How many times do we seen requests for policies on human resource sites? Recently, with the rise of social media, there have been requests for social media policies. Headlines like: “Are your staff spending their time on social networks” and “Do you know what your employees are saying about your company on social networks” all provide fuel for this fire. You can imagine the boss arriving at the HR Manager’s office asking for a policy on social media. Have HR fallen into the trap of relying on “dumb” policies? That was the discussion this week at the CIPD Social Media Conference in the UK. Is your company one that aims to have a policy for every eventuality? Read on...
James Brockett reports from the conference that: “Neil Morrison, Group HR Director of Random House, said that HR too often fell in to the trap of relying on “dumb” policies influenced by legal advisers and that social media was one area where things should be done differently.”
Morrison went on to explain his rationale. He believes that having a policy on social media indicates a lack of trust in employees. Employees all have different ways of accessing information. His opinion was supported by Mathew Davies, UK HR Director of Logica, who believes that social media conversations are already happening and this requires an entirely different approach to managing the employer brand.
The essence of these discussions is that the world has changed. Neither human resource practitioners nor marketing departments have absolute control of what employees will say about the company. There are sites where anonymous conversations can take place about companies, and these will influence how others decide where they want to work.
So what is the response required of human resource management? Treating employees like adults is the first step. Then acknowledge and accept that employees of all levels within the organisation and at all levels of education, do have cell phones, do have access to social media, will participate in social media forums, and will express opinions – positively or negatively about their employer.
Now, given that acceptance, what should be the response? Every employee has the capacity to build the employer brand. So changing from the Taylorist command and control like a machine approach to one that acknowledges the positive contribution that every single employee can make to build the company brand is what is required. Not a social media policy from the HR department.
What the HR department could usefully do to contribute to developing this new insight is to look at all the existing company employment policies and practices, and to ask whether they are still relevant or necessary, and whether they do treat all employees with dignity and respect – and with trust.
Sure, first comes trust and the treatment of an employee as an accountable, responsible adult. After finding the employee 'playing' for two hours on Facebook during work hours, one has to change one's thinking. When the employee's cell phone chirps and beeps during a meeting because there are twitters to be answered, one has to change one's thinking. do we allow social networking during work hours and set a precident or do we say: not during work hours?
I have found it very necessary to have a policy on the use of social media for my training facilitators and admin staff. The problem was not spending work time online but rather my staff socialising with current learners on Facebook. I view this as showing favouritism. Having no control on the content that might be discussed, I also find disturbing.
My facilitators have a code of conduct that prevents them from engaging in social activities with current learners and this includes friendships using social media. My policy is very strict and states .....could lead to dismissal if non compliance is evident.
This is a very interesting topic which can be debated both ways.
I facilitated a learnership earlier this year. The age gap between myself and the learners was between 5 and 25 years! I found it very difficult to draw the younger learners in, as they were more interested in their %$#% cell phones and Facebook.
I got them all to friend me on Facebook, set up a Group for the class - and used this as one of the communication forums for the group. Some of the older learners got the younger learners to help set them up on Facebook. I was even approached by the company to have a few of their managers join the group so they could follow the progress. The training provider I was representing were also included in the group.
Any questions they had with assignments were dealt with through the Facebook Group. Any reminders I needed to send - went through Facebook. Photos, comments and experiences were shared. Vitually everyone was found competent on this learnership - and I believe Facebook assisted in part with the result. We are waiting for external moderation on the learnership - and it's been a great way to keep everyone up to date on the progress and their final certificates - bearing in mind that most of these learners do not have employment - and therefore seldom have an email address.
Hi Marion, I agree the way you used Fb is one of the many wonderfull ways the media can be used. I also have a business page, my staff and learners are all encouraged to use it. Because of this I feel quite staisfied that I can distinguish between having personal friendships and learner / teacher / mentor / relationships on FB.
I have to disagree with the contention that social media policies are irrelevant or pointless. I do agree with Neil that they should not be initiated by HR, though HR clearly must polish and implement them. The larger the organisation, the more bureaucracy-bound HR people tend to become. Since social media are anathema to bureaucracy, HR people are generally not yet competent to create social media governance processes. Remember the enlightened days when companies banned internet access?
The way we communicate is changing dramatically, every employee is now a broadcaster, and our customers, stakeholders and business partners demand unprecedented transparency and access. Silos are dissolving and access to knowledge, expertise and advice is no longer confined to outmoded corporate hierarchies. People communicate continuously, and one of the things they talk about is work. Managing reputations of brands, companies or employees has become much more complex. It is irresponsible to be in denial, to impose blanket bans, or to simply abdicate.
The very first thing a company must do in embarking on a social media strategy is to get its governance in place. You may need multiple policies and/or guidelines (for accredited social media representatives, for outbound marketing, for CRM, and for all non-accredited staff), and it is not unusual to need to change organisational structures as well. Existing policies may cover some of the issues (such as not bringing the company into disrepute, not revealing company secrets), but these still need a social media emphasis. You need to make it clear what people can talk about, what they must not talk about, when they may engage and on what company tools or networks (if any) they may engage. And the consequences of ignoring policies must be made clear.
Policies do not have to be draconian or “dumb” – some of the best are brief, helpful and display a mature understanding of the networked employee. They should seek to influence rather than control. As part of wider digital strategy engagements we have provided input to the social media policies of organisations like Clicks and Eskom, and we provide a couple of helpful examples to participants in our Social Media Strategies courses and Boot Camps.
As for getting irritated by people multitasking while in courses, get over it. Mobile multitasking is the new ADHD – those doing it are quite capable of parallel processing while learning ;-)