Social Media in the workplace

We certainly have a fascination with social media and its rapid growth around the world shows that –  it is really important that your entire team are aware of the impact it can have on future recruitment, employment and also termination of employment.  social_media_policy

When used responsibly, employers can really benefit from their employees using social media whilst at work.  Your employees can leverage your message without costing you a cent.

Social media site, LinkedIn can provide some positive opportunities to connect regarding potential employment prospects.  Unfortunately, it also allows employers and recruiters to screen any applicants prior to making offers of employment. Again, if used responsibly, it can support your company brand if the employee is a spokesperson for your business.

The use of social media during employment can result in employers being held liable for the conduct of its employees on social media sites, even if the employee is not actually at work at the time of the post. The business reputation can be damaged by a disgruntled employee slagging the boss on social media or talking about specific sensitive information or being vindictive towards another employee. However making it policy to ban social media in the workplace all together is not practical or desirable given the business advantage that is possible and the prolific use of mobile devices.

If you had a social media policy in the workplace, then all parties could enjoy the advantages of social media while eliminating the associated risks. The policy should outline the employer’s expectations regarding the use of social media and then be monitored and managed in accordance with that policy. Of course, there needs to also be a limit on the amount of time one uses social media whilst at the workplace. In sensitive workplaces, mobile devices are not to be carried onsite with the employee which then protects the nature of the business i.e. mining, call centres and tax related businesses.

If your business runs events or workshops, then social media is a compulsory communication tool and can bring huge benefits.

Damages to the business’ reputation

The damage to an employer’s business is probably the greatest issue that can arise from abuse of social media. You might be able to control or manage other issues that arise but your reputation is your company’s brand and financially crippling once bruised.  Once the employee has bruised the company’s reputation it is available in cyberspace forever, therefore unable to be rescinded.

An innocent post about your business can go viral at any time and therefore reaching a world-wide audience.  To avoid any of this damage, the social media policy should stipulate that the employees do not use the employer’s name, branding or logo in any postings that they make. This may act as some form of preservation to the company’s brand.

Not only can words be damaging to a business’ reputation, but video or photos of employees i.e. sitting on the photocopier, can do untold damage and eventually cost the employee their job.

Sometimes a dispute between employees spills out into the social media arena and escalates into an ugly bullying or harassing affair whereas they probably wouldn’t be saying the comments in a face-to-face confrontation. Often it is in the trail of conversation where the damage is done rather than the original comment.

Whilst the actions of an employee outside of workplace and work hours are their own, if that action i.e. social media comments, then impacts on the business, it then becomes an employer’s issue. And making an absolute ban on any social media would be extremely difficult to monitor as they are small enough to hide and posting a comment only takes a moment.  Many workplaces will allow an employee to use the work computer during lunch break for their personal use and this will often contain the abuse of the work time being consumed with social media.

So, whether you embrace social media or loathe it, clearly it is here to stay.  It is an important business tool and clearly businesses need to use a social media policy to minimise the risk that its misuse may present.

Here’s a list of 10 Must Haves to be included in a social media policy  How does your business handle its social media? Do you have a policy in place?