Most companies take the time to prepare guidelines surrounding employee conduct within their organizations. They typically include use of company devices like computers and mobiles, intranet, email and internet usage (e.g.: off-limit websites.) In many cases, employers also have general rules surrounding conduct offline throughout their organization as well. However, an area that requires equal attention is a specific guideline or policy surrounding social media usage and expectations. Several times a week I am alerted to news that someone, somewhere has been reprimanded or terminated for something they’ve posted online or something captured offline but posted online. It can anything from a defamatory statement, hate speech and even disclosure of confidential information or trade secrets.
“But Kat, our company doesn’t use social media and we don’t allow it to be accessed from work computers.”
Yes. Less than 50% of Alberta businesses use social media but I guarantee that your employees are using it – while at work. Every. Single. Day.
Whether your company uses social media for commercial purposes or not, it’s in your best interest to develop a social media guideline or policy. To cover your assets.
There are hundreds of social media sites, catering to every interest. Unfortunately, the lines between personal and professional can be blurred. An employee can hop on your WiFi during lunch and click around on websites, exposing you to security risks. They can burn up bandwidth watching YouTube or they can create an environment where others don’t want to work with them because of rhetoric they’re posting to their Facebook pages. All of this can have a detrimental impact on your organizations reputation and bottom line. But it’s up to you, the employer, to openly and transparently communicate the rules and expectations you have of your employees as it pertains to social media. This is how you build a healthy ‘social’ company culture.
How to start building a healthy ‘social’ company culture:
(1) Create social media guideline
(2) Provide Social Media Training
Social Media Guideline:
These guidelines (or policies) should be drafted in a collaborative effort between the Human Resources department, your leadership team, as well as in consultation with lawyers who have expertise in social media and labour law. If you’re fortunate enough to have a communications/marketing/social media department.
Here are recommendations of topics the policy should address (compliments of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada):
Communicate the guideline via social media training:
Once you’ve developed your company’s Social Media guidelines, your next step is to communicate it to all of your employees so that they understand it (uploading it to the intranet isn’t enough.) Consider hosting either a live or recorded session whereby you clearly explain everything and open the floor to questions & discussion. Depending on the size of your company, you may have to hold multiple sessions. For larger companies or those who have a higher turnover of staff, consider having a reoccurring date (such as every second Tuesday etc.) so that employees know when to expect sessions and new hires don’t have to wait long to be brought up-to-speed. If you’re a smaller company, you may want to think about doing the session on an ‘as needed’ basis, but record it so that you can share it with new hires as they come aboard.
Pros of a live session:
Interactive: it gives employees who many not get the chance to work with other departments the opportunity to learn what others do across the company in a more relaxed setting.
Insights: it gives you an opportunity to learn if there are ways to better incorporate social media into business plans. You would be surprised what you can learn from employees when you actually listen to them.
Better Recall: employees who attend live sessions will generally better understand the material presented, rather than relying on a potentially dry recording.
Relatable: in the sessions I host, I use real-life scenarios based on the industry. This way employees who may have difficulty understanding how the topic impacts them will have a better understanding.
Throughout the many sessions I’ve guided, I’ve learned that most people have no idea that they can be held accountable for what they post online. In most cases they’re shocked to hear real stories and learn that normal people have faced termination of employment following posts made online.
When you make your expectations as a company crystal clear (including consequences) you better equip employees to make better decisions online and as ambassadors for the company. You may also find that it will cut-down on situations where your company could be caught in a social media crossfire.
Here’s the general outline I use for sessions:
Take the time to communicate, engage and share with your employees. During sessions and discussions, you’ll probably be surprised to learn just how many employees are online, the various sites they use and how they feel the company fits into these sites (or not.) These insights become useful when refining guidelines down the road – e.g.: unblocking sites like LinkedIn so that sales people can utilize it to discover leads.
The reality is, whether you allow employees to use social media on work time or not, they need to know what you expect of them. Take the time to develop a social media guideline and then share the guideline with your employees!
If you have a question about setting up your own employee social media training – just ask!