New Griffith research has found that Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) like Yammer and Workplace by Facebook promote higher levels of employee engagement and enhance performance and productivity, especially if leadership is engaged.

The intensive study by Griffith Business School and the School of Applied Psychology found that the use of social media for work-related purposes increased self-reported levels of engagement and productivity as a result of a range of factors, including:

  • Increasing communication within the organisation ​
  • Facilitating information and knowledge sharing ​
  • Increasing the accessibility and availability of resources (to facilitate task performance) ​
  • Increasing opportunities for collaboration ​
  • Increasing sense of connection and belonging among employees ​
  • Increasing self-efficacy. ​

The research was led by Griffith Business School’s Professor Nick Barter and Dr Elliroma Gardiner, from the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing.

“We found that ESNs promote employee engagement and enhance performance, but only if leaders are supportive,” Dr Gardiner said.

“If leaders aren’t engaged, then there isn’t a very strong effect.”

The study showed that the best results were achieved when:

  • Leadership was engaged and using ESN ​
  • A flat hierarchy ​existed
  • There is trust within the organisation ​
  • There is an open organisational culture ​and
  • Clear guidelines for ESN use.

The Griffith research supports the argument that engaged employees are good for business and result in increased revenue*. It found that engaged employees were:

  • More focused and dedicated to their work​
  • Happier and more satisfied​
  • More likely to be committed to the organisation​
  • Engage in helping behaviours​.

While more research into the impact of ESNs on employee engagement is needed, the study did not find any negative impact from using online social networks at work.

“What this means is there’s not going to be any detrimental impact on the organisation by using ESNs,” said Dr Gardiner.

The research findings were announced at SWOOP Analytics’ annual customer event SWOOP Chat in Sydney recently.

“This research confirms what we have experienced for years working with enterprise social networks, that platforms like Yammer and Workplace increase employee engagement,” said Cai Kjaer, CEO of SWOOP Analytics, which helped fund the research.

“It is more important than ever for senior leaders to build trust by establishing two-way conversations with their people and they are able to do this through ESNs so it’s no surprise that successful ESNs have a leader at the helm.

“Trust in senior leaders is critical for implementing change at speed, and trust comes only through building relationships. “

The Griffith University research team included Professor Nick Barter (Griffith Business School and Griffith Online), Professor Chris Fleming (Griffith Business School), Dr Elliroma Gardiner (Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing), Dr Sally Lai (School of Applied Psychology), Mego Chen (School of Applied Psychology) and Vivian Wu (Griffith Online).

Griffith’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing also provided financial support for the project through an industry collaboration scheme.

The study into the link between ESNs and employee engagement was based on a literature review.

After scanning thousands of papers, and reviewing just over 200 in more detail, 16 high quality (peer-reviewed) academic journal articles — five qualitative studies, nine quantitative studies, and two studies using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods — were included in the review.

More peer-reviewed research is needed on the subject and Griffith is looking for partners to join in further study.Please contact Academic Director at Griffith University, Nick Barter, to join the research if your organisation is using an ESN.


* 2002 meta-analysis of 7,939 business units across 36 companies showed increases in revenue to the tune of $A80,000 to $A120,000 higher sales/month/business unit Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F.L. and Hayes, T.L., 2002. Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis.Journal of applied psychology,87(2), p.268.