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So social media use creates risk in the workplace. Should employers ban it? Social media is part of how we live now; that’s not left at the door when you arrive at work. Social media creates risk and benefit; the challenge is to reduce risk and increase benefit.
Businesses must think of social media as a tool, not a threat. This will have a number of features:
Social media team:
The first step is to appoint managers and a team to oversee social media for the business. The team should have clear roles and responsibilities, and be properly resourced. The team is best suited to be a unit of the Corporate Communications team. Resources needed will include IT, marketing and compliance.
Board level support:
The best support for a social media team is a mandate and terms of reference approved at Board level, with a reporting line to the C-level of the organisation. The social media team will manage all communications through social media channels, and also oversee use of social media by staff. They will create and promote the virtual corporate profile of your business in the social media world. This must command attention at the top.
Social media policy:
The next step is to have a published policy on social media. The policy should explain: (i) the risks of using social media; (ii) rules for use of social media websites; (iii) rules for use of specific popular websites (i.e. Facebook is different to LinkedIn); (iv) rules on confidential corporate information; (v) employee duties; and (vi) disciplinary matters. The social media policy must be consistent with other policies of the business - particularly the IT and privacy policies.
A policy is not just a nice set of rules sitting in the Employee Handbook. It is a living, breathing document to guide staff. Tell new staff about the policy as part of an induction process. Run training sessions on social media periodically. Guide staff on managing privacy settings on social media sites. Remind staff of the rules when incidents happen. Make proper use of social media a common and consistent message from management.
Policies will minimise breach of rules ... if the policies are kept current and enforced. Staff need to know the consequences of breaking the rules, and that the company will check and enforce the rules. Employers can monitor staff Internet usage on company IT systems during business hours if the monitoring is proportionate and for proper business purposes. The enforcement of a social media policy is a proper purpose. Staff must be told that the company monitors Internet use for the social media policy.
Business contacts are at the heart of some businesses. What rights does the company have if those business contacts are managed through social media? For instance, recruitment relies on LinkedIn these days. If an employee builds a database of candidates and clients on his LinkedIn account, who owns those contacts when he leaves? Employment contracts, business processes and corporate policies can deal with this issue in advance.
Social media is the business communication tool of the future. Embracing it and maximising its benefit is increasingly critical for business success. Management of some risks can help to reap rewards, without paying a punitive price.