Social media at work
In March’s edition of Human Capital Magazine, Ari Kopoulos (National Sales & Marketing Manager) again addresses another burning question in the HR industry. You can find the article in hard copy form in issue number 8.3 under the ‘Ask the Expert’ column.
Q. We are starting to see a larger number of Gen Z’s and late Gen Y’s entering our workplace bringing their own set of benefits and challenges. How can HR manage the impact social networking within this generation?
A. There won’t be that many of them, they’re incredibly smart, opinionated and have the patience of a loading webpage. We know them as teenagers, but very soon they will be our colleagues and will expect flexibility, lots of money and Facebook.
What makes this pending generation so different is their affinity with technology and communication style, They learn quicker, are early adopters of new technology and, through technology, believe that everything is possible. Multitasking is like breathing. These kids have never known life without a computer, internet, mobile, and social networking. And herein lays the issue: You need to develop strategies to engage, retain and, motivate them, which means access to social networking.
Social networking is not necessarily a bad thing. There are clear benefits of near perfect communication and access to global knowledge and creativity. As a business tool it allows professionals to stay current on events, trends and opportunities in ways traditional communication cannot. On a personal level it can help build band you, promoting you as an expert in your field and improving job prospects. In the same manner it allows you to connect with future employees. However, give most young, and many older, people access to the Internet and they will spend the next hour checking their personal email, stalk Facebook profiles, and LinkedIn accounts. I’ve heard of many stories where the company server crashes at a particular time each day, only to find out that it corresponds with a break and Facebook time. Not surprising as Facebook is the fourth most visited site.
Productivity and security concerns are the main reasons why many businesses take a prohibition type attitude and block these sites. But if you deny access, they will get around it using a proxy, mobile phone or simply leave for work for a company that has a much cooler attitude.
So what can you do? Set the expectation on day one with a social networking policy that explicitly lays out what is and isn’t permissible, both on the company’s network and outside of it if they’re representing themselves as employees of the company.
Begin by defining what is meant by social networking and, the company’s overall attitude towards it. i.e. Strictly personal or business. Your policy should also have a clear statement on representation. Comments and posts can impact on your brand, reputation and market share. Furthermore, comments on other companies or products can be seen as endorsement or defamatory that could create liability and comments referencing clients should always be cleared with the client.
Given the issues with productivity, your policy should include what is appropriate use with a clear statement that social networking activities should not to interfere with the employee’s responsibilities.
Social networking sites have varying levels of security and as public sites, are vulnerable to security breaches. As such your policy should make reference to your confidentiality and security policies with specific examples as they relate to social networking sites. Also make it clear that proprietary information is not to be discussed or referenced on such sites. Finally by signing and agreeing to the terms of service they also agree to consequences for violation which could end up in termination.
Social networking is here to stay and will only get more powerful. Although the next generation may prove to be a challenge in this regard, it is important to focus on the benefits they bring and as technology evolves, businesses also need to evolve, reflecting the needs of its employees and customers.