The article first appeared as part of the pro.manchester SME club tips on the 13th September. The tips were posted by Dan Rubin from Ward Hadaway. Lots of comment was generated by the comments on LinkedIn not least the question of who’s connections are they and can you take them with you when you leave?
The explosion in the use of social media presents huge opportunities for business. With those opportunities come challenges – one of which is how do employers ensure appropriate use of social media by employees both in the workplace and outside? Clearly, what an employee does at work is subject to an employer’s control. However, an employee’s private use of social media such as twitter or facebook can expose the employer to risk or damage its reputation. For example, an employee may use social media to make derogatory comments about their employer or to bully and harass a fellow employee. As such, the emergence of social media raises important considerations for employers and in this article we set out our top 10 tips:
1. Decide what is permitted
Employers need to determine what use of social media in the workplace is permitted. While a blanket ban is one potential response, it is often not practical or realistic and is likely to result in lower employee morale and non-compliance. A more common approach is to allow use of social media for business purposes (for example linkedin) and occasional personal use during breaks.
2. Begin your policy
Once you have determined what level of use is permitted, put in place a social media policy. This should make clear a number of key points including:
• Social media activity in the workplace is not private and that employees can be disciplined for any use of social media that breaches the policy
• Social media activity outside of the workplace that is harmful to the business or breaches the social media policy (or any of the employer’s other policies) can also result in disciplinary action
• The business has the right to monitor any use of social media on its IT system
• Set out what constitutes inappropriate use of social media both inside and outside the workplace.
We look at these key points in more detail below.
3. Consider your stance on bullying
The social media policy should make it clear that any harassment or bullying of employees using social media is unacceptable and will result in disciplinary action. This is the case whether the bullying or harassment takes place at work or outside of the workplace.
Employers should not disregard conduct such as bullying simply because it occurs outside the workplace. Further, doing so may expose the employer to the risk of employment claims from the bullied employee.
4. Protect your brand
Employers should make it clear how seriously they treat brand reputation. There should be a prohibition on negative comments about the business, its employees, customers, suppliers and competitors. Make it clear that any breach of this may result in disciplinary action.
The social media policy should also prohibit any use or disclosure of any of the employer’s (or its customers’) confidential information via social media. Further, employees should not disclose any personal information about a colleague or work contact on social media as this may result in a breach of the Data Protection Act. Again, employees should be warned that any failure to adhere to these rules may result in disciplinary action.
6. Bringing your company into disrepute
Make it clear that any conduct which would bring the business into disrepute or affects the employee performing his role is unacceptable and may result in disciplinary action. This applies regardless of whether the offending conduct takes place inside or outside the workplace. As such, this would cover an employee who makes racist comments on twitter which are unconnected to his employment but which may damage the reputation of the employer.
7. Managing connections
Consider whether employees are banned from adding business contacts to personal social networking sites (such as Facebook and LinkedIn). The reason for this is that, if an employee leaves your employment, he or she will have the contact details of these business contacts via their personal social media account.
8. Internal privacy
The social media policy should inform employees that any use of social media using the employer’s IT system can be monitored by the employer and that they should have no expectation of privacy when using social media at work. Employers should also conduct regular monitoring to ensure that the social media policy is being complied with.
9. External privacy
Make it clear that comments made on any social media site should be treated as public, rather than private – regardless of the user’s privacy settings. Further, employees should not make any reference to the name of the employer unless necessary for business purposes (such as when using LinkedIn).
Provide training to employees on (a) how social media can be used to market the business or create business and (b) how mis-use of social media can damage the reputation of the business and expose it to risk. Ensure that employees are aware of what is expected of them when they use social media both inside and outside of work.