A new report for the recruitment industry reveals a massive increase in the number of companies that are banning the use of Facebook at work. The survey shows that seven out of ten companies now have banning orders in place to prevent their staff from using Facebook. That’s double the number of companies compared with the same time last year.

Bosses are worried that their staff will become distracted from their work. So, rather than make the work more interesting and stimulating, those bosses are resorting to overt control of their employees. Hardly the right way to motivate and gain commitment.

For years, British business in particular has been beset with an “us and them”, “bosses vs workers” culture. That divide has caused the collapse of some companies and has seen others face industrial disputes year in, year out. Togetherness, teamwork, all being on the same side – well, say the British bosses, that’s namby pamby. The trouble is that study after study shows that a co-operative, free-style culture leads to greater productivity.

So, the banning of Facebook in businesses could well have the reverse effect that company bosses are hoping to achieve. It could demotivate staff from trying to do well for their boss. It could lead them to finding other social networking sites the bosses haven’t heard of yet, so can’t ban. This distraction in itself could lead to more chaos in the workplace than leaving Facebook available.

But, the biggest problem that British businesses will face is in actually recruiting and retaining younger members of staff. New graduates and people under the age of around 22 actually expect Facebook to be available; they can’t believe you can run a business without some use of social networking. So if you ban it they will think you are a bunch of old fuddy-duddies and won’t want to work for you. It’s worthwhile remembering that recent studies have shown that people under the age of 25 even think email is “for old people”.

There is an added problem; around half of current university students do not expect to be employed when they graduate. Not because they won’t get a job – but because they don’t want one. They want to work for themselves, running their own businesses. And guess what, those businesses will use social networking successfully.

British bosses who ban Facebook are slamming the door in the face of the very people who could help their companies survive the major commercial changes ahead.

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