Employees resist social media in building workplace culture

Don’t bother tweeting this, Boss.

Business leaders and employees have widely divergent views on social media’s effects on workplace culture, according to a new survey.

By nearly two to one, executives embraced social media in building workplace culture more than their employees, according to Core Values and Beliefs, a report by Deloitte, which partnered with Harris Interactive in the online survey.

  • Forty-one per cent of executives participating in the study said social networking helps build and maintain workplace culture; just 21% of employees agreed.

  • Nearly half of business leaders (45%) said social media has a positive impact on workplace culture; barely one-fourth (27%) of employees perceived that positive impact.

  • Although 38% of executives said social media allows for increased management transparency, only 17% of employees agreed.

In other words, managers shouldn’t use Facebook messages as their principal means of communicating with employees.

“The norms for building an exceptional organisation and culture have not changed despite the growing use of social media,” Deloitte Chairman of the Board Punit Renjen said. “So while social media is important as a technology to connect, it cannot and should not be used as a crutch to build an exceptional culture.” The norms for cultivating culture still require managers to build trust through face-to-face meetings, phone calls and personal messages, Renjen says.

Disconnects over compensation, communication

Use of social media is just one of the areas where a disconnect between employees and management emerged in the survey, which included 303 corporate executives and 1,005 US lower-level, full-time workers at companies with 100 or more employees.

Executives ranked tangible elements such as financial performance (65%) and competitive compensation (62%) among their highest factors affecting workplace culture. Amongst employees, 24% said financial performance affects culture, and one-third said competitive compensation has an impact.

Employees rated intangible elements as most important in building culture. Regular and candid communications (50%), employee recognition (49%) and access to management or leadership (47%) were ranked highest by workers.

“Employees, especially this generation, are looking for an organisation to address not only some of the intangible elements that are akin to having a great culture,” Renjen said. “They are looking for organisations to have a grander purpose, something beyond a core profit motive. And I think defining a culture around those norms leads to motivated and engaged employees.”

In addition, executives appear to have an inflated sense of their workplace culture, compared to employees. Eighty-three per cent of executives said senior leadership regularly communicates the company’s core values and beliefs; 67% of employees agreed. Three-quarters of business leaders said there is a high level of consistency between the values held by management and employees; 61% of workers agreed. And 81% of executives – compared with 69% of employees – said senior leadership acts in accordance with the company’s core values and beliefs.

A clearly defined business strategy also was viewed as contributing to a company’s success by a significantly higher percentage of business leaders (76%) than employees (57%).

Employee satisfaction

One area where executives and employees agreed was on the importance of worker satisfaction. Eighty-three per cent of business leaders and 84% of employees ranked having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success.

Business leaders (94%) and employees (88%) also indicated strongly that a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. While those data demonstrate a critical understanding of the importance of morale, another area of agreement shows that a lot of culture building remains to be done. Less than one-fifth of executives (19%) and employees (15%) said they believe strongly that their culture is widely upheld within their organisations.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” Renjen said. “… If you aspire to be an exceptional organisation over time, you must, certainly, have a clearly defined strategy and a clearly defined way in which you will accomplish that strategy. You must clearly define who you are, i.e., your culture.”

Renjen said the norms for building a successful organisation and culture have been the same for a long time. He said they include:

  • A focus on quality and integrity. “You need a culture that is focused on something larger than just making a profit,” Renjen said.

  • Apprenticeship and mentorship. “In every organisation, particularly in professional services, mentorship by senior practitioners like myself, sitting with younger practitioners from an experience standpoint and teaching them the craft, is the recipe for success,” Renjen said.

  • Attentive, honest communication with robust feedback. “Your employees must be able to trust you whether the situation is good or it is bad,” Renjen said. “That is how you have motivated, engaged employees.”

Renjen said core beliefs must be unique to the organisation and simple so employees can remember them. He said leaders need to repeat those beliefs and lead by example, and the beliefs need to be uncompromisingly lived.

“I’ve consulted with and seen organisations that have been exceptional in every aspect over a long period of time,” Renjen said. “And what I’ve found is, there is that consistency. They have a clearly defined sense of who they are. They’re not trying to be somebody else.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.