Ask any of the 1.5 billion people around the world who have a social networking account and many of them will tell you that it’s a huge part of their personal lives. The consumerization of IT has moved beyond just devices and people now want the services they know and love both at home and at work. This is creating a demand for social tools in the workplace; however, there is not much information on how social tools are used in the workplace. So today, we are excited to release global survey research data from Ipsos, who interviewed more than 8,000 information workers in 32 countries to find out how employees feel about social networking at work.  While nearly half of employees report social tools at work help increase their productivity, more than 30 percent of companies underestimate the value of the tools, often restricting their use. The survey also found that more than 40 percent of employees feel there isn’t enough collaboration in their workplaces, and that social tools could foster better teamwork. The survey also found that an amazing 33 percent of employees say they are willing to spend their own money to buy social tools. You can view the full survey data here.

This week, we’ll be exploring how employees in different vertical industries responded to the data and the benefits that they can find using enterprise social networking. Done right, enterprise social networking can drive significant business value by improving how employees connect, share information and work across teams and geographies, and beyond the firewall to customers, vendors and other key relationships. Today, we are looking at how retail, travel, and hospitality workers responded to the survey and can benefit from the technology. Throughout the week, we’ll also look at survey results in the manufacturing, communication and media, and financial services industries, and discuss how social networking at the office can boost productivity and collaboration.

Download the full research summary here

Those in retail were more likely than people in other industries to avoid using social tools at the office because they are worried they will give the impression that they aren’t working. In addition, 45 percent of respondents said their management is concerned that employees will disclose sensitive company information through these tools. But 75 percent of retail respondents say they like using new technologies that make them more productive at work, and almost half of say they could do their job better if management was more supportive of social tools.

Similar to the retail industry, employees in the travel and hospitality industry had privacy concerns. They were the most likely industry polled to respond that their management is concerned about using social tools for fear of the disclosure of sensitive information, and cite HR concerns as the reason behind their organizations’ restrictions.

However, there are a number of employees that do use their social tools for a wider variety of purposes, particularly growing their professional network and promoting work related initiatives. The data also suggests there is a cultural rift between management and employees right now. Over a third of the employees polled feel their employers underestimate the benefits of social tools. Forty percent feel there isn’t enough collaboration in their workplace and that social tools can foster better teamwork.     

There are plenty of exemplary uses for social tools in the retail space. For instance, when a retail chain is putting together a marketing campaign that will span across geographies, all of the collateral comes from the central marketing team, but it needs to be implemented in stores across the nation or globe. These local teams have to take the national campaign and tailor to their specific market. By using technologies like Yammer, employees can instantly share feedback from the ground, so other stores can quickly learn from their successes and failures. This is exactly how The Westfield Group is utilizing the technology. Be sure to check out their full case study at this link.

Red Robin is also using Yammer internally to raise internal employee communication across the company. They use it as a forum to answer questions, give and feedback, and connect with each other quickly, which is allowing much more employee collaboration and teamwork.

It’s not just Yammer. Other Microsoft technologies, like SharePoint, Lync, and Skype make communication across businesses easy and fast as well. Microsoft alone has the expertise, portfolio, capabilities, vision and insight to make the future real.

Stay tuned for more insights this week about other enterprise social network industry trends. In addition, we invite you to take a look at our new Microsoft Business Newsroom for more information on this survey and other business news from the company.