Including Social Media policies and training in your induction processes
Social media provides businesses with enormous advantage, from the ability to boost the marketing of their products and services, to increasing the once limited pool from which they could recruit new talent.
However, it can also bring with it headaches as employees – many of whom can be associated with their employer, even indirectly – use social media both personally and professionally.
The problem is that this explosion in social media use by both employers and employees, and the 24-hour nature of social media, means that the lines between an employee’s personal social media use and their professional social media use are becoming increasingly blurred.
Not only can this blurring of lines affect a company’s reputation, the time used on social media during work hours can also decrease an employee’s productivity at work, which, in turn, affects the business’ bottom line.
Because of this, it is crucial that employers include their social media policies when inducting new employees, or even re-training existing employees.
When issuing social media guidelines, employers should also discuss the consequences of breaches of its social media policies by employees, which could include anything from verbal or written warnings to demotion or, even, dismissal. Further, employers should discuss very clearly what behaviour constitutes inappropriate use of social media and what monitoring processes they have in place in the workplace if, indeed, such monitoring exists. These guidelines should outline very clearly the employer’s expectations of their employees’ responsibilities with regards to social media use during and outside work hours. Here are four general and very basic guidelines employees should adhere to with regards to their social media profiles, but remember to check your local laws and regulations with your lawyer before implementing them as the rules regarding how far employees can dictate the personal behaviour of employees on social media vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Employees, especially those who can be identified as working for a company (or are identifying themselves as working for a certain company), should maintain a sense of decorum. Employees should only ever comment on company-related matters if they have the company’s authority to do so and, even then, should only ever do so in a professional, informed and courteous manner that is never disparaging or dishonest. If they are ever in doubt as to how to implement this rule, tell them to speak with their manager or a member of your company’s Marketing or Communications team before posting.
Whether an employee is commenting on behalf of the company or not, the language used in posts or replies should never be defamatory, disrespectful, insensitive, or inflammatory. It should go without saying that employees should never partake in bullying, trolling or other such harmful activities that victimize or harass someone, but it rarely does, so be sure to mention this. This applies equally to their interactions with customers, colleagues and competitors alike, but, of course, it’s just courteous to act in this manner in general when participating in social media.
Employees should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER disclose private company information or anything pertaining to clients, customers or colleagues online. Not only could such behaviour affect a company’s competitiveness or alert competitors to their internal plans and confidential business processes, it could also breach various privacy and confidentiality rules or be a breach of their own employment contract, which, in some cases, has led to dismissal.
If employees feel they must comment on something or believe they are doing so personally, they should always state that their views are personal and do not represent those of their department or company in any way. While the person posting such comments may still be identifiable as an employee of a company, they should always ensure anyone reading their posts or comments understand unequivocally that such comments are their own private opinions, and not those of their employer.
Anyone reading these posts should immediately and clearly understand that the poster’s employer does not condone such comments or, necessarily, hold the same view.