With social media, what you don’t know can seriously hurt your organization. One 2010 survey found that employees estimate spending roughly four hours every day checking multiple email accounts, with up to two hours spent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A 2012 Salary.com survey found that 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites daily. And don’t think blocking employee access to social media on company networks is the answer; personal smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and easily fill the gap.
The rub for today’s organizations is that while social media use at work has definite risks, it also is one of the best ways to empower and engage employees. Increasingly, in our connected 24/7 businesses, the line between work and personal time is blurring. This is especially true for Generation Y employees; as long as they meet deadlines and deliver, these employees don’t feel that it’s particularly useful to distinguish between time spent updating Twitter or engaged in team meetings. Organizations may beg to differ, especially when an offensive or inappropriate blog post or tweet can damage their brand, lower employee morale, and even lead to workplace lawsuits.
Yet, most organizations don’t really know how their employees are using social media, either personally or professionally, let alone what impact it’s having on employees’ overall levels of productivity.
That’s why it’s so important, before you set policy, to know how your managers currently handle social media use at work, as well as how its use by employees is effecting their management. Get at these fundamental issues by asking managers five key questions:
- Have your employees’ use of social media ever triggered a workplace lawsuit or regulatory investigation?
- What impact have your employees’ personal use of social media during work hours had, if any, on their productivity?
- How do you use social media, if at all, to help manage your projects and employees?
- Have you reviewed all applicable federal and state laws governing electronic data content, usage, monitoring, privacy, e-discovery, data encryption, business records and other legal issues in all jurisdictions in which you operate, have employees or serve customers?
- Could you comply with a court-ordered “social media audit”, by producing legally compliant business blog posts, email messages, text messages and other electronically stored information (ESI) within 990 days?
Social media can speed innovation and collaboration, but ONLY if your employees know how to both use it as well as steer clear of its many pitfalls. Start by asking managers these simple questions; they often surface extremely important information that, especially in larger organizations, you may not have been aware of. Finally, remember that for reasons of both confidentiality and fear, getting access to this sort of information is not always easy. It’s therefore important that organizations create mechanisms by which examples of social media use (and abuse!) can be regularly shared with the broader employee base.
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About the author: Steve Miranda is Managing Director of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS), a leading partnership between industry and academia devoted to the field of global human resource management. He is also a faculty author of the new eCornell certificate program,Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice. Prior to CAHRS, Miranda was Chief Human Resource and Strategic Planning Officer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest professional HR association, serving over 260,000 members in over 100 countries.