Your company may be leveraging social media as part of its marketing and customer service strategy, but it’s important to remember that social media platforms are also largely, well, social. It stands to reason that your employees will be maintaining their own social media presence out of the office on their own time.
You and your staff may share the same social space on Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn, but while those streams may cross, should you be keeping tabs on what your employees say in social spaces? In recent years, companies have struggled to find their footing in the area of establishing a social media policy that strikes a balance between employee privacy and encouraging good business communication skills when it comes to protecting the company brand.
The need for monitoring
From the perspective of many employers, the need to monitor social media usage is almost universally recognized. HR Morning reported on a recent survey conducted by Symantec revealing that 90 percent of companies polled indicated they had noticed some sort of loss of productivity due to employee social media use. Such statistics have led to the increasingly common social media usage policies, covering everything from how much time at work can be spent checking sites such as Facebook to what kinds of content people can post on their personal or private accounts.
But what about when employees are off the clock? Though it may seem counterintuitive, some companies have started keeping tabs on what their workers say even when they’re not at the office. Social Media Today reported that in many instances, employees have been fired or terminated from their jobs because of things that they said on social media channels. This represents a nebulous gray area between privacy and upholding company image, as employees do have a reasonable right to privacy, but as ambassadors of their employers may also be seen as responsible for reflecting the company’s values and mission online.
Social media monitoring as a recruitment tool
As it turns out, social media monitoring has become such a ubiquitous HR practice that some professionals use it to gather information not just on current employees, but prospective ones as well. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey reported by The Wall Street Journal, 39 percent of employers indicated that they actively search for information on job candidates on social media. Even if recruiters don’t actively research their prospects, that doesn’t mean that applicants can tweet and post with impunity; 43 percent of recruiters indicated they have found information online that has directly led to them overlooking or passing up a candidate.
It should be noted that social media monitoring isn’t solely used as a hand to wield the ax, as 19 percent of the survey respondents also indicated that their social media research led them to discover something that actually resulted in the hiring of a candidate.
Striking the right balance
The challenge faced by both employees and employers then is to strike the balance between acceptable and harmful social media use. It should come as no surprise to managers that, especially among lower-level employees, social media represents an outlet for frustration, professional and otherwise. In fact, according to Social Media Today, 60 percent of employees have indicated through their social media channels some form of unhappiness with their job. While it stands to reason that management and HR may encounter this information, should they go looking for it? And what should they do if they find it?
Common sense, not to mention various legal precedents, do protect employee’s right to be themselves on social media. However, your company’s social media policy should make it clear that that isn’t carte blanche to say whatever they want. Posts that cross the lines of disrespect, hate speech, or even revealing sensitive company information should be clearly noted up front in the corporate training program as off-limits.