Two weeks ago, I drafted a social media policy for a client, and in the next week, two more clients were asking about establishing policies of their own. Something’s happening here. A recent article in the StarTribune here in the Twin Cities put a spotlight on the issue, citing a survey that indicated that while few companies have social media policies, nearly all are concerned about the impact of employee use of social networks on corporate reputation.
My own experience shows two converging issues. On one hand, companies see opportunity. For my startup client, there’s no reason that every employee couldn’t tell their own networks about the work of this new online business … but the company has an interest in protecting its own reputation and employees have to decide for themselves.
On the other side is concern with reputation, as well as workplace productivity. Vince Giorgi posted a terrific summary of the concerns that lead many companies to filter out social networking sites and monitor employees’ online activity. Giorgi cites analysis by Nucleus Research indicating that “Companies that let employees access Facebook during
work hours can expect to see total office productivity decline by an average of 1.5 percent.”
I guess it depends on what you mean by productivity. My take is that the work of the company is not simply just the work of the company. Employees are ambassadors of the business, and when they are happy and well treated at work, it shows in the way they do their jobs, the service they deliver, the kind of talent they attract, and yes, in productivity as well. When they’re treated as grown-ups, given guidelines and largely trusted to do their jobs and do them well, good employees will do so. Giorgi followed up his earlier post to cite a survey of human resources executives, noting a recognition of these benefits, along with reasonable “angst”.
In my view, the goal of social media policy is to reconcile the reality of the new ways people communicate personally and professionally, the associated risks and the potential opportunities. Policy guidelines should, a minimum:
- Remind employees to act professionally online, to protect their own reputations and that of the company.
- Provide reasonable restrictions to protect the company, such as not revealing confidential information, disparaging the company, employees or management, etc.
- Encourage participation in professional networks appropriate to their role in the business.
- Encourage authenticity and honesty in all online activity.
- Never coerce employees into participating in company promotions through personal networks.
- Guide employees toward better understanding, generally, of what these networks are and how people are using them personally and professionally, so that they can better interact in the online world.
What would you add?
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