Companies that adopt hardline measures to prevent employees from wasting time by banning media services including Facebook and instant messaging are likely to see any productivity gains wiped out by the spiralling cost of staff turnover. At least that's the big picture at St George Bank, which now allows its employees to surf social networking sites because that's what younger workers expect from their bosses.
It's not a position taken lightly by St George group head of architecture Greg Booker, who has confirmed that the institution is rolling out instant messaging applications for all staff as well as allowing the use of social networking and role playing sites in a bid to attract and retain young talent.
"What we have come to find is if you want to hire people, and keep them, then the organisation they work for needs to be at least in line with what they are used to doing outside," Booker says.
Such employee expectations have not been the norm for how executives view management of staff, but Booker says staff have already consumed resources using other channels.
"They are already chatting all day ... but they are using email and your resources to store it," he says.
The market value of staying cool by forming online cliques has soared, after software giant Microsoft plumped $US240 million ($261 million) to secure 1.16 per cent of Facebook - a sum that many observers say values the website at about $US15 billion.
However, internet industry veterans warn that such giddy valuations are likely to prove both fleeting and paper thin.
One of them is Jeffrey Cole, director of the Centre for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, who has tracked the influence of the net on more than 50,000 consumers in 27 countries through a study called the world internet project.
He warns that Facebook could "face the same phenomenon" as social networking sites like MySpace, whose younger teenage users have eroded and is shifting targets to adult users.
"I don't see with teens how it's [Facebook] ever going to stay relevant," Cole says. "I think you ought to be factoring in the shelf life of some of these communities."
© Fairfax Business Media
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