Don’t say “NO” to social media

Blog located in Culture, Leadership posted on February 5, 2015

With easier accessibility to the internet, the popularity of smart phones, and the introduction of new social media outlets, more than 70 percent of employers were forced to discipline their employees for misusing social media in 2014. “Common sense” in regards to social media in the workplace no longer applies. Therefore it is not surprising that in 2015, more employers are implementing policies for social media use.

Trust your Employees

It’s impossible to prohibit the usage of social media in the workplace. Think about it. What message are you sending to your employees through prohibition? You are telling them “I don’t trust you”; behaviour with hefty consequences on retention and morale.

You need to work out a policy that communicates what you regard as acceptable behaviour in the use of social media at work and what is unacceptable. It should also give clear guidelines for employees on what they can and cannot say about the organisation.

Draw the Line

Make a distinction between business and private use of social media. If your policy allows limited private use in the workplace, or in any way connected with the organisation, it should be clear what this actually means in practice. Make sure you define working hours and non-working hours.

Be clear that employees are going to be held accountable when they post information relevant to your business, employees, or any other confidential information on social media. This applies whether they are posting within regular business hours or outside of it. Employees should be made aware of relevant legislation on copyright and public interest disclosure.

Adapt. Adapt. Adapt.

Out of all the policies you develop for your business, the Social Media policy requires you to be very flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing technologies. You should cross-reference your social media policy with your bullying and harassment policy.

Use social media to your advantage

Encourage your employees to use social media internally to encourage employee engagement with the organisation, and externally to help promote the organisation’s brand and reputation. As such, you will integrate social media into your business strategy.

The on-boarding program is a good way to educate the new starters on the boundaries for Internet use. You can share your own team culture and standards of ‘acceptable behaviour’. It’s best to be clear about these from the beginning.

Legal considerations

The Data Protection Act 1988 covers how information about employees and job applicants can be collected, handled and used. The Information Commissioner’s Office has published an employment practices code – Information Commissioner’s Office: Quick guide to the employment practices code [PDF, 168kb] – to help employers comply with the law.

Don’t totally prohibit the usage of social media in the workplace. Set up a clear policy, communicate your policy to your employees, and take full advantage of this communication channel. You’ll increase your employees’ morale and retention rate.