Network-biased Technical Change: How Social Media Tools Disproportionately Affect Employee Performance
39 Pages Posted: 6 May 2014 Last revised: 9 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 7, 2016
Organizations have long sought to improve employee performance by managing knowledge more effectively. In this paper, we test whether the adoption of social media for knowledge search and access within an organization, often referred to in the literature as an organization’s transactive memory system (TMS), improves the performance of employees. Using three years’ worth of data from 8,059 employees in the consulting division of a large, professional services firm, we find that that social media adoption for TMS improves employee performance. However, it does not have an equal effect for all employees. We find that two types of employees appear to benefit more from adoption than other employees. First, traditionally peripheral employees (lower rank, shorter tenure, women), appear to gain more from the adoption of social media for TMS because it overcomes information disadvantages inherent in those positions. Second, employees with more diverse networks also benefit more from adoption, because it enhances their existing advantages of actually obtaining the knowledge once identified through the social media tool. Thus, implementing and adopting social media tools for TMS has the potential to shift organizational sources of power and influence away from individual characteristics towards network-based ones, a characteristic we call “network-biased technical change”.
Keywords: social media, technology adoption, social capital, inequality
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