Social Media has become an integral part of our culture, and has been incorporated into everyday business practices, be they communications, advocacy, networking, research, marketing and even recruiting. Which brings the question: “How do we manage the use of Social Media in the workplace?’
Many still regard social media as a very private domain, where work and play do not mix. They believe that they are free to express their thoughts and opinions in this space, and their employers should not extend rules and policies to cover what is said. I disagree.
The truth is Social Media is completely integrated with the employee you hire. Therefore, it is important to share, even during the interview stage, your company policies regarding Social Media to define the environment. It’s about as simple as explaining the dress code. Outlining these policies transparently in the interview stage may help in securing talent, and help retain those already on staff.
Why is social media so important? To an organization or to a Hiring Manager, Social Media may just be a way of socializing online. In fact, it has evolved: the focus is now on developing social media tools and practices to promote knowledge sharing. A company policy which prevents staff from using social media tools such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook during work hours may prevent a developer from reaching out to his community when he or she is seeking a quick solution to a problem. In business terms, this is a productivity asset gone to waste. An opportunity cost. In terms of Talent, it makes it a less comfortable environment, one that is more restrictive on technical and creative freedom.
The Ethics Resource Center has conducted a valuable study into the ethics surrounding Social Media in the workplace. One of the most striking findings show there is an increased sensitivity to “offensive” behavior via Social Media. For the same “offences” that may occur face to face, at the water cooler or over the phone, those that were carried via social media suffered much stronger consequences. In other words, if an employee complained about the workplace via a tweet he or she will suffer much stronger punishment than if they were to say the same thing in the cafeteria. Is that a balanced response? It depends on how you look at Social Media, and the opportunities it offers to promote your brand.
As part of Social Media week, I recently attended a session about Ethics of Social Media in Today’s Workplace. Here are a few key takeaways from the session:
@shrmsocmedguy : “Would you trust your brand to an intern?”
This question (accompanied by a momentary silence) strikes a chord. With today’s speed of business and news, brand value is incredibly important, and managing it has become a major task. Also, with the advent of Social Media, every single employee has the ability to be a powerful brand ambassador; at the same time, they can also be the biggest whistle blower. If you have a small budget, an intern may be your best option. However, make sure they not only understand the technical aspects of Social Media, but they grasp strategy, community relations, and branding. Otherwise, save this job for the professionals.
@pronouncedALJ: “What happens on social is indicative of what’s happening in the company. Focus less in enforcement/more on engagement.”
Some organizations may choose to completely ban the use of social media and request that their employees remove all affiliations with their online persona. That never works. There are a number of reasons why and some are much more obvious than others. Employees like to be valued: they appreciate when they are trusted, and they expect that their opinion matters. By going to such an extreme policy, the organization is essentially telling its staff that they cannot be trusted, their opinion has no value and they lack the competency to be brand ambassadors. This does not encourage a productive, collaborative and engaging workforce. It may even affect morale.
@smheffren: “Training in #socialmedia is not investing in one employee, it’s investing in your brand”- Rachel G. King
An organization should invest in suitable training, so that the staff learns how to use Social Media, not only for the benefit of the organization, but also as another resource to improve their productivity. The proper use of Social Media will improve employee communication, improve access to shared knowledge and help boost morale. To employees, being able to share that their work has a positive impact on the world we live in is almost as important as the money they earn.
@pronouncedALJ: “Be proactive about social networking policy and determine how it fits into corporate culture.”
This will be an ongoing process. As Social Media grows, warps and progresses, so must the policies which govern its use in the workplace and by the workforce. Some organizations are almost entirely staffed by outside consultants or contractors, which brings further considerations:
- Can the outside consultants/contractors be engaged as brand ambassadors?
- Are they even allowed to discuss the work which they do for their clients?
- Can they promote a mission of an organization that does not employee them?
The question may also be asked of how future candidates may be misled about the organization’s policies regarding Social Media. For example, a talent may be recruited via a social media channel and from this may feel that the organization embraces the use of Social Media. What happens when the talent comes on board and discovers very strict policies against the use of Social Media? Should employees communicate deliverables, duties and responsibilities via social media channels? It wasn’t too long ago that companies were against using email or text messaging in such a manner.
@henry_addo: “What you say on social media may as well be said to a reporter of a national daily”
Such is the power of many social media channels. As much as one can speak of an organization’s responsibility to embrace Social Media and develop best practices which enhance the value and productivity of employees, not enough can be said of common sense: be mindful of what you say.
Author Name – Henry Addo
Title – Resource Manager
Location – Washington, DC
Twitter – @Henry_Addo
Byline – Henry Addo is a career consultant and account manager presently with Profiles in Washington, DC. With over fifteen years experience in the Technology, Creative, Marketing, Communications and Entertainment industries, he has proven success in matching talent with opportunities that align with their interests, skills and long term career objectives. As a Resource Manager, he is always looking for innovative ways to improve the communication and process of matching the best talent with top organizations.
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos