By LISA MONTI
Social media in the workplace are 1) A necessity to stay competitive 2) An important internal communication and recruiting tool 3) A minefield.
The answer is 4) All of the above.
Social media use is fraught with pitfalls: employees wasting company time, revealing company secrets, spreading computer viruses and unsavory comments about the boss or fellow employees, the list goes on.
There is the option of cutting off employee access to everything, including the Internet, but that might not be a practical choice and may even hinder hiring personnel. So what’s a boss to do?
Restricting and then monitoring access is one solution. “The problem is not making employees aware that their duties come first and on their breaks they have an opportunity to engage in social media,” said Greg Payne, director of the Mississippi Society of Human Resource Management State Council.
A common practice is to educate the staff on IT safety and how to avoid clicking links that could cause problems on the whole network. But perhaps the best way to deal with social media use on the job is to have clear rules about it.
“Any employer with five or 5,500 employees should consider a social media policy. It’s got to be done not only to protect the employer’s brand and business but also the employees,” Payne said.
But it’s not just having a social media policy. You have to make sure everybody knows the rules and consequences for not following them and keep the policy current with technology changes.
Employees should know, for example, not to use their work email to sign up or get on to social networking sites for their personal use.
“My recommendation would be to have a full staff meeting to discuss the policy and have employees sign off that they received the policy,” Payne said.
If an employer doesn’t have a social media policy and an employee was engaged in some illegal activity, the employer is left at a disadvantage, Payne said. “Without a policy, they don’t have much to come back on. It protects the employer a lot more than the employee.”
It’s helpful to hold refresher courses periodically for employees to keep the rules front and center as they perform their duties. Payne said employers should consider updating their social media policy to ensure it is adequate and modifying it to newer social media platforms.
Nearly 90 percent of businesses now use social media for business purposes, according to a study by Proskauer, an international law firm.
The survey also found that social media misuse in the workplace has increased. And more than 70 percent of businesses reported having to take disciplinary action against employees for misuse, compared to 35 percent previously.
Social media policies are being implemented in increasing numbers. Proskauer said the number of businesses with policies jumped from 60 percent to nearly 80 percent, and more than half updated those policies in the last year.
Not surprisingly, the discussion of social media use and misuse in the workplace has resulted in legal issues and discussions.
The National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency in charge of protecting employee rights to act together addressing work conditions, started in 2010 looking at social media policies and Facebook postings. Investigations revealed that some charges presented to NLRB’s regional offices showed some policies and disciplinary actions violated federal labor law.