Social media usually causes one of two different reactions in employers. It's either seen as a productivity killer that saps an organization's energy with frivolous time wasting activity or it's seen as a collaborative tool that can bring employees closer together and lead to greater innovation.

A recent study performed by Lorenzo Bizzi, an assistant professor in the Department of Management at California State University, Fullerton found that social media isn't the productivity killer that some employers think it is.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that it might lead to higher employee turnover. Bizzi surveyed 277 workers in a healthcare organization and found that workers who connected with their co-workers on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter during work hours tended to be more motivated and come up with innovative ideas easier.

Conversely, employees who connected with people outside the organization during work hours were less motivated and showed less initiative for their jobs, showing that people who interacted with their fellow employees on social media during work hours were actually more engaged and productive while those who interacted with others were less so.

However, potentially increased engagement and productivity came at a price, namely employee retention. Bizzi also found in his survey that regardless of who they were talking with, employees who used social media during work time were more likely to leave their company than those who only used it during their leisure time.

Bizzi says this may be because employees who left were interacting with potential new employers more as they used social media during work hours. In a write up about his study in the Harvard Business Review, the researcher said he found that "76 percent of employees using social media for work took an interest in other organizations they found on social media, compared to 60 percent of employees using social media only for leisure." The employees who were using social media during work often researched new organizations and made new work connections that led to them leaving their current organization.

To get the best of both worlds -- strong employee engagement and collaboration without the risk of having them leave -- Bizzi suggests providing social media training to encourage employees to focus on positive social media behaviors like the aforementioned collaboration. This, he says, can increase employee satisfaction and affinity for their job, leading to higher retention.

Engagement and Motivation

Another suggestion Bizzi has is to create your own social media groups centered around the business so you can encourage online collaboration between employees. In a company created group, employees will be less inclined to discuss their intentions to leave the company or discuss outside job opportunities.

These groups will also give managers a way to recognize employee accomplishments and success stories in a group setting, which can also act as a recruiting tool. If employees from other organizations see the kind of credit you give to your own employees, they might be attracted to your organization.

I wholeheartedly agree with this approach. Rather than trying to curtail or influence your employees' social media use with training, which seems more like a "stick" approach to me, I like the "carrot" approach of giving them a reason to use their time on social media to celebrate the organization.

We encourage our team members to share our company events, recognitions and awards, which is a good way to generate referrals at our company for new team members. A few months ago we hired a new team member and when I asked her why she wanted to work at our company, she said that her friend was sharing photos and events from work where everyone looked happy. She saw how happy her friend was to work here and it influenced her to seek a job here, as well.

The best thing you can do is generate engagement and care among your team members so that they do not feel have the inclination to look into other businesses while they are on social media at work.