in your employees to improve productivity should be the primary consideration of every organisation, especially when the tools to do it have become so relevant, powerful and all-encompassing.